It's hard to stress enough how important fueling is for endurance events. This includes every day nutrition, training days, and race day. Many times it’s tempting to go out and run poorly fueled, rationalizing that “it’s only a 2 hour bike ride'' or “I don’t need to eat anything for a long run as I’m going slow”. I also see variations of these two poorly informed thought processes: “I’m not trying to win the race, just finish, so I don’t need to pay attention to all that nutrition stuff”, or the worst of the bunch, “I’m trying to lose a few pounds so I’m not going to eat prior or during my workout”.
All of these are wrong- for all sorts of reasons. For the sake of time (no one wants to read a dissertation-length explanation why these all don’t work) I’ll just say that we ALWAYS need to be properly fueled to optimize both our performance, and our recovery, where we make the critical adaptations and improvement the ways we need to. One way to ensure adequate fueling during races and quality workouts, is using' performance products'; gels, chews, and drinks that have unique combinations of electrolytes and sugars to help athletes train and race their best when it matters most.
While we don't need to use performance products every session (that would get quite expensive), it's important to be fueled adequately for every session for a few reasons, and starting to experiment with some performance fuels in the process is a way to kill two birds with one stone:
There's an entire industry devoted to endurance performance nutrition products, so your choices are seemingly endless. Gatorade is one of the originals, and is readily available everywhere, but it's been improved upon significantly. I'll try to break down the most popular products here:
Types of performance products
I define performance products as pre packaged, nutrient-dense fuels that contain the essential nutrition (electrolytes, carbohydrates, etc.) and eliminate the non-essential nutrition (fiber, fat, etc.) for consumption during a race or training.
SEMI SOLIDS / LIQUID
When to use which type
This can be a touchy subject, as this can vary widely by the athlete, but there are a few basic guidelines most can agree upon. I've included a timeline that works fairly well for me and many of my athletes:
A great resource for what is the most current, most advanced nutrition products is TheFeed.com. If you’re curious as to what products you might like, the best thing to do is try out a bunch and see how you do (keeping in the appropriate intake parameters of course :)
Good luck and make sure you practice!