New to endurance events, wondering what to eat for the Leadville 100 - here is a guide written by Dr John Heiss Ph.D. the Director of Sports and Fitness at Herbalife

While individuals often have personal preferences, here is a quick guide to what to eat during an endurance event like the Leadville trail 100 mile mountain bike race or a marathon.

Nearly everyone that starts Leadville has logged the training hours to complete the race.  Those who don’t finish typically suffer from dehydration and improper nutrition during 10 + hours race.  Bloating, nausea, upset stomach, cramping and bonking are no excuses.  Here are 5 endurance nutrition tips to maximize your chances of not only finishing but racing to your potential.

  •  Early and often.  Whatever you eat be sure to eat early and often during competition.  Waiting until you are hungry puts you dangerously close to bonking and inevitably effects performance for the worse.

  • Carbs are king.  There is no myth about “carbo-loading.”  Carbs account for the vast majority of the energy used by the muscles.  Most sports drinks contain some form of sugars which is a good thing.  Recent research indicated a combination of carbohydrates may work best – e.g. maltodextrin (a very rapidly metabolized glucose polymer) and fructose rather than just maltodextrin or just sucrose alone.

  • Keep the tank full.  For longer events especially at Leadville, I recommend 200-250 calories per hour.  Some people (Pro-cyclists, larger men) can accomodate up to 400 calories per hour.  The average 10-hour finisher at Leadville does 150W (remember, it’s at 10,000 feet!) which equates to about 550 calories/hour meaning they will burn about 5,500 calories during the race.  Hence, it’s essential to keep eating whatever you can to keep the gas tank full.

  • Electrolytes.  Electrolytes are important for preventing cramps, support proper muscle function, regulate pH, enhance hydation and facilitate carbohydrate update.  Most sports drinks claim electrolytes – but read the fine print – many sports commissions recommend 500-100mg of sodium/liter during exercise.  Look for well-absorbed electrolytes like sodium citrate.

  • Protein is good.  Protein is still controversial for inclusion in sports drinks.  Most of the studies only look at time-trial simulations between 60-90 minutes and the researchers don’t see significant differences in performance  But we all know, true athletes train day-after-day and need to recover quickly.  It’s quite clear that protein consumption during exercise helps to prevent muscle breakdown and speeds recovery.  During a long event like the Leadville, many racers have great success consuming some protein.  The key here is some.  Look for a drink with a high carb-to-protein ratio, ideally close to 10:1.  Too much protein can cause bloating and research shows protein isn’t well metabolized during exercise – so keep the carbs high and the protein low.

    The official on-course drink at Leadville is Herbalife 24 Prolong. It has a subtle, easy-to-drink flavour, plus provides all the carbohydrates and electrolytes your body needs to sustain during a race like Leadville.