In our last podcast ahead of the 2018 Comrades Marathon, Mark Wolff takes your from eating breakfast in the previous podcast, to handling your race nutrition. This is an extremely insightful guide on how to handle your hydration and energy requirements.
Mark Wolff: As far as race fuelling goes; let’s talk about race fuelling because this is now probably in the minds of most people. You need to try and separate out your hydration and your energy requirements. You’re looking at two separate factors on a day.
Handling “down” run hydration
Hydration is obviously to try and replenish the amount of fluid lost in the form of sweat during your race. You can never replenish the complete amount. We look to what’s called an 80% replenishment, which means that if you’re losing a litre of fluid, you should only be taking in 800ml to try and replenish.
You can’t go to a litre, you’ll never be able to absorb that much fluid during the event and it can lead to hypernatremia, which is life threatening, so don’t overhydrate. Remember, it’s very cold early on in the morning, so in Pietermaritzburg it’s going to be very cold, it usually is.
Your hydration requirements will be a lot lower early on in the race and as the race gradually picks up through the day, you’ll find that your hydration requirements will start to increase. When it’s colder like that and you’re taking in less fluid, you’ve got the ability to actually take on quite a nice amount of nutrition, which is quite nice.
But later on, as it gets much hotter and your fluid requirements are a lot higher, you probably won’t want to eat so much. The best thing is to make sure that you do fuel properly in the first half of that race. You really, really need to and I use what’s called a drip feeding system.
How to follow a ‘drip feeding’ strategy
In other words, small amounts more frequently. Instead of having a gel every 45 minutes or an hour, or having something, like a bar every 45 minutes or an hour, rather split it up into 20-30 minute feeds. This is called ‘drip feeding’.
This will allow the body to, it will first of all allow the body to cope a lot better with the small amounts of food that you’re consuming, because the digestive system will be under much less stress with smaller amounts. It will also stabilise your blood sugar levels quite nicely because you’re eating a little bit more frequently. You won’t go on these big peaks and troughs, which we call the ‘rollercoaster ride.’
Don’t overeat. There’s absolutely no reason to overeat. We spoke about using the fat fuel tank in the previous podcast. If you over consume glucose, you will mitigate that. The body will want to utilise the glucose and get rid of it. Don’t overeat, there’s absolutely no reason to do that. You just want to take in enough that you feel comfortable. The brain is happy and that you can actually spare your glycogen stores a little bit.
You don’t have to overeat. If you do overeat glucose, you’re going to run the risk of dehydration later on because you could impact fluid absorption. It can lead to cramping, it can lead to stomach discomfort, it can lead to nausea. Rather take in the least amount of fuel to achieve the greatest result. This is exactly what I tell all athletes. Remember, small amounts, more frequently and you’ll be absolutely fine. Mix it up quite nicely and don’t overeat anything at any one time.
Make caffeine work to your advantage
As far as taking caffeine during the race, I think that 90km of running very much requires a lot of mental strength. Caffeine does help stimulate the brain and keep you awake, keep you focused. Without a doubt it does play a benefit, so you can take caffeine en route.
I use the 32Gi G-shots when I race and it’s absolutely perfect. I take about 60mg every 30 minutes. Some people might want to take it every hour, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking in caffeine along the route. Just remember, if your caffeine is combined with a carbohydrate, again, you’re mixing the caffeine with the carb.
So you don’t necessarily take in the right amount of measured caffeine over an hourly period, with the carbohydrate because you might actually land up over-consuming the carbohydrate or under-consuming the caffeine if you’re taking that amount of carbohydrates. So, caffeine is a measurable.
How to “recover” as you run
Protein during Comrades, I always get asked about. I absolutely advocate taking in protein during the race. Definitely after about four hours of endurance exercise, your body will start to maybe cannibalise its own muscle protein and that is a fuel tank that you do not want to access during any endurance event. You want to try and delay the onset of muscle fatigue as much as possible.
Protein also has the ability to satiate you and it’s something that I feed my elite athletes every single year, without a doubt. Comrades winners have taken it in, but we use, for example, the 32Gi Recover, it’s got a one-to-three protein to carbohydrate ratio. We make sure that the athletes are getting in around, anywhere between 5-11g of protein per hour during the event and it really, really does work very well.
If you don’t have seconding along route, but there are some tables en route that you can get to, I would definitely leave a protein shake at around the 40km mark, and the 60km mark. But try take in some protein, definitely around, between the three to four hour mark and onwards.
But it is something that you definitely want to take en route and it will make a very, very big difference. You don’t have to take a full protein shake, even just a small amount which will give you around 5-6g of protein in that hour will actually be completely suitable.
As far as the day goes, just remember it is a controlled pace event, control the pace very nicely. Make sure you own the pace. Don’t get pushed by your friends or your training partners to run faster because you don’t want to burn your matches early on.
Like I mentioned earlier, you’ve got two fuel tanks. You’ve got a fat and a glycogen fuel tank, you want to primarily use your fat tank as much as possible. If you do that by feeding correctly and by pacing yourself correctly, you can only have the best possible day out at Comrades Marathon 2018.
David Katz: Mark, some fantastic advice there, as always. I hope you’ve enjoyed all our lead-up here now to the Comrades Marathon. From Mark Wolff and myself, Mr Active, David Katz and the entire team at 32Gi, if you are racing, if you’re supporting, have an absolutely fantastic day.