Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sabah Adventure Challenge : Nutrition Plan

I am sort of jumping the gun a bit with this blog entry. Supposedly, there should be one or two entries that I should had written before blogging this one down. As you all know, I am part of the Team 2ndSkin, which made me part of the sponsored athlete to receive products from Hammer Nutrition in Malaysia.
I am not an energy food user but the opportunity to try if the products from Hammer Nutrition is as good as it claimed were too good to miss. Most of you know that I profess clean real food and the decision to swing towards this is for my own experiment and verification. 
First encounter was during the Hash Challenge where i tried the products and had good experiences with it. I would want to see how this will work out for prolonged multi-day race. 
Taken from my Instagram
Most of you also know that I was given a book from Hammer on proper nutrition and planning. I have been through half the 140+ pages and I must say a few things I read has educated me about the most basic thing (someone like me, doing endurance races) should know.
Less Is Best
One thing that I have been doing correctly all these while is minimizing food intake during a long race. Hammer Nutrition's most basic rule on fuelling is adhering to "Less Is Best" concept. What this simply meant is better to err on the lower side where you can compensate by eating a bit more, than to overeat, it will take longer and possibly causing gastrointestinal (GI) problem such as bloating and stomach upset. Based on the write up by Hammer Nutrition, the best compromise is to ingest 30% of your burnt calories. Meaning, if you burn up to 900kcal/hour, you eat a maximum of 280kcal/hour. 
The Logic Behind "Less Is Best"
It is important to eat, most definitely. I recalled during my Ironman in 2008 to 2010, I made my own energy gel. Put them into small bottle and take a sip every 45mins. The plan worked really well and apart from unexpected injuries or condition (like low iron level in 2010), i finished all races with minimal recovery time (aka all OK to be back to normal routine the next day). Hammer Nutrition, in Endurance Athlete Guide To Success, Page 16 said :

Yes, the body needs your assistance in replenishing what it loses, but that donation must be in amounts that cooperate with normal body mechanisms, not in amounts that override them. Here’s an important fact to keep in mind: at an easy aerobic pace, the metabolic rate increases 1200-2000% over the sedentary state. As a result, the body goes into “survival mode,” where blood volume is routed to working muscles, fluids are used for evaporative cooling mechanisms, and oxygen is routed to the brain, heart, and other internal organisms. With all of this going on, your body isn’t terribly interested in handling large quantities of calories, fluids, and electrolytes; its priorities lie elsewhere.

So, how do the body make up the calorie deficit? Remember my articles on training the body to burn fat? If you have not, click here and here. Yeap, that is how your body will compensate for the deficit. Make fat your best friend. With the above approach set in mind and the current body ability to utilise fat as fuel, i submitted a nutritional plan to Hammer Nutrition for their feedback. My approach was based on the trail pack that I was given and trying the various combination during race AND training thus far has been good. 
Almost the Full Range of products
I am beginning to see the advantage of having portable nutrition as opposed to solid real food. It is all about portion and easy to carry while ensuring the correct optimum dosage of calories and nutrition. The only thing seriously missing from all these is the "bite" factor - aka, we often equate eating to chewing and the only thing available to "chew" on above is the Perpetuem Solids. For the past 1-month, I've been experimenting with the products during training and I am happy to report no issues with bloating or having the feeling of ingesting something that is like flavoured condensed milk. In fact, the drink mix is not sweet at all (with just a slight hint of flavouring, which makes you think if you over-dilute the servings). I am comparing this against my tried and tested Accelerate (sports drink) and my homemade gel and muesli bars
Homemade Muesli - good for races and even as snack. Better than mass produced bars outside should not even be compared against this.
Guideline for ranges to maintain optimal performance :
electrolyte100-600mg/ hour
calories150-280cal/ hour
fluid16-28oz / hour

The (Stupe's) Plan
Bravely, i concocted my own nutrition plan and the intention was to provide Hammer Nutrition their feedback on what I would think sufficient. This were the actual submitted plan, based on my own personal experience using it.
Stupe's Plan for SAC
Note that my "submitted" plan focused on the nutrition every 2-hours. This was based on the planned gears that I will bring for Sabah (Camelbak Octane 18X with Raidlight Dual-chamber 100oz/3Liter bladder with a Salomon XA5 front pouch to carry nutrition). Sticking to the 30% rules, the logic to my planning were based on both liquid and energy (calorific) value of each items.
The (Hammer) Plan
A personalised plan was then shared with me based on the metrics (my height, weight, current fitness level, including estimated energy usage/hour) and the draft plan above. I was happy that I wasn't far off from the suggested plan when it comes to calorie replacement (2700kcal vs 2600kcal). Here is what the new plan looked like (for all 3-days)
Day 1 and 2
Day 3
Note that Hammer Nutrition came back with a better "mix" of nutrition and most significant is the representation of electrolytes, which i only account for in (my draft as) Endurolytes. I then studied both the plans and here are the findings:

  • Forget your breakfast of rolled oats and home trail mix. Meaning, I am going FULL Hammer Nutrition products. Looked like the pendulum swing will move to the greater extreme for me this time.
  • Hammer suggested that I limit Perpetuem (in powder form) just for breakfast (3-hours before the race) and use Perpetuem Solid as the main fuel.
Perpetuem Solid - Main Fuel
  • Main hydration component is now HEED. Suggested that I carry 100oz or 3-liters (5 scoops) that will last me a good 5-hours. This meant I am moving away from the Raidlight Dual Chamber and going ahead with the full 3-liter hydration bladder. Key to nutrition is to stay as flexible as possible.
HEED Sports Drink
  • Up to 3-tabs of Endurolytes instead of 2-tabs in my plan per hour.
  • 1 Gel every hour instead of me cycling through the Gel - Perpetuem setup in draft plan. I will be given the big bottle Gel and thus, will need to portion it into smaller bottle, instead of having to deal with sachet (and creating more rubbish along the way)
  • 1 Bar every 3-hours instead of taking Bar only for "lunch"
  • Introduction of "Anti Fatigue" tabs - which inhibit ammonia build up thus providing longer more sustained workout - NEW. Would be interesting to see how this work.
  • 1 serving of Recoverite 30mins after finishing, instead of the planned 2-serves within 1hour of finishing.
  • Calculated electrolytes to match what would (potentially) lost. I am to up the tabs by one IF weather gets unbearably hot (which is when i use the Garmin Fenix's temperature sensor to my advantage)
One of the biggest "pull" factor for me to consider going full on Hammer is the ingredient of the products. I initially wanted to bring "real food". I then thought why not experiment this and see how it will go. If it works, perfect. If it doesn't, i need to find best compromise. Then it comes to the ease of carrying these items. In SAC 2011, i carried bread with peanut butter and ended up only eating two slices (with the other 6 wasted). I also over-drank and has caused tummy bloated-ness - which then, i thought was something normal as the body will react this way. Reading the guidance, i realised how wrong I was.
What's next?
No two person's nutrition need would be the same and so happened i know mine really well. Hammer's last advise to me on this was: 
"Just remember that you can tailor it more to your needs and , it is better to take less and add on than take too much"
Make whole load of sense (and that is why you see the "emergency ration" noted in the plan. I will be using the Garmin Fenix to monitor the calorie burnt and will cater to these changes as the race progress.
Now, wait up for that full on race review and nutrition review soon!


  1. All the best bro. All I can say is. You're Crazy! I don't think I'll ever go for these sort of challenges lol. :D Keep safe ya. GB.

    1. :) always bro. :) I am one hard chap to "kill" ;-)

  2. Thanks for some tips on the Nutrition side, did my TMBT last year and almost DNF because of stomach bloating and diarrhea. Guess should have tested out the food. Anyway, this year going for it again.
    All the best for the SAC, can't wait to read on your report.


    1. I promise to feedback how the nutrition will workout for me and will include it as a separate workout. Will try to describe the taste, texture and everything that has given me issues or enhanced the whole experience.

      I wished I signed up for TMBT this year. Maybe next year. maybe.

  3. These perpetuem, heed and endurolytes are liquid (need to mix with water..is it?) and the intake need to be taken at a propose every 2 hours (example : heed and endurolytes) at the same time. Meaning that i need to have to 2 containers/bladders/bottles. I used to carry 1 hydration pack only. Thanks in advance

    1. Ijam - Perpetuem, Heed and Endurolyte is powser/solid, powder and capsule respectively. Powder need to mix with water.

      What you can do is to fill the bladder with HEED (1 scoop/20oz - last you an hour plus) and take the endurolytes separately while drinking HEED.