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:
So what should we consume to ensure we adapt our gut and optimize our workouts? Well, there's an entire industry devoted to endurance performance products, so your choices are seemingly endless. Some products like Gatorade have been around for decades, and is readily available everywhere- yet there are nutrition products that have come to market in the just the past few years that are revolutionizing the industry. Again, there are almost an infinite amount of choices- but for simplicity and time, I'll break down the most popular products types 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 is the age-old question, and the answer is, "It depends." To truly fine-tune what works for you will take some time and lots of trial and error. It took me several years to figure out what works best for my system during Ironman events- and I'm still tweaking things here and there. But I know what works for me and many of my athletes (see #6). Here are a few basic guidelines most can agree upon in terms of "what and when":