Diet is everything. You’ve probably heard it countless times growing up and from your peers on the importance of fueling your body before your workouts. And if you’ve ever tried running or went on a long bike ride on an empty stomach, you’ve probably noticed you’re more tired than usual. That being said, it is very important for athletes to stay fueled and hydrated in order to achieve peak performance.
It’s proven time and time again that eating before working out has shown to improve workout performance. On top of eating right, it’s also important to time your pre-workout meals and snacks right.
Multisport endurance athlete and USAT Cross Age Group National Champion Michael Drackert deals with brutal racing conditions. Back on October, Drackert competed in the Xterra World Championship in Maui. The premier off-road triathlon combines a 1.5-kilometer ocean swim, a 32-kilometer mountain bike ride that climbs 3,500 feet and a 10.5-kilometer trail run that traverses forest trails, beach sand and an additional 1,000 feet of climbing.
Drackert said fueling the body before extreme activities like the Xterra World Championship is a real learning experience.
“After you bonk a few times you learn to never leave home without some calories,” he said. “Just in case.”
Drackert added it’s also important to train the body to become metabolically efficient at using the calories available.
Drackert said he packs food every day to take to work and prefers eating five to six smaller meals a day.
“I keep a water filter at my desk so I’m drinking all day,” he said. “In the hotter months, I’ll add a calorie-free electrolyte drink. I keep ‘emergency’ bars everywhere... in my desk, in my car, swim bag, everywhere. Sometimes a calorie deficit just hits you.”
Honey Stinger is a perfect option to have around as an “emergency” snack, as they are gluten free, packed with calories and are easy to carry around. And of course, Clif bars are always reliable to snack on, not to mention they are an office necessity.
On general training days, Drackert focuses on eating “tons of” vegetables (roasted, sautéed, salads), as well as couple servings of fruits, fats (olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado), grains (quinoa, rice, oats) and plant-based protein sources like tempeh, legumes and plant-based protein powder.
“I try to consume most of my carbohydrates earlier in the day with protein and fats in the evening,” Drackert said. “I do all weekly morning training sessions fasted or toast with peanut butter if it’s a hard run.”
Like Drackert, pro triathlete Brad Williams also relies on fueling his body throughout the day to achieve peak performance. When it comes to day-to-day nutrition and recovery, the former Ironman 70.3 champion said it’s important to ensure you are consuming enough calories to keep your energy levels up and staying hydrated throughout the day.
“After longer workouts, ensure you are replenishing your system within 30 to 45 minutes, post workout, to speed up recovery,” Williams said. "I typically use Precision Hydration’s 1500 mixture to ensure sufficient electrolyte replacement post intense and long workouts."
Preparing for Events
Fueling for an endurance race really starts two days before by making sure you’re consuming enough calories to replenish glucose stores that may be depleted from training, Drackert said.
“Within 48 hours of race day I start to reduce fiber consumption and reduce raw foods,” he said.
“A typical pre-race dinner might be sweet potatoes or rice, sautéed vegetables, an egg and some avocado. If I’m staying in a hotel or camping in my van, I’ll prepare my foods at home and then just use a microwave or camp stove to reheat.”
During the pre-race stage, or two to three hours before the race, Drackert said he’ll fuel by eating an oatmeal with banana, almond butter, chia seed, honey and some coconut milk. He said if the race is less than two hours long, he’ll instead opt for liquid nutrition, a glucose drink with electrolytes.
“Races between two to four hours at high intensity, I’ll fuel with liquid nutrition and/or a gel every 45 minutes,” Drackert said. “Races longer than four hours at a high intensity are a little more delicate to continue putting in glucose calories without getting an upset stomach. At this point, I’ll usually start mixing in some more solid fuels like an energy bar.”
First Endurance EVO 1 is the perfect meal replacement for endurance athletes. The 100-percent vegan, whole-food based superfood will keep you from feeling hungry on the go.
Like diet, hydration is just as important for helping you perform at your best. Dehydration can hurt your performance in several ways such as cramps, fatigue and not being able to concentrate as well.
Brad Williams suggests experimenting with different fueling and hydration strategies to find out what works for you.
“Find out how much sodium you are losing in your sweat to ensure you are properly replacing that,” he said.
Williams suggests giving Precision Hydration’s electrolytes a try to replenish all fluids and electrolytes during intense workouts. He also urges those looking into Precision Hydration to take an in-person test to see which “hydration plan” works for you.
Staying Hydrated the CT Way
For during workouts, Clever Training recommends trying the Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel Bags, as it has all the calories and electrolytes you need to help keep you going. Available in orange, lemon and plain flavors, Tailwind won’t give you an upset stomach or will give you a bad aftertaste when you shake and sip during your workout.
Nuun active tablets are also a great way to stay hydrated wherever and whenever. Packed with electrolytes, clean ingredients and low in calories and sugar, Nuun’s tablets help alleviate cramps and help muscles function.
For recovery, First Endurance Ultragen is the perfect drink formula to help refuel tired muscles and restore your energy levels. Ultragen’s breakthrough technology is designed to provide the right nutrients to the right place at the right time during the 30-minute window of opportunity after an intense workout so you can recover fast.