The Ultimate long distance nutrition question

While efforts to get ready for the upcoming Red Bull continue, there’s one question to which the answer still eludes me.

Even with all the research and experimentation that has gone towards the development of energy bars, gels, drink additives and suchlike, when it really comes down to it and all is said and done are they really any better than a bag of jelly babies in a back pocket?

Enquiring minds want to know.


Re: The Ultimate long distance nutrition question

There’s no magic energy food. While you are exercising, your body
becomes really good at burning whatever you eat. A little dietary fat
may actually help utilize stored fat for energy.

Energy bars, gels, and drinks can be very convenient and if that helps
you get the calories you need that’s great. But if you prefer
burritos, that’s fine too. I like Wha Guru Chews (sugary nutty
confections), but find what works well for you.

Remember to stay hydrated, but keep in mind it is possible to overdo
water intake. The advice to drink, drink, drink has been stressed to
the point that some athletes are suffering from hyponatremia (dilution
of salts). Sports drinks are probably good in this respect because of
the electrolytes they contain.

Hope that helps.


hrmm… I’m a distance runner, and have always believed in drinking as much water as possible. after reading Ken’s post, I decided to do some research. I found this page
and apparently you can drink too much water. but if you eat a lot as well, to balance it out, then you can still drink a lot. I couldn’t really find a site that said how much is too much… I drink about 3-5 liters per day, and I feel fine. so I donno…

but as for other nutritional stuffs… eat pasta, and potatoes. they have a TON of carbs in them, which help for endurancey stuff. and you can/should also take energy bars with you, or sports drinks like gatorade, or whatever…

My miracle fuel during intense muni rides is salt. Ken mentions that hyponatremia is due to overhydration. It can also be due to just sweating out a large amount of salt. If you Google on hyponatremia and athletes you’ll get advice that is all over the map. That wide range of advice seems to be due to the fact that different people sweat out different amounts of salt. Some people loose only a little bit of salt in their sweat while other people may lose a lot of salt in their sweat. I’m in the group that sweats out a lot of salt. I look like a salt lick at the end of a ride.

I was finishing my longer 2 hour plus muni rides with the symptoms of hyponatremia (fatigue, lightheaded, weakness, slight headache, and a craving for salty drinks like Gatorade). It wasn’t from overhydrating (I don’t drink excessive amounts of water during a ride). At first I thought it was because I’m out of shape. Then I thought it was because I wasn’t eating enough energy foods before and during the ride. Then I read about hyponatremia in extreme athletes and said “Hey, that maybe what’s happening to me.” I bought some Lava Salts at a local triathlete store and gave them a try on my next big muni ride. I finished the ride feeling great and no symptoms of fatigue, lightheadedness, weakness, etc. I now pop a few Lava Salts during rides depending on how much I’m sweating. I’m proof that you don’t have to be running an ultadistance race or an Ironman Triathlon to need extra salt during exercise.

It’s weird how much the salt needs can vary from person to person. Someone I’m riding with will be doing just fine while drinking just water and eating normal food during the ride. Meanwhile I’ll be suffering and trying to figure out why I’m feeling spent, out of energy, and lightheaded. The trick is to figure out if you’re one of the people who needs extra salt compared to an average person.

I bring salt tablets (Lava Salts) with me now. They’re convenient and give me what I need. I prefer not to fill my hydration pack with sugary drinks so I fill it up with plain water. I use the salt tablets to give me my needed electrolytes and drink plain water.

There are other electrolyte salt tablets than Lava Salts. I picked Lava Salts because they’re carried locally and easy to get.

Sounds like good advice. Just think of water as a solvent. Whatever it doesn’t contain that your body does, it will extract, until the water and your body reach equilibrium. If you are eating solid, high calorie foods like energy bars, you probably need to take in a little water, just for the food. With natural foods: fruits, or whatever, they may contain enough water. The only thing left is what you sweat out: extra water and salt.

Electrolyte balance doesn’t require digestion, so it should be easier to get right if you pay attention. You should lose weight as you exercise, but I don’t know how much. Energy balance is a 24 hour job, if you exercise a lot. It is better to focus on eating well right after you finish exercising. You body is tuned in to absorbing nutrition at that time. While exercising, your body has a limited ability to work on digestion, so you are left with the need to condition your body to store energy, as glycogen, inbetween your workouts.

With water, it is best to simply drink when you are thirsty. If you have to remember to drink, you might be overdoing it.

I find having salt and vinegar crisps with my pint at the pub stop helps me not get sweat headaches / exhaustion from lack of salt.


Re: The Ultimate long distance nutrition question

To answer the questions, gels,bars etc. don’t seem amazing to me - I got myself to Middlesbrough mainly on fruit jellies. Drink additives are cool though, because they’re really easy to keep eating and can’t fall out of your pocket.

By the way, fruit jellies are I think cheaper per calorie than jelly babies and also have the added bonus of being vegetarian.


Re: Re: The Ultimate long distance nutrition question

The gels and bars are nice for the convenience factor. They’re easy and convenient to take along during a ride. The gels are neat because they digest and absorb quickly.