Fuelling with Protein for Endurance Events
Fall is in full swing and this is always the busiest time of year for me at work. It is such a good thing that I decided to take an early off season or I would never see anyone ever. This past weekend, I headed to Toronto to pace the incredible Athletarian on her marathon race and we had a blast in the first half. I am dreading the race photos because I may or may not have been stuffing extra gels down my sports bra to use in future races and failed to notice the official race photographers. I may not be classy, but my chest was on point that day.
It was a great weekend full of post-race celebrations and I used the half marathon as a test run to see where I am at.
My IT bands were not super thrilled and it will take a while for me to get back to normal, but it is slowly coming. I have signed up for a half marathon in Gatineau in a couple weekends to go visit a couple of my nearest and dearest that I did Transrockies 120 miler with and I am excited. Even though I won’t be in race shape, it will be fun to crush some hills on Halloween.
I have two more races this year: a half marathon in Gatineau and a final adventure race in November called RAID THE HAMMER. I did it last year and it was my first race with Team Ripkin. We are adding it in this year for a quick season ender and I am looking forward to improving our standing from last year.
One of the biggest changes I have made to my racing this year is the length. I am talking 48 hours long. Next year, you will see my long races punctuated with a shorter, faster races because I want to focus on getting my speed back, but my heart will always always lie in the endurance trail events. One of the biggest things I have learned around racing the longer events is nutrition. I remember way back in the day, I did 100 Miles of Wild in the North Dakota Badlands and let’s just say, digestive system wise, it was not a rockstar event. I may or may not have just showed up with a box of 12 protein bars which I lived on all week and decided not to drink much because I was too embarrassed to take bathroom breaks in the wilderness. NOT A GOOD THING.
Fast forward two years and I have more wisdom and less shame which is a fabulous combination. I have learned a trick or two about what my body needs and I have learned to anticipate when things will go off the rails. I still make mistakes (See my last adventure race) but I make less of them.
Here are some of my biggest fueling learnings:
1. I am probably not eating enough – When I am running a marathon, I take a gel every 30 minutes to work out to 60 g of carbohydrates an hour. This works for me but I also carry energy chomps to suck on in between gels so I have a constant source of energy throughout the race. I fuel like this for endurance events where I am riding my red line. For longer endurance events, it is much harder. My watch announced that I burned 40,000 calories in my Equinox Traverse race and there is no way I can physically eat that much food, which means I try to eat every hour. As the event wears on, the more you get sick of eating what you are carrying in your pack, but that is when it becomes most important. For me, I need to ignore hunger cues in the later stages of the race and EAT THAT DANG FOOD BAR.
2. Electrolytes are life – It is no secret that I am a Nuun lover but no year has the love of hydration escalated to such heights than 2015. A little TMI, but you WILL HAVE GI ISSUES without proper hydration. Trust me. The day before I race, I drink like crazy and during, I use Nuun tablets in my hydration pack. I used to just use one, but these days, I race with 2-3 tablets for 2 L. You CAN drink too much water, so I don’t take in more than 2-3 cups an hour and I always consume with electrolytes to balance my fluids to make sure I don’t get hyponatremia.
3. Protein is necessary – When your exercise extends past 2 hours, your body begins to use protein to fulfil it’s energy requirements. If you don’t include protein in your diet, your body is like “Welp, time to feast on muscle.” And I struggle enough to hold on to muscle so I am not about that life. Again, I am not talking about my faster endurance events like sprint adventure races or marathons that last 3-6 hours and I am pushing my red line – I fuel with simple sugars. I am talking about those bone crushing ultra-marathons, stage races or 12- 48 hour adventure races where you need solid food to carry you through. I have played around with protein powders and none of them work as well as Genuine Health Fermented Vegan Protein Powder. I find some plant based proteins have components that prevent them from being broken down correctly which upsets my digestive system and causes me to miss out on the protein benefits. This protein powder has the 20 g of protein already released for digestion and has a balance of amino acids.
My last adventure race, I made protein bars to carry with me and at one point, I made the team stop at around 15 hours into the race and I crushed three bars in one go. No digestive issues and they kept me full for a while. Here is the recipe which I adapted from EatSpinRunRepeat’s version here.
Fermented Protein Bars
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 2 hours freezing
- 1 cup of oats pulsed into a flour (I just threw them in my blender for 1 minute)
- 1 cup of vanilla protein powder (I used Genuine Health Fermented Protein)
- 1 TBSP of honey
- 1 tsp of cocoa powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 TBSP of chia seeds
- 1/2 cup of peanut butter
- 1 cup of cashew milk
- 1/2 cup of cashews (rough chopped)
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate
Line an 8×10 baking sheet with parchment paper
In a large bowl, combine the oats, protein powder, honey, cacao powder and cinnamon.
In a separate bowl, whisk the peanut butter into 1 cup of the almond milk until a thin, smooth mixture forms.
Pour the peanut butter mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. The dough should be clumpy, but try to get it to be as uniform in texture as possible.
Stir in the cashews and dark chocolate.
Dump the dough onto the parchment paper, pushing it down into the corners of the dish as evenly as possible.
Once the layer is smooth, put the bars in the freezer for 2 hours.
Lift the parchment paper out of the baking dish and onto a flat surface. Cut the dough into even bars. It will crumble a bit at the sides but you can use your fingers to shape them into rectangles.
Take into the wilderness and get your protein in!
What is your go-to protein source?
What has been your biggest race fuelling mistake?
I have issues with some plantbased protein powders as well. Hemp powder gives me crazy heartburn for hours and my stomach doesn’t like pea protein which so many powders use as the base. I bought some Iron Vegan Sprouted Protein (unflavoured) and I love it. It contains organic, raw, sprouted, non-GMO brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, millet and pumpkin seed. Hasn’t given me any issues. I like mixing it into my oatmeal, pancakes, etc. I do sometimes find that the first time I try a new protein product I get some GI issues until my sensitive stomach becomes accustomed to it but that wasn’t the case with this brand. It’s got 18g protein.
Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat says
Ooh such a juicy post! I agree that wrapping my head around the need to get more nutrition in during my races and long training was something that took me a while to do. I love your take on my protein bars – they sound delicious and I’m so glad they’re working for you. Also, it sounds like you had an awesome tdot weekend! Looking forward to hearing more about it on Tuesday! 🙂
Sometimes just reading your race plans makes me tired haha! You are a wild woman!
Also I love your point about protein – I started working with a nutritionist again and the first thing we talked about was the LACK of protein in my diet… Sigh!!! I gotta work on it!