Turn your endurance nutrition into a picnic to improve results - and enjoyment - overnight
Endurance sports are hard, that is largely the point after all. But there are some areas of dogma attached to distance running, cycling, swimming and triathlon that make the sports we love unnecessarily hard - nutrition falls into this camp all too often.
So while running an ultramarathon is hard, you wouldn't make it harder by adding gravel to your shoes. In the same way a 100-mile bike ride is tough, but you wouldn't make it tougher by riding a bike five sizes too small for you.
Clearly both of these things would be ridiculous.
Endurance is hard, don't make it harder by forcing down foods you hate
So why, when it comes to fuel and nutrition, should anyone be expected to stomach hours and hours of the exact same fuel?
They shouldn't, is of course the right answer.
Not that this stops just about every other sports nutrition company out there advising just that, with some maniacal focus on the number of calories and zero focus on the end user's actual enjoyment.
Just because you're racing, eating didn't suddenly change. It's still eating.
And it should still be enjoyable, so enjoyable that it lifts your experience and powers you up with fuel and delight, as opposed to grimly focusing on the fuel side while leaving all the fun at home so you grimace your way through hours of pain, with an added side dish of pain courtesy of your monotonous nutrition.
Because even chilling out at home, you're not going to want the exact same thing for every meal, snack and bite throughout the day.
So you need to plan your endurance nutrition like a picnic
Of course I don't mean by lugging a whopping great wicker basket around with you complete with gingham rug, tea set and a Famous Five-styled array of potted meats, homemade jams and cider uncle Melvin brewed in the shed.
Okay, so this might be overkill...
Instead, what I mean is by carrying a selection of fueling options to choose from depending on how you feel - this way when it's time to eat and you really don't want yet another monotonous hit of the same things you've been eating for the last three hours, you can have something else instead.
This delivers the fuel you need, with an added mental lift thanks to the delight of your desire - 'I fancy a nice bit of XYZ' - being fulfilled instantly.
What to pack on an endurance picnic
Testing in training is going to play a big part here as this is where you can experiment with different foods that work for you. Also be ready to pay attention to what cravings you experience as the miles roll by.
Say you're regularly craving cheese sandwiches during long training sessions, why not carry one? Quartered and packed properly it could work a treat.
And remember, what you crave is a good indicator of what sort of nutrients you need to focus on.
So when you're craving sweet foods this is a sign you're in need of more carbs, while craving savoury and fatty foods is a great sign you need more salts in the body to replace those lost by sweat.
Here are few ideas to get you started
- Fruit - bananas rule. Nature's energy bar, these are a staple for so many athletes for good reason. Dried fruit can also work well, dates are a great example for a healthy sugar hit
- Nuts - salted ones hit the spot as a savoury treat replenishing electrolytes, plain ones work well when you don't fancy eating anything else. Freezer bags are great for transporting these and eating on the go
- 33Fuel Chia Energy Gels - our unique energy gels are supplied dry making them the perfect endurance nutrition picnic food. This is because you can use add any mixer you like for a variety of flavours and nutrient profiles. Water is the classic, fruit juices change the flavour and add extra carbs, coconut water increases the electrolyte count for hot days, while coffee makes the tastiest caffeine gel you've ever had! Let us know your favourite recipes so we can share them with the rest of the 33Fuel team on our Facebook page
Time to run, time to eat! Mix your 33Fuel Chia Energy Gels with anything from coconut water to beet juice, coffee to fruit juice for as many favours as you like, in one power-packed, 100% natural gel
- Homemade snacks - here the Feed Zone Portables book rocks. These guys know endurance and they know how to cook. They're also responsible for the rice-cake craze in pro cycling which has taken hold for a reason. Ignore the book's terrible name and check it out for a smorgasbord of simple, delicious bite-sized snacks you can make quickly to keep your picnic power-packed and varied
- Course nutrition - last but not least, what are they supplying on race day? Every race website will have this info somewhere and you can use it to plan how much - or little - you need to bring along. Unfortunately the race landscape is still dominated by the identikit processed gunk brands which means it's little more than a very flimsy safety net and best avoided wherever possible. But other races, particularly in the ultramarathon space are getting much better with all manner of tasty real food options on offer.
Mmm, nuts. Salted cashews are a boss nut. Sugar-coated nuts are not. None of them.
If that's your craving, be honest and grab a Mars Bar
Endurance nutrition picnics - conclusion
Endurance sports are no picnic, but by thinking of your racing and training nutrition in picnic terms and broadening the scope of what can be used - which is anything you like and can carry basically - your performance will get a huge boost as you actively look forward to, and enjoy, every piece of your nutritional journey while also taking maximum fueling benefit from it.