So I tried something new before my race last Friday, and it worked in spades. Usually I try to balance hyrdation, caffeine, and food so that I am fueled, right on the cusp of an empty stomach at the starting line, don’t have excess water weight in my body, don’t have to run to the porta-john at the starting line, and don’t have heartburn when the race gets intense.
Conventional wisdom in rowing mandates high-carb pre-race intake an hour before, and taking water with you in the boat. When I am going to be on the water less than 40 minutes end-to-end for a 3-4 minute race, I’m not sure this computes, so I tried a more balanced glycemic approach:
Race was at 5:12 PM, launching off the dock 30 mins prior.
1PM: Cucumber/Tomato salad with a little feta and wild rice, some sardines, drizzled with a lemon fish oil vinaigrette.
1:30PM: 32 oz. water with 1 scoop Trader Joe’s “Super Red” supplement drink powder and 1tbsp. Chia seed. No sweeteners.
2PM: 16 oz. strong unsweetened iced coffee
3PM: Turkey jerky
4PM: 8 oz. more coffee plus 16 oz. more of the water/”Red”/chia stuff.
Post-race: The rest of the water/chia and a nice messy grapefruit.
It was perfect.
Please note: No Clif bars, no pasta, no on-water last-minute hydration that would have no short-term effect.
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In the past, I have followed a traditional “carbo-loading” type approach to diet – high carbs, very low fat, getting a lot of my protein from milk and beans vs. meat. I viewed bagels, pasta, and pancakes as good things. This seemed to work with me as long as I was rowing 100 miles a week, however over the years (since 2000) I have steadily, gradually, increased what I consider my “base weight” from something like 195 to more like 215.
A couple of years ago, after a Joe Dillon seminar organized through my work and after reading Laird Hamilton’s book, I started gradually experimenting with the glycemic index approach – reduce carbs, substitute low-glycemic foods, increase healthy fats. Upon trying Crossfit this approach fit right in.
I am now eating a much higher-fat diet (coconut milk, nuts, fish oil) and getting more protein from lean meat and very little from milk. I am not on any strict “paleo” regimen, but have made subtle changes over time that have stuck. I am back down to 194 lbs., which I haven’t been at since 1998. My cholesterol was recently tested and is great on all measures. I am stronger than ever and got lifetime PRs on deadlifts and squats this week. My spring allergies are so mild that I was able to stick with a quercetin supplement instead of a systemic drug.
The biggest change overall is replacing carbs with fats as a higher % of my caloric intake. I never would have anticipated this result in a million years. A year ago, the thought of pouring 2 tablespoons of fish oil into a smoothie would have made me gag. I am a convert not based on ideology, but because it works for me.
I will be passing on the pancake breakfast offered by my rowing club for National Learn to Row Day June 5…maybe I’ll bring a bowl of steel cut oats with chia seeds instead!
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