One of the easiest ways to cut out variables and create an atmosphere for a good performance is to fuel your body appropriately. Is it easy, though? On paper fueling seems pretty simple. I’m not even talking about knowing what to consume, I’m talking about physically putting something into your mouth and swallowing it while exercising. Here’s my question for you: If someone told you exactly what to eat and when during a workout, would you follow it and execute the plan properly every time?
It’s pretty shocking how many people know exactly what they should be doing when it comes to racing and training nutrition, but fail to execute. As a coach, it can feel like you’re banging your head against a wall begging the athletes that you coach to follow through with the plan you prescribed. As an athlete, it can feel almost impossible to take your attention away from the task at hand just to place something into your mouth.
I can’t tell you how many times during a workout or race I have been screaming in my own head, “You have to eat!” only to continue on chasing down my competitor or time without doing anything about my fuel.
A few years ago in one of my first ultra-endurance events I started out nailing my nutrition. I ate something every 30 minutes and I thought I was on fire. Eventually the plan started to break down. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to eat, and it wasn’t because I was hyper-focused. It was because I was too tired. I was too tired to pull something out of my pocket, open it, and put it in my mouth. That was probably a sign that I really needed something to eat. When I rolled into that feedzone and my pit crew surrounded me asking me what I wanted to eat, I exclaimed, “Anything that’s open!” Immediately everyone began ripping open wrappers and throwing a variety of food into my hands. I stuffed as much as I could into my mouth and it probably saved me that day.
I’ve experienced this conundrum more than once, so I’ve started to work on making things more accessible. Here are some tips:
- Open Your Food
The previous story probably tipped you off to this idea. Open your food for easy access to it during your ride. There’s nothing worse than pulling out your nutrition and then repeatedly struggling to rip the package open.
For bars sometimes I’ll just cut the top off so I can slide the bar out of the wrapper and for blocks I’ll actually cut the sleeve in half so that I can just slide them out of the tube. Not only will this made it easier to access your food, but it might also encourage you to follow through on your plan because you don’t want to have a bunch of open, non-eaten food at the end of your ride.
Side note: I don’t recommend opening up gels and putting them in your pocket unless you want a sticky mess. I do recommend practicing in training opening the gel while riding though because some gels are easier to open than others.
- Put Your Food on the Outer Most Pockets
Especially when you are wearing multiple layers, try to have your food in the outer most pocket. It can be really overwhelming to know that in order to eat you have to practically undress to access your food. It you are switching layers back and forth, make sure you transfer at least one item of food back and forth to your outermost pocket as well.
- Tape Your Gels
A good way to have easy access to your gels is to tape them to something right at the pull tab. That way you just rip the gel off and consume. If you’re a triathlete and don’t have pockets in your suit then taping them to the top tube of your bike is a great option. If you’re a mountain biker or gravel racer then you can tape a gel or two to a water bottle that you will have someone hand you part way through the race.
- Dedicated Food Pocket
Another easy, access food hack is to have one pocket dedicated to food. It’s so frustrating to reach back in your pocket for a quick snack only to fish around, pulling out trash and Co2s instead. Dedicate one of your pockets to food and place your trash and other supplies in a different pocket for easy organization.
- Hydration Pack!
Last but certainly not least, I recommend using a hydration pack when the course or terrain calls for it. One of the great features of a hydration pack is that you can drink while descending.
With traditional bottles you may not want to drink when you’re climbing because you’re breathing so hard. Then, when descending, you can’t take your hands off of the bars. I like a hydration pack because I can throw the hose in my mouth at the top of the climb and take sips all the way down the descent.
The USWE hydration packs have become increasingly popular this year for their sleek and non-bouncing design. You can check them out on TheFeed.com and use my code for $15 off.