Now I'm starting to learn just how critical nutrition and fueling are for events like Ironman (as well as the long training sessions), and I'm hoping to develop better habits that I'll be able to execute easily come race day. While fueling certainly varies from person to person, in general it is recommended that one consumes approximately 250-300 calories per hour over the course of a long training session or event. Obviously that is a huge jump from what I'm used to, but one thing that has really helped me up my numbers is supplementing my usual gels with a new product, Gu Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy Drink. From the website:
"Roctane Energy Drink is a carbohydrate intensive energy drink for ultra distance and intense efforts. It contains the critical carbs and electrolyte replenishment that ultra endurance athletes need to compete at high levels."
The thing that stood out to me in that despription was the mention of both carbs and electrolytes. That means calories and hydration from one easy to consume product that also happens to boast 240 calories per serving. Here's what they have to say in more detail:
"Roctane Ultra Endurance Energy Drink was specifically formulated for the demands of prolonged, ultra-endurance exercise. Specifically, events lasting 4+ hours. The drink is calorically dense, since consuming enough calories during these types of events can be a challenge. Caffeine is included (35 mg) to increase mental acuity, increase performance, and decrease perceived effort – all of which tend to go south during prolonged efforts. Taurine is included to help combat heart and skeletal muscle fatigue – as it has been shown to help increase contractility – which is especially important during long efforts where fatigue management is a big issue. The addition of beta-alanine and histidine help buffer acid caused by going over lactate threshold, and amino acids help prevent muscle damage and aid with muscle recovery."
Sounds great, right? Well I happened to get my hands on a couple free samples from work a couple weeks ago and have since tested them out on my last two long rides. Let me preface my review by saying that I'm typically not a fan of sports drinks. The most I'll tolerate is Nuun, and as most of you know that is pretty darn mild. I just find most to be too sweet, have too strong a flavor, leave a weird aftertaste, or cause stomach distress. So while this product certainly sounded great, I wasn't holding my breath. The first thing I noticed was that it mixes easily and is actually fairly light tasting, not overly sweet (I tried the Lemon Lime flavor), and was not the least bit chalky. My plan for my 3 hour ride was to sip on the Gu Roctane Drink and supplement it with a couple gels and of course a bottle of regular H20. I also decided to forgo my usual salt caps since the drink has electrolytes and it would be one less thing to worry about.
Now in hindsight I still didn't fuel enough on either of these rides. Over the course of 3 hours I consumed one serving of Gu Roctane Drink (240 cal), 2 Gu gels (~200 cal), and most of a 20 oz bottle of water. That works out to about 146 cal per hour so... not nearly enough! But it's actually an improvement for me and a place to start as I work out a fueling strategy. On my 3.5 hour ride I did a little better adding in a 3rd gel, bringing my intake to 155 cal per hour. But since this is a product review I won't digress into my fueling issues. Overall, I really liked the Roctance Energy Drink. The flavor was great and I loved that it provided both calories/carbs and electrolytes. It seemed to work fine with my stomach and I never got sick of it as I have in the past with certain drinks or gels.
The Gu website recommends consuming one bottle per hour of intense training or racing and supplementing with 1 gel per hour, which would put you at 340 cal per hour. I'm thinking that I'd probably stretch out a bottle over 1.5-2 hours plus a gel every 45 minutes or so. Of course I expect my fueling to evolve as I continue training and learn what works and what doesn't, but I can say that this drink will become a consistent element in my fueling for training and race day. I just bought a 24-serving canister so I'll be sure to post an update as I experiment with it more. And in case you're wondering, it comes in three flavors: lemon lime, grape, and tropical fruit : )