Not too much new going on in my neck of the woods, just keeping things ticking right along with work and training. Took a bit of a tumble last week while doing some high end work on the roller skis by sticking my pole in between my legs. I almost saved it, but couldn’t bring things upright, and ended up leaving some skin on the road and breaking my pole. I was a little sore a couple days after, but luckily it wasn’t too bad. Then just this monday I did a hillclimb running time trial, which I have done many times, to check in on my fitness. Needless to say, I came away with another PR! If that’s anything to go by, things should be looking good for the upcoming season!
Training the Gut:
What do I mean when I say train the gut? Well, you can train your stomach to be able to fuel properly to carry out your training, just like you can physically train yourself to get stronger, fitter, faster, etc. In my estimation, there are two main reasons for training the gut. One, so that you can fuel optimally before/ during workouts without that fuel adversely affecting your sessions. And two, so that when you get to a race your stomach is used to the fuel type, amount, timing, etc, to help you perform optimally.
Given the intensity of racing in cross country skiing, it is quite clear that carbs are king. Since the distances we commonly race vary, (10k-50k) the way you take on these carbs also varies. A 10k is short enough that with proper fueling beforehand, you can make it through the race without needing to take on any fuel during the race. Once you start getting into races that are 45minutes or longer, it becomes more likely that taking on fuel during the race will be essential to maintaining your best effort throughout the entirety of the race. Unless you train your stomach, you will often simply not be able to absorb enough carbs without adverse side effects. Science used to tell us that 60grams of carbs an hour was the max you could absorb. However, recent studies have shown that upwards of 120 grams of carbs an hour is undoubtedly possible, and furthermore can be advantageous.
Here are some pointers on how to go about training your stomach.
My favorite way to train the gut for racing is during hard workouts like intervals or time trials. I’ll have breakfast like I would before a race, and then take on carbs using gels and drink mix during the session. For example, if I’m doing 6×10 minutes of L3 with 2 minutes off, I’ll have my “race” breakfast, take a gel 10 minutes before the first interval, then take a gel or a good swig of sports drink during the off time in between intervals. Each gel or drink gives me 25ish grams of carbs, meaning I’d end up consuming 150grams of carbs in about 80 minutes which is the equivalent of 112.5 grams/ hour.
Here is an example of how this “gut training” can be successful. 2 years ago I couldn’t take on any fuel during a running workout without cramping or having it come back up. Just last week however, I did a bounding interval session of 7min L3, 6x5min L4 with 3 minutes off, and took on 3 gels with 26grams of carbs each, which is roughly 75g/ hr without any negative side effects.
An important thing to note is that some products or foods will likely work better than others depending on the individual. So it might take some experimenting with different products before you find the right one for you. That said you should be aware of what is in the product you are taking. For example, say you try a few gels during an interval session, and your stomach gets upset, which is unusual. You might think, “Oh these gels must not work for me.” When in reality those gels were caffeinated, you didn’t know it, and it was the large amount of caffeine that upset your stomach. On the same note, just because a product might not be ideal for you the first time you use it, doesn’t mean it won’t work after more time passes and your stomach gets used to it. Likewise, something that does work, might not work optimally, and there may be something better out there to choose.
I also switch up the products I use so that when it comes to race day, I know that I can use whatever is available, and know it will work well. For example, making sure every once in a while to use gatorade, and or coke since they are two very common products to find at races. Doing this will help keep the stomach used to these specific products.
Another upside (which I touched on in the last blog about consistency) of being able to consume a large amount of carbs in a given session, is that the session won’t take so much out of you because you won’t deplete yourself so much, and therefore you will recover faster.
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Anyways, hope you find this interesting and helpful in your journey to find your personal best!
In the meantime, I am going to enjoy my last days at home in CO aaaaand my sisters wedding. Then it’ll be back to the last frontier for me!
Until next time,