It is never to early to start to consider, plan and begin to practice your race day nutrition. Getting this wrong is the easiest way to earn yourself a DNF (Did Not Finish). This can happen to an athlete that is physically in the best possible shape for his or her race so read on to find out how to avoid this happening to you.
How much? The body stores around 90 mins worth of glycogen fuel in your muscles and organs but once this is used you need to be continually replenishing your carbohydrate stores. A general guideline for a long distance endurance event is that you should be consuming around 1 g of CHO (carbohydrate) per kg of your bodyweight per hour and that food is consumed every 20-30 mins. Sports specific bars usually contain around 35 -40 g of CHO and gels around 30g. To get the required amount of CHO you could take, for example, 2 gels per hour or 1 gel and half a bar plus CHO sports drink (work out how much your chosen drink contains per bottle). Most long distance athletes prefer to have some solid food during the event like banana or malt loaf and some athletes like to have something savoury in their stash too. Whatever you choose, it is generally wise to consume solid food choices during the first two-thirds of the bike leg. This allows you to digest the food before you start the run.
How do you carry it all? The easiest way to carry your race day nutrition is using a bag or box attached to your top tube (sometimes called a Bento box). You may also decide to make use of the feed stations on the course. Check what your race organisers will be providing you with on the day in terms of nutrition and sports drinks and get used to these products now.
Hydration. You will need to take in 500-750ml of fluid per hour of vigorous exercise in normal UK summer conditions but again this is very personal as we all have different sweat rates and you may not be in the UK! You obviously won’t be able to carry this with you so you will definitely need to use the feed stations for your water or sports drinks. Before race day plan carefully what you will need at each station. Drink to thirst is best practice within these limits.
Practice, practice, practice. Just because one strategy works for one of your club-mates does not mean that it will work well for you. The way your stomach tolerates specific foods and fluid during exercise is very individual. There is only one answer and that is to practice. On every long ride or long run from today, test a particular food stuff and timing strategy. Make notes in your training diary as to how you felt in terms of energy. Come race day you will know exactly what you need to eat and drink to make the most of your fitness and have a fantastic long distance experience!