If ever there was an event where sports nutrition could make or break a group of athletes, it was the 2014 ATOC Race Experience. Including the coaches we had more than 20 amateur cyclists on the road, with an average age of 50 years old. We rode more than 730 miles in 8 days in temperatures that at times topped 110 degrees. Most days took between 4-6 hours, and on the stage that finished on top of Mount Diablo, several athletes were out on the road for seven-and-a-half hours. In total, I spent a little more than 40 hours on the bike during those 8 days.
While it certainly helped that we were eating the same great breakfasts and dinners that the pro teams were eating in the athletes’ dining room, the fuel that made a real difference was what the athletes consumed outside of mealtimes. I know to some of you this is going to read like an infomercial but what I’m hoping you’ll see is that we put these products to the test with normal athletes under extreme conditions, and the results were remarkable. I’ve listed some of those results below, and as we head into the hot days of summer I hope you’ll apply some of what we’ve learned to your own training in order to have great performances.
No stomach issues
When you’re doing 700+ kilojoules of work per hour and burning more than 3,000 calories on the bike each day, you end up eating a lot of food to keep your energy levels up. Trying to replenish 20-30% of the calories expended each hour meant consuming 140-210 calories/hr on the bike, which we did primarily through a combination ofWhen you’re doing 700+ kilojoules of work per hour and burning more than 3,000 calories on the bike each day, you end up eating a lot of food to keep your energy levels up. Trying to replenish 20-30% of the calories expended each hour meant consuming 140-210 calories/hr on the bike, which we did primarily through a combination of Bolt chewables, Fuel bars from ProBarand Active Hydration sports drink from Osmo Nutrition.
The ability to continue digesting and processing calories is dependent on your hydration status and impacted by core temperature. If you’re dehydrated and/or experiencing heat stress, digestion slows and there’s an increased likelihood that you’ll experience gastric distress. In the past year or two there has been some evidence to show that solid foods perform better than gels when you consider the impact that digesting food has on an athlete’s hydration status and core temperature. CTS has been providing only solid foods since the beginning of the year, and although it is only anecdotal, our experience thus far with 200+ athletes across our winter and spring camps – and the ultra-hot Tour of California Race Experience – supports those findings.
As I wrote in a column for Road Bike Action, cramping often comes down to fatigue or a hydration error. We had virtually no issues with muscle (or stomach) cramps during the ATOC Race Experience, which is a testament to the preparedness of the athletes and to their diligence with hydration and nutrition. One of the differences between this year and last year (when it was also hot) was the addition of Osmo PreLoad. This drink contains an ultra-high concentration of sodium and is designed to be sipped (not chugged) the evening before and the morning of an intense and/or high-temperature activity. The idea is that it’s a “hyper-hydrator” that expands your blood plasma volume (increases the watery component of your blood). By the middle of the Tour of California Race Experience, bottles of PreLoad were as popular as the cookies served for dessert.
More bottles consumed – per person, per day, and per camp – than any previous sports drink
Since the beginning of the year we’ve noticed that we go through more bottles of Osmo Active Hydration per athlete, per day, and per camp than any previous sports drink. And that’s great! All the sport science in the world won’t help you if it’s still in your bottle. Getting athletes to consume adequate fluid – water or sports drink – has always been an issue, and it becomes even more of an issue as temperatures and workout/event durations increase. This year and last year have been pretty similar in terms of weather conditions and athlete composition at camps, but fluid consumption is way up. Again, the evidence is only anecdotal but as far as we know the only substantive change has been the transition to Osmo. Why are athletes drinking more Osmo than previous drinks? For one thing, the flavor is very, very light. Research has shown that bolder flavors become overwhelming for athletes when they try to consume large volumes of fluid. So, a very lightly flavored drink is easier to consume in large quantities. The caloric content of the drink is also lighter than typical sports drinks, which enables athletes to consume more fluids without overloading their guts with calories.
Have a Great Weekend
CEO/Head Coach of CTS