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What’s up Becoming Ultra peeps? In my last post I dug into why scheduled nutrition plans don’t work, despite just about every nutrition company on the planet providing them in meticulous detail.
If you missed that post, the simple takeaway is scheduled nutrition plans exist to sell product, not to help athletes. This is why over the years recommended consumption only ever increases, usually based on ‘science’ sponsored by nutrition producers. Add to this the fact we are all different, as is every race and session, and the idea of one perfect nutrition strategy existing is clearly exposed as the sham it is.
In short, these plans are the biggest cause of unnecessary performance loss, stomach trouble, DNFs and misery in ultrarunning.
After merrily telling you how pointless any scheduled nutrition plan is, I also promised the one simple trick to unlock a bombproof nutrition strategy that works every time, for anyone, in any race.
If this sounds like a stark contradiction to my earlier rantings, bear with me because while this trick is the absolute panacea for nailing your nutrition to perfection and while it is indeed so simple a five-year-old could grasp the concept, it’s no quick-fix silver bullet. Without work, application and proper testing in training on your part, it won’t work at all.
The key is mindfulness. Simple as that. You need to get mindful with your nutrition and really understand what you’re eating and drinking, when you’re eating and drinking it, and how that all relates to how your body feels and responds. Tuning into your body’s needs and reactions is at the heart of all of this but don’t worry if this all sounds a bit too woo-woo weird and tough to implement.
You don’t need to start chanting and sitting cross-legged under crystals just yet, although if that’s your bag please don’t let us stop you. Ultrarunning is about personal freedom, expression and breaking clear of accepted boundaries after all.
To bring mindfulness to your endurance nutrition is fortunately way simpler than it sounds though and here’s the one simple trick that unlocks it all. At 33Shake we’ve christened this ‘checking in’ and this is how you do it:
Through your training you should already have a rough idea of how often you eat on the run, and if you don’t know this then starting at a marker of every 45 minutes is ideal. This means every 45 minutes you’ll eat something.
Next time you’re on that training run and that 45 minutes rolls around (or whatever basic timing you would usually use), this is where you now turn into a mindful ninja. So instead of mindlessly shovelling your nutrition down, you take a beat, get mindful and ‘check in’ by asking yourself: ‘am I hungry?’
As simple as that, you just got mindful. Rock on!
If it’s ‘yes’, you eat and if it’s ‘no’ you don’t. Then schedule your next check in depending on the answer. If you ate your next check in remains at your usual interval, in this case 45 mins and if you didn’t eat, then schedule it way sooner to avoid any trouble – we’d recommend 10-15 mins later.
You are now eating based on your body’s signals, not based on some marketing wonks shamefaced attempt to sell you a ton of product you don’t need that will wreck your race.
As you practice the technique, get used to expanding and contracting the ‘check in’ windows depending on how much you’re eating, but let yourself be free to eat as much, or as little, as your body is asking for.
Many of us here at 33Shake have very happily gone several hours without eating at all during races, and at other points in the same races have been eating every 15 minutes or so. As long as it’s in response to your body’s demands and as long as you are tuned into these you just can’t go wrong.
Remember though, if you do find yourself suddenly getting very hungry beware shoveling down too much too quickly. In that situation feel free to eat plenty, but break it down leaving 5-10 minutes between small portions, checking in all the way as you go. That way you’ll arrive at happily full and fueled without overdoing it and landing yourself with potentially race (and stomach) damaging overstuffing.
The more you practice this simple technique of checking in and learn to expand and contract it in response to your body’s signals, the better you’ll become to the point where you’ll soon be able to deploy a perfect nutrition strategy for any race, in any conditions, anywhere in the world, on any day or night. Boom!
You can also apply mindfulness perfectly to nail down exactly the best fuel for you every time, which is what I’ll be scribbling on for my next post. Until then, run long and I’ll see you next time.
Warren Pole should know a thing or two about the difference between crap ingredients and good ones, he has spent the last few years of his life perfecting his healthy gels with 33Shake. We have partnered with the 33shake team because we love good products, good people, and small business!
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