Eating is critical to winning at Vail’s Mountain Games
June 12, 2013
For athletes, the toughest aspect of the GoPro Mountain Games: Ultimate Mountain Challenge will be recovery between events. If recovery time can be shortened, then subsequent performance will be improved. Recovery nutrition is the key, so what and when I eat and drink will be critical to shortening recovery time. Eating the wrong food or none at all will leave my glycogen stores depleted, my immune system vulnerable and my legs weary the next day.
While cycling and running at race intensity, I am easily burning 1,000-1,200 calories per hour with carbohydrates as the primary fuel source. At lower intensities, about 50 percent of your energy needs are supplied by fat and the other 50 percent by carbohydrates. As the intensity increases, so does the percentage of carbohydrates to fat that is burned as fuel. In the body, carbohydrates are stored as glycogen in the liver and in the muscles, but stores are limited. Blood glucose, muscle glycogen and liver glycogen only amount to about 2,200 calories. In a two-hour mountain bike race, these limited reserves could become completely depleted. Therefore, replenishing muscle and liver glycogen stores is the No. 1 goal of recovery nutrition.
With multiple events, the recovery begins before and during the events themselves. It is important for me to make sure my glycogen stores are topped off before the first race. Although it is impossible to completely replace what I am burning during exercise, I can spare some of the stored glycogen by taking in 200-300 calories of carbohydrates in the form of sports drinks or a concentrated carbohydrate liquid (taken with water).
When to eat
Immediately following the race, the muscle cells are the most receptive to replenishing glycogen stores, and there is a window of time where muscle glycogen can be assimilated at a faster rate. The window is about two hours, but it tapers off, so I try to get in calories within 30 minutes of the finish.
What to eat
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The type of carbohydrate is also important — especially when events are closely spaced. A fast-acting, high-glycemic source will be quickly shuttled to muscle cells. Small amounts of protein have been shown to help with shuttling carbohydrates into muscle cells, which also aids in protein resynthesis.
The easiest way for me to get what I need is with a recovery drink. I use a product I get at Dogma Athletica called Ultragen made by First Endurance. One full serving has 60 grams of dextrose, 20 grams of whey protein isolates, 4.5 grams of branched chain amino acids and 6 grams of glutamine. The remaining deficit can be made up with consistent carbohydrate feeding the rest of the day, taking in real food at roughly two-hour intervals.
For these meals, I still focus on carbohydrate intake, but with more emphasis on eating balanced, unprocessed foods.
Josiah Middaugh is a Dogma Athletica athlete, trainer and endurance coach. He can be contacted for training or coaching at Dogma Athletica at (970) 688-4433.