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Optimal Fuel

Short-distance vs. long-distance

BY STEVE BORN

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to endurance fueling. Depending on the duration or type of activity, the nutrients you require for optimal performance vary. Determining how much and what kind of fuel to use during short workouts or all day races can be tricky.

60–90 minutes:
If you’ve been faithful with consistent post-exercise refueling, you’ll have a nice reservoir of fuel (muscle glycogen) available when you start. That means that minimal amount of calories will be necessary during your workout or race. A single serving of Hammer Gel 5 to 10 minutes prior to the start should be all you need. If you want to refuel during the workout or race, Hammer Gel, HEED, or a light mix of Perpetuem will be perfectly acceptable (regarding the latter, see “Special Notes” below).

2–3 hours:
We consider workouts and races in this time range to be in a “gray area”, which means that you can use either a “carb + protein” fuel (Sustained Energy, Perpetuem, “ultra” Hammer Gels) or a “carb only” fuel (HEED, non-proteincontaining flavors of Hammer Gel). Base the selection on the following:

  • The type of exercise that you’re doing. For example, running is a higher-impact and thus a more “digestively challenging” type of exercise than cycling.
  • The intensity of the effort. Higher intensity oftentimes means decreased digestive system functioning.
  • The weather. The hotter the weather, the more compromised the digestive system becomes.
  • The terrain. Lots of climbing while on the bike or during a run usually diminishes digestive capabilities somewhat.

3+ hours:
When exercise goes beyond 2 to 3 hours, you need both carbohydrates AND protein in your fuel. This is because during prolonged bouts of exercise, 5 to 15% of your caloric utilization comes from protein. This process, called gluconeogenesis, is unavoidable. If you don’t supply the needed protein in your fuel, your body will literally scavenge it from your own muscle tissue. This muscle breakdown is called catabolism or “protein cannibalization.” It can cause premature muscle fatigue due to excess ammonia production, muscle depletion, and post-exercise soreness. Hammer Nutrition’s protein-containing fuels, Sustained Energy and Perpetuem, are ideal choices for long-distance fueling. You can use them as your sole fuel from beginning to end, or you can use them as your primary fuel for roughly 2/3 to 3/4 of the time, augmented with other Hammer Nutrition fuels.

Remember, no matter the length of your exertion, some universal rules should always apply. Recover right by giving your body more carbs and protein to restock glycogen stores. This will ensure you have them replenished for next time. One should also remember The 3-Hour Rule and pledge to stop eating three hours prior to the event. Together, these fueling protocols from Hammer Nutrition will help you reach peak performance and have your best year yet!

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