How to fuel before and during a long distance endurance race or even training ride is a question that many of us ask ourselves. Carbo-loading, fasting, restricting certain foods from your diet – there are a lot of different methods used to for training and race nutrition.
We spoke to reigning Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire and Weymouth champion and ONE PRO Nutrition athlete George Goodwin about his nutrition around training and racing.
First of all, let’s talk lockdown. How have you adapted your training with the race season effectively being postponed for much of the year?
I’ve taken the opportunity to continue with “winter” style training on the bike and run, really building up a big aerobic base. The idea is that when/if races can resume in 2020 I’ll be able to bring in speed work a few weeks before and be ready to race. Taking a positive look on things as well, it’s made me a lot less uptight about really nailing sessions in spring, when races are on the horizon, and I think that’s helped me train well.
In terms of swimming, in the first few weeks, it was impossible to get in the water so I did some land-based exercises to keep my shoulders in shape. Since lockdown’s eased I’ve been able to swim in a lake, and with the nice weather we’ve had, even get in without a wetsuit. It’s been tough at times to have the motivation to get out the door and train with no clear dates for racing in the near future, but I’ve managed pretty well.
When preparing for a long distance event, how do you prepare nutritionally in the build up to the race?
I don’t change my regular diet much at all before I race. By keeping your routine as close to normal as possible you know how your body reacts. I do make one small change; I usually travel to a race 5 days before and this is when I begin to cut out fibre from my diet. The worst thing that can happen in such a long race is needing to go to the toilet; when you’re working so hard sometimes your gut can play up. The lack of fibre in the days prior can help with that, and another small plus is that you lose around 0.5-1kg of weight from your bowels.
This basically means you have to stick to pretty plain foods; any carbohydrates have to be “white” such as rice and bread, no fruit & veg. ONE PRO Nutrition products are pretty useful in this period to keep you topped up with energy and still allowing me to stick to this. Once I’m at the race venue you would find me with an energy drink firmly by my side to keep me fuelled and hydrated.
During the race, do you stick to a strict fuelling strategy, and if so what is that?
It took me around 2 years of racing long distance to nail down exactly what to use and how many carbohydrates I need. I’ll have a caffeine gel about 20 minutes before race start, and then once I’m out on the bike that’s where the strategy comes in. On the bike I’ll tend to have three 500ml bottles. Two of them will have carbohydrate drink in and then the other will have electrolytes. I can top up with water out on the course if I feel I need it.
I also take a gel every 40 minutes out on the bike, so 3 in total. I pack a fourth just in case. I’ve found out the hard way not to rely on on-course nutrition on the run, so I take 2 gels with me. I did my university dissertation on carbohydrate intake in footballers, and whilst the results of the physical tests showed the obvious improvements we expected, what was interesting was just how much they improved in cognitive tests. This helped me understand that you need to be fuelled properly not just for the physical aspect of the sport, but also to have the mental ability to react to the race as it unfolds.
What is your post-training session recovery strategy, both nutritionally and physically?
Once I’ve finished a session the first thing I’ll do is have a quick recovery snack, either a Protein Bar or recovery shake, before I shower. Once I’m out I’ll try and have a more substantial meal. Pretty basic stuff but I find that it works well for me. In terms of physically, I’ll often not have that long before the next session so I just do my best to chill out and put my feet up. Protein supplements are especially important for refuelling if you have to travel back from sessions.
With 2020 turned on its head, what are your goals and ambitions now for the remainder of the year?
My main goal for 2020 now is to stay healthy and keep training. That’s the number one priority, being ready to race comes second to that. It’s hard to have ambitions when there are no concrete dates for races yet. It’s all about learning to be fluid, and hopefully I can take that skill forward into future seasons.
Images – Darren Wheeler