The fact you need to be testing your nutrition strategy before race day is not new news. But way too many people leave it at simply testing the ‘type’ of nutrition in approximately the right quantity.
If this is all your doing, at best you’re potentially leaving performance on the table, and at worst, (especially for longer events) risking GI distress, (read, “disaster pants”).
So, here a few other things you should be testing to ensure your ready for a peak performance. And I’ve made it easy to remember… just ‘PICK’.
I’m looking at you triathletes!
You simply don’t digest food in the same way when your hunched over in an aggressive aero position as you do when your sat upright. In training people tend to eat when ‘resting’ in between intervals or when stopped on a longer ride.
For a true test, experiment eating while aero… it’s what you’ll be doing on race day. Some people find that when doing this the feel better moving away from solids and sticking to drink/gels.
As you work harder, (like, y’know… in a race) blood is shutteled away from areas of the body, like the gut, and towards your working muscles. This, combined with the release, or lack thereof, of certain hormones, has implications for digestion.
So just because you can stomach a certain fuel on an easy bunch ride, doesn’t mean it will sit well when your hammering it in your next 70.3!
Heat and humidity can really do a number on appetite and fluid requirements. You may find yourself less hungry and more thirsty in hot races.
This will have implications for your fuel mix, (which you’ll need to practice with, of course). E.g. If your an Ironman athlete who likes solid food on the bike you may have to train yourself to get more calories from liquids if your racing Kona, for instance.
This one is a little more difficult to simulate if you live and train somewhere dissimilar to your target event – so you may have to get creative.
Most people think they have this one covered… of course your going to use the brand of fuel you’ve been training with on the day. You may plan to take nothing from the aid stations… but things don’t always go to plan. You may lose your fuel out on course, you could find halfway through the run you can’t stomach any more of your chosen gels.
This is where experimenting with the on course offerings becomes a good idea. You don’t have to go wild, but at least try one or two of the bars/gels/drink they’ll have on offer to see if they agree with you. This goes for the non-sports nutrition options as well, watermelon, bananas, pretzels, Coke… why not give it all a try!
So there you have it. Try working these factors into your overall testing protocol, they require little additional effort or expense and can make all the difference.