Help Me Rhonda: Carbs are essential fuel for that big race |

Help Me Rhonda: Carbs are essential fuel for that big race

Rhonda Beckham

For five months, one of my whiniest clients has been training for the annual High Sierra Fall Century, which takes place Sept. 6 near Mammoth. In addition to riding an average of 60 to 80 miles per week, she has been through all the drills with me: imaginary steep hills on the indoor cycle, endurance (strength) training for her legs, upper-body stamina and, of course, core power.

The big day to ride the 100-mile course is almost here, and we think she is ready. Good luck to her!

But after all this time, training and mind-consuming focus, what should she plan to eat before, during and after she crosses the finish line?

Since the body typically contains enough stored fat to fuel several century rides, the focus of eating for an endurance event should be on carbohydrates.

Because I want all my readers to do their best in endurance events, it’s essential to consider carb loading. After all, the same weekend my client is in Mammoth, plenty of you will be riding 72 miles around the lake in the annual Bike Big Blue event. Because the body’s carbohydrate stores are limited (a 154-pound person may store about 400 total grams of carbohydrates), endurance events lasting more than 90 minutes can deplete muscle glycogen to low levels, leading to early fatigue.

The goal here is to “train” your body for six days before the event to increase your body’s stores of muscle glycogen (fuel). These stores can increase significantly and may provide greater fuel for the latter portions of the race. This means my client needs to start laboring over her diet this Labor Day weekend.

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John M. Berardi is one of the world’s foremost experts in the field of human performance and nutrition. Here is his carbohydrate-loading model counting down to an endurance event:

— Day 6, training day: Low-carb diet (less than 200 g carbohydrates)

— Day 5, training day: Low-carb diet

— Day 4, training day: Low-carb diet

— Day 3, recovery day: High-carb diet (more than 10 g/kg carbohydrates)

— Day 2, recovery day: High-carb diet

— Day 1, recovery day: High-carb diet

— Event day

During the low-carb days, you must increase your consumption of good fats (omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated) as well as complete protein sources in order to keep your energy intake the same. Therefore, carbohydrates will make up only a small percentage of your daily intake. During the high-carb days, decrease your fat and protein consumption, as your diet should be more than 80 percent carbohydrates.

If you’re about to compete in a marathon, triathlon or century race, you owe it to yourself to give carbohydrate loading a chance.

Eat a high-calorie meal two to four hours before a race, or several smaller meals between two and five hours before a race is essential. A pre-race meal should contain:

— 1 liter of water.

— 4 to 5 grams of carbohydrate per 2.2 pounds of body weight (10.5 ounces for a 154-pound person).

— A small amount of protein (20 to 40 grams).

— A small amount of fat (10 to 20 grams).

My main concern above all else is the possibility of dehydration. Sure, you want to finish your race with a good time, but making it past the finish line without sirens and flashing lights is your focus here.

Plan on consuming 5 to 10 ounces of a sports drink (Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) every 15 to 20 minutes before and during the event. Water is just not enough, as you also will lose significant amounts of sodium, which can get to dangerous levels.

If you want a quick recovery that will put you back in the saddle before Columbus Day, continue to treat your body like the machine it is. Drink a homemade recovery drink containing 1 scoop of whey protein plus two servings Gatorade. Then, every two hours after this for the remainder of the day, be sure to consume a meal containing protein and carbohydrates.

I know after my endurance swim next month, I will want a massage and then a soak in a hot tub with a fine glass of chardonnay. (My massage therapist says to be careful with alcohol after an serious athletic endeavor, and drinking water while submerged in hot water is healthier than wine.)

Most important, pat yourself on the back for your stick-to-itiveness, and give thanks for your healthy and ever-so-amazing body.

– Rhonda Beckham is a nationally certified personal trainer, with teaching certificates in Pilates and kickboxing.