What fuels the athletes competing in gruelling ultra endurance events such as the Tour de France, Iron Man, and marathons? Well I can tell you that the likes of Froome and Cavendish don’t survive 21 days of cycling nearly 2000 miles on will and determination alone! Considering almost 40,000 supplements are consumed by just 200 athletes over the course of the Tour de France, I think it’s well worth giving you an insight into what the best endurance athletes in the world use, why they use it, and when.
In no particular order…
#1 Carbohydrate Bars – High 5 Energy Bar, High 5 Sports Bar, Pulsin Energy Bomb Bars, PowerBar Natural Energy Fruit & Nut Bar and PowerBar Performance Energy.
The mix of sustainable release and quick release carbs in the above energy bars, including oats and mixed fruit respectively delivers an optimal blend of energy to see the athletes through the inevitable lows during a race.
Some endurance events last for hours on end, consequently the competitors don’t want to continually down liquid carbs, hence the inclusion of a carbohydrate energy bar makes for a nice change. For maximum benefit a bar can be consumed around 40mins before setting off, and for ultra endurance events it’s worth eating an occasional mouthful of your bar every 15-20mins…note I’m not suggesting you consume it when you ‘hit the wall’ i.e. if/when your glycogen stores plummet, and I’ll explain why later.
#2 Isotonic Beverage – Science in Sport GO Energy, High 5 Isotonic, PowerBar Iso Active and PowerBar Isomax.
The deliberate and timely ingestion of fluid is vital to performance, but the consumption of nothing but water could lead to conditions such as hypokalaemia and hyponatraemia whereby the athlete is dangerously low in potassium and sodium relative to their fluid levels. Consequently an isotonic beverage, which is of the same osmotic pressure as your body, delivers optimal ratios of electrolyte (sodium & potassium) relative to fluid. As well as this an isotonic beverage will energise you through the quick releasing carbs (glucose and maltadextrin) that are deliberately added.
Consume 500-700ml approx 30mins before you set out, as well as consuming 2-3 mouthfuls every 10-15mins during the race, and 500-700ml fluid after.
#3 Isotonic Gel – OK, so I’m giving you an array of different energy and electrolyte replacement supplements, but each one offers a unique benefit to an endurance event. Isotonic gels can work cumulatively with isotonic drinks and energy bars in that they deliver their energy slightly differently.
Isotonic gels are a concentrated source of carbs and electrolyte meaning they are rapidly absorbed into the body. From the moment a gel is ingested you get a surge because of the carb receptors in your mouth. It’s pertinent to note that your mouth contains carb receptors but no carb absorptive sites, so as soon as the gel enters your mouth your brain is tricked into thinking it has carbs to work with. The carbs will reach the blood stream within minutes after ingestion, giving you the boost you need once you’ve hit the wall.
The optimal time to take your isotonic gel is when you start to feel depleted, and I mean low in energy as if you’ve just hit that ‘wall’. The ‘wall’ is a term used to describe severe glycogen depletion during a race, so the nutritional properties of an isotonic gel means you’ll receive a rapid hit of carbs to replete those stores within minutes after ingestion.
#4 Beta- Alanine – PowerBar Beta- Alanine, SiS Nitrate Gels and Beet it Beet Root Shots
Beta- alanine buffers your blood, meaning it acts like a sponge soaking up excess hydrogen ions which are responsible for making the blood more acidic, which usually leads to the familiar muscle burn and cramps associated with intense physical activity. So by reducing the acidity of the blood you enable more oxygen to reach the muscle, as well as improving muscle endurance.
Take Beta- alanine during the weeks leading up to the game in order to maximise its effects. Nitrate gels and Beet It Beet root shots can be consumed during the race to help maximise endurance and performance.
5# Whey Protein
Whey protein is integral to muscle repair and recovery, and it's not just for bodybuilders as many might have you believe! So at the end of the constest ensure that you get some whey protein in you within 30mins after the match.
Protein is comprised of amino acids and the amino acids are the building blocks of muscle. In order to maximise muscle growth, recovery and development there needs to be ample reserves of protein.
The term anabolic window refers to the optimal time frame to maximise muscle recovery, this is within 30-60mins after exercise.