By Monique Ryan
Monique Ryan is the nutrition columnist for VeloNews and Inside Triathlon magazines and is founder of Personal Nutrition Designs, a consulting company based in the Chicago area. Ryan will try to answer selected questions each Wednesday in her regular on-line question-and-answer column.
Readers are welcome to send questions directly to Ryan.
Dear Monique- I usually ride early in the morning, a half-hour after I wake up. Weekdays are rarely more than 90 minutes, while weekend rides range from 2 to 5 hours. Obviously I cannot schedule a meal 2 hours before I train. Usually I gulp down a piece of toast with peanut butter and a cup of coffee just before I clip into the pedals. Is this correct for the short weekday rides? Should I follow a different strategy for the longer weekend rides? SK
Dear SK- That is a great question, because many of us have to train in the early morning. Cycling does offer an advantage over other endurance sports in that you can eat something close to training and not suffer unneeded GI side effects. When you wake up in the morning, your liver glycogen stores are about 20 percent full (80 percent empty) as they become depleted overnight. Liver glycogen is the carbohydrate source that keeps your blood glucose or blood sugar levels nice and steady. When you train early in the morning, your muscle glycogen stores should be adequate (if you ate properly the day before), but you probably won’t have enough liver glycogen stores to maintain blood glucose levels.
Your small breakfast sounds fine, but maybe you could add a glass of juice for fluid and more carbohydrates. Probably what is most important is what you consume during the ride. Ninety minutes is long enough to warrant on-bike carbohydrate and fluid intake. A sports drink would work great, try to have 16 ounces every 30 to 60 minutes (the higher end if you weigh more). You can also have water and a carbohydrate gel for your fluid and carbohydrate combination. Then of course make sure that you have a good breakfast after your ride. For the longer weekend rides, it would be better if you could leave a little more time to digest, so that you can have a larger breakfast. This larger breakfast will fill up your liver glycogen reserves. Make sure that you start consuming carbohydrate and fluids soon into the longer rides. Try a variety of products like sports drinks, gels, and even an easily digested energy bar if you want something solid. – Monique
Follow-up to an earlier question
Thank you for the many responses to the question about combating nausea during an Ironman. Below are the responses of some triathletes who wanted to share their strategies with other web site readers. – Monique
1. I have discovered through trial and (lots of!) error that keeping a can of ginger ale in each transition area bag as well as in both my bike and run special needs bags can really help me keep nausea at bay during an ironman distance event. (I haven’t gone so far yet as to put gingerale in my bike bottles, but I may try it for the next one!) I also keep candied ginger slices with me at all times, to suck on if needed. (candied ginger can be found in natural foods stores or sometimes in the Asian foods section of regular grocery stores) I also have tried pretzels and sucking peppermints, but what I’d really like is to find a way to keep from getting nauseated in the first place! Lisa
2. I have battled nausea in IM and 1/2 IM races quite frequently during the late 80’s and early 90’s when the nutritionals supplied by the race officials were quite sugary, my worst experience was with Gatorade at IM Hawaii. I battled it by eating fat, specifically olive oil in a liquid form in a bottle. GM
3. I have only competed at the half-iron distance, but frequently experience nausea about half an hour after the completion of the race. I’ve found that ample hydration, including electrolyte solutions during the race help, but post race I try to consume some protein, even though I rarely feel like eating. I find that the more empty my stomach gets, the more nauseous I feel. Even small bites over a long period of time are helpful. AK
4. I have always experienced nausea running long distances, even during marathons and half marathons but I only found the “cure” this past summer while training for my first Ironman (Wisconsin) when I stopped drinking Gatorade. I found a neutral tasting fluid replacement drink (CarboPro) which didn’t make me feel sick like the Gatorade and maintained my other nutrition strategies during the bike portion of the IM, including drinking plain water with my gels and salt tablets occasionally. Perhaps others could try the same thing, it may just be that they can’t tolerate Gatorade. If athletes are consuming enough calories to sustain them through other means, perhaps they should try plain water. On the run, I can’t even tolerate gels after the first hour so I switch to coke and plain water at the aid stations. VM
Monique Ryan, MS, RD is author of the “Complete Guide to SportsNutrition,” and “SportsNutrition for Endurance Athletes” from VeloPress. She is a regular columnistfor VeloNews and Inside Triathlon magazines and is founderof Personal Nutrition Designs, a nutrition consulting company based in theChicago area. Ryan regularly counsels athletes on performance and healthrelated nutrition concerns. She has consulted with the Saturn Cycling Teamsince 1994, and has also worked with Volvo-Cannondale, Trek-Volkswagen, andUSA Cycling. Ryan offers answers to reader’s questions each Wednesday inthis weekly column. Readers are welcome to send questions directly to Ryan.