Nutrition in endurance sports: Competition nutrition with Laura Philipp
What endurance athletes should consider on competition day
How much the right nutrition matters in endurance sports
“The right nutrition can be the deciding factor between victory and defeat,” Laura Philipp states.
And as studies prove, her statement rings true: Roughly 30 – 50% of athletes lament nutrition-related difficulties during lengthy competitions. If further hindering environmental conditions such as heat apply, that figure rises to 70%.
Therefore, it is especially important to think in detail about the appropriate nutrition on competition day in order to avoid such problems.
We want to help you optimize your competition nutrition with tips from professional triathlete Laura Philipps and nutrition expert Robert Gorgos!
The appropriate pre-competition diet
In addition to a generally optimized training diet, nutrition needs to be suitably adapted 2 to 3 days prior to the impending competition. This period of time should be utilized to fill up the carbohydrate stores.
The optimal way to achieve this is through so-called carbo-loading. This process of carbo-loading should absolutely be considered a multi-day process. It is a common misconception that glycogen stores can be filled sufficiently after just one substantial meal.
The popular “pasta parties” are likely to have evolved from that very misconception.
Even so, these parties should by no means be considered a universal remedy.
The by far superior solution is to start filling up carbohydrate stores 2 to 3 days prior to the competition. Moreover, this should not be achieved by having large individual meals, but through frequent intake of smaller snacks.
Also, make sure to consume only very well tolerated foods. Ideally, these would be meals which you have frequently in your day-to-day life. Hence, you are already familiar with how your body will react to the food.
While the intake of carbohydrates should be increased in the days leading up to a competition, be equally thorough in slightly reducing the fat, protein and fiber levels in your diet. These nutrients are more difficult for the body to digest and are also very satiating, which can hinder increased carbohydrate absorption.
In contrast, high potassium foods are very well-suited as potassium helps with carbohydrate storage. To that end, potatoes or raisins among others can be great suppliers.
Sports nutrition products can be introduced as an additional aid. These products are usually rich in well-tolerated carbohydrates and can be consumed conveniently in-between meals.
The amount of glycogen which can be stored via carbo-loading individually depends on several contributing factors. As an example, the extent of active muscle mass plays a significant part.
Endurance athletes’ nutrition plan for carbo-loading
For an athlete weighing about 70 kg, a typical carbo-loading day might look like this:
Breakfast: 100 g of oatmeal, 300 ml of rice milk + Ca, handful of raisins, 1 banana and a soft egg.
While training: 500 ml carbohydrate drink like FAST CARB
After training: 50 g of RECOVERY SHAKE dissolved in 200 ml of oat milk
Our RECOVERY SHAKE is the ideal drink after a workout. The
combination of carbohydrates and proteins facilitates
regeneration while helping athletes meet their carbohydrate requirement.
Lunch: 150 – 200 g of basmati rice, 2 carrots, 40 g of parmesan cheese, fresh herbs.
Snack: cashews, berries
Dinner: 120 g of white meat or fish with 150 – 200 g of rice, vegetables, 10 g of butter, 1 TBSP of olive oil.
If your competition takes place in very hot environmental conditions, be sure to adequately salt your food during pre-competition days. You can also resort to high-salt snacks such as soletti or crackers.
If it is very hot, sweating will lead you to lose plenty of electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium. If the loss of these substances is too high, it can negatively affect your performance. You can read more about this HERE.
The concluding meal before the starting signal
The breakfast / last meal before a competition should be taken about 3 – 4 h prior. You should again make sure that the fiber and protein content of your meal is not too high.
hus, avoid meals such as fruit salad or a large portion of scrambled eggs. Exemplarily, some porridge (cooked with water) or white bread with honey or jam and a banana would be appropriate.
At any rate, the most important issue about your pre-competition meal is that you need to test it out beforehand in training. Laura Philipp speaks from experience here when she says: “What works in training also works well in competition.”
This is why she stays faithful to her porridge on competition day. Before a competition however, she waives the fruit which is usually included – fruit provides plenty of fiber, after all.
Additionally, Laura Philipp consumes 60 g of carbohydrates in the hour before competition kick-off. To that end, for instance, our SLOW CARB would be very well suited.
Carbohydrates absorbed from SLOW CARB pass into the bloodstream slowly, providing long-lasting energy right up to the starting gun.
Moreover, slowly available carbohydrates prevent a sudden rise – and subsequent drop – in blood glucose levels shortly before starting the competition.
Ideal nutrition during the competition
Through effective carbo-loading, you have now filled your carbohydrate stores and are ready for your competition.
In order to plan your ideal nutrition, the carbohydrate consumption per hour needs to be calculated beforehand. If this value is known, the optimal carbohydrate intake can be adjusted accordingly.
Generally, some basic values for carbohydrate consumption in sports exist which you can use as a guide:
- Up to 60 minutes: no carbohydrate intake mandatory
- Up to 2 hours: Carbohydrate intake of 1 g / kg body weight / hour.
This is largely dependent on workout intensity. If a workout session is very strenuous, more carbohydrates will be consumed. If you work out more casually, amounts of 30 – 40 g / h can be sufficient.
- Over 2 hours: Carbohydrate intake of 1.5 g / kg body weight.
For nutrition in lengthy competitions, this specification is probably the most relevant.
According to this calculation, a 50 kg athlete should consume about 75 g of carbohydrates per hour.
To accomplish this, you would best turn to easily digestible and quickly available carbohydrates. Our POWER CARB, for instance, would be well suited for this purpose.
Should your competition take place in very warm temperatures, our POWER CARB HEAT offers you quickly absorbed and easily digestible carbohydrates. Moreover, it contains real coconut water powder – coconut water not only tastes really refreshing, but also provides important minerals.
Specifically, you can add 80 g of POWER CARB to 500 ml of water and mix well. An intake of one bottle per hour of competition is advised. For triathlon or other long-duration competitions especially, we have also developed RACE CARB X of which higher dosages can be taken in.
This way, you can take 80 g of carbohydrates (or more) per hour. Should you aim for an even higher carbohydrate intake – which is perfectly reasonable – the remaining energy demand can be covered via our GEL 40 or with our PORRIDGE BARs.
Consuming carbohydrate amounts beyond 80 g / h is much more difficult than it sounds. In order to be able to consume such high amounts, well-tolerated products are one of two prerequisites. On the other hand, that intake needs to be practiced during training.
The practice of training for this energy intake during workouts is known as “train the gut” and should never be underestimated.
Laura Philipp is well aware of this, which is why she provides plenty of energy during all of her training sessions. As she reveals, “it helps not only to practice energy intake, but also to better process the training stimulus and avoid overtraining.”
How the pros do it
If you want to avoid estimating your carbohydrate consumption per hour but want to work with a more exact parameter, you can calculate it with the help of various programs.
Making use of the data thus obtained, a so-called “pacing strategy” can be developed. This strategy will allow you to find your optimal pace at which you can safely make it to the finish line without completely depleting your glycogen stores ahead of time.
For Laura Philipp, for example, it looks like this:
If Laura Philipp knows she can compensate a consumption of 120 – 140 g carbohydrates / h by externally supplying energy and with filled carbohydrate stores, the program lets her know that she can go for 240 watts.
This also explains why recharging your carbohydrate stores before a competition is crucial, as consuming 120 g of carbohydrates / h is hardly possible or, at the least, very difficult. If, however, about 90 g of carbohydrates / hr are taken in, the body can draw on its filled glycogen stores for the remaining 30 g.
Ideal post-strain nutrition for endurance sports
The saying “after the competition is before the competition” is probably not quite true for long-distance athletes like Laura Philipp. Nevertheless, post-competition regeneration is crucial.
The easiest way to regenerate quickly is via a rapid supply of nutrients preferably within an hour after the strain. Within this particular time frame, the body is especially receptive to the supplied nutrients and can utilize them in the regeneration process straightaway.
On one hand, this facilitates regeneration and helps your performance during future strain; on the other hand, it also supports your immune system.
After strenuous exercise, your immune system is weakened and therefore susceptible to infections. In technical jargon, this is also called “post exercise immune depression”.
To help your muscles and immune system recover, proteins as well as carbohydrates play a significant part.
For an optimal recovery, a combination of carbohydrates and proteins works best. Carbohydrates will replenish your glycogen stores and also make your body more receptive to the supplied protein.
Proteins, on the other hand, promote muscle regeneration and are also vital for the immune system. This effect is further enhanced if as many as possible of the 8 essential amino acids are supplied. Since the body cannot produce these amino acids itself, they need to be provided through food.
Especially right after a competition, however, it can be difficult to find high-quality protein sources. Specific sports nutrition products can be hugely beneficial here, such as our RECOVERY SHAKE and, after competitions which place a particularly high strain on the muscles, our RECOVERY 8 (to be consumed additionally).
Recovery Shake and R8 can also be combined well with a banana, dates or other carbohydrate-rich dried fruits, for example.
We wish you all the best for your competitions!
- A. Jeukendrup, M. Gleeson; Sport Nutrition,Third Edition
- DOSB (German Olympic Sports Confederation, Competitive Sports Division) brochure “Food Supplements”, 1st edition June 2014.
- B. Tiller et al, “International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Nutritional considerations for single-stage ultra-marathon training and racing,” J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr. vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 1-23, 2019, doi: 10.1186/s12970-019-0312-9.