Plan to eat on the run

Posted: March 2, 2017 in Strength and Conditioning for Performance

Late last year, I had the honor to support a runner from my beloved city. Sandi Menchi came all the way to Hong Kong from Baguio city, Philippines to participate in “The North Face 100- Hong Kong 2016”. She was endorsed by Sir Jonel Mendoza, our editor – in -chief at frontRunner.

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The finish line finally! (Photo courtesy of Andre Blumberg)

Just to make it clear, I am not a dietician nor a nutritionist. I am a Strength and Conditioning coach. So I may not be very technical in my approach to nutrition. But I try to be practical and to make things simpler. It would be useless to make a detailed and complicated chart that computes the minute nutritional and energy requirements of an activity if it cannot be implemented.

Our muscle tissues are our “engine”. We need glucose, stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver, for fuel when we run races. We need our body fat to keep us insulated, as well as a steady energy source for low level activities. Running 100 kilometres requires a lot of energy and fluid. Our muscles store energy in the form of glycogen which will be broken down to glucose when needed as fuel. Our liver and muscle cells are able to store glycogen but is only able to fuel around 20 to 30kms of running. After that, the body will have to rely on body fat for fuel- which takes a longer time to break down. It may even start to break down muscle tissues as energy source, which is not good.

So in order to keep you going, you have to take in food- and not just food, you need to take in carbohydrates. Here are some tips we used during the TNF 100:

1.Make sure you eat well 1-2 days before the event. Not only on the night before. Eat a lot of carbohydrates and food which does will not upset your digestive system. This is where the term carbo loading comes from. It is basically filling your muscles and liver with glycogen days before the actual race. Of course, drink a lot of fluids especially water. Refrain from alcoholic drinks though.

2.Prepare snacks pre-packed in single servings. Better to have with you one to two servings of food that you like. Even though there are aid stations where you can eat, or where you expect to meet your support crew, it is better to prepare for the worst. In Sandi’s case, we boiled camote where were then wrapped in bite sized portions. I made sure she has them the night before the race, not during the start of the race. Kamote, for those who eat it often, gives you that sustained energy, plus the “turbo” effect (for those who know what I mean!)

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A refill bag of kamote in the checkpoint just in case she needed them. One piece is just enough size for a quick snack and individually wrapped for convenience. (photo courtesy of Amornphand Hanrpanichphand)

Kamote is what we handed Sandi to bring with her. Andre was her main support crew but I informed them that I will meet them at CP5 with warm siopao. Prior to the race, I learned she loves siopao so it is one of the foods that was prepared for her. There were also some chocolate bars, chips – to replace sodium lost through sweat; energy drinks; and some more siopao. Another kababayan, Sir Bong, also prepared a delicious meal for her and was also waiting for her at another CP at a later part of the race. For the support crew, it would help the runner a lot if you would also provide encouraging news and prepare all other things the runner may need in order to minimize time spent at checkpoints.

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She likes siopao so we also prepared some. It has carbohydrates, sodium, and amino acids- which helps in the feeling of satiety. Better to run not feeling hungry! (photo courtesy of Amornphand Hanrpanichphand)

 

3.Make sure you also have adequate sodium intake, but not too much. I also prepared chips- yes- the junk food. It has lots salt. If you are fine with it, it is also a way of ingesting sodium without overloading on it since you cannot eat that much bag of chips on the checkpoints. But it may be easy to overdose yourself with salt tablets or salt sticks. (In case you were wondering, Sandi did not eat the chips. She had the siopao instead).

4.Use energy gels which you like. During the race, do not try a brand which you are not familiar with. Some do not like the taste which makes it harder to swallow. Make sure you take gels, energy bars, rehydration salts and drinks which would not upset your stomach. If you estimate that you will be at the last stages of the race at night time, better prepare some gel with caffeine or arrange to have coke or coffee. It helps to keep you alert so hopefully you won’t miss trail marks.

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Andre really prepared very well! (photo courtesy of Andre Blumberg)

5.In relation to number 4, do not rely only on energy gels for fuel. That is why it is good to bring bite sized snacks to eat in between checkpoints (e.g. the Kamote). Bring some chocolates, bread, fruits which would not get squashed. And again, carbohydrates require a lot of water to digest so drink water as you eat to make sure you can absorb and metabolize your food on time.

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an apple a day! and oh, that is a nice looking sweatshirt! (photo courtesy of Amornphand Hanrpanichphand)

6.For those who have upset stomachs, prepare your medicine a few days before the race. You may take them the night before just to make sure your stomach doesn’t bother you. One or two tablets is not heavy so bringing some during the race might help.

7.Have a good meal after the race. It is good to have some protein with that meal to help in your recovery. Have a good rest after and keep drink a lot of fluids too. It is very basic but sometimes it is what we tend to neglect.

8.Finally, these tips will work best if you practice your eating plan during your training so you will discover how to make it work best for you. Some of these tips may not work for you but may work for others. So it is better to make mistakes during your practice runs so that you will not repeat them during the race.

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A job well done! (photo courtesy of Andre Blumberg)

 

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