Fuel Your Body for Racing
by Kirk Layfield, PhD EMT-P
The last article I posted on Racer X dealt with the five components of a good training program: Nutrition, Strength Training, Cardiovascular Conditioning, Flexibility and Rest. In this article, let’s take a closer look at nutrition. As I mentioned in the previous article, food provides the energy your body needs to train and race. You can expect your energy levels to be a direct reflection of what you eat. I remember back in the day when my dad would always say, “You better eat a big steak tonight so you will have plenty of energy for tomorrow’s big race.” BOY WAS HE EVER WRONG! I often think, “Man, if I knew then what I know now, I could have been a factory rider.” Well, maybe not, but it sure sounds good.
Nutrition is the key to athletic performance and a very important component of injury prevention. Each rider’s demands for nutrition will be a little different depending on the level at which he or she trains and races. Training and competing often make severe metabolic demands on the body. Keeping the body’s tissues strong, repairing damaged tissues, recuperating fatigued muscles and regenerating lost energy necessitates a proper diet. If you are a diabetic or have other special nutritional or medical needs, you should always consult your physician and a registered dietitian for a specific meal plan for your needs. Most riders will need about 3500 to 5000 calories per day to allow adequate energy levels for training and race day performance. Your body will need about 33-50 calories for every 2.2 pounds of body weight. So, if you weigh 170 lbs. that equates to 2550–3864 calories per day.
A balanced diet will consist of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fluids. A high carb. diet is promoted as the ideal balance for athletic performance. Quit different than the low carb. diets touted on TV. Carbs are needed in the body to supply energy. Each gram of carbohydrate will provide 4 calories. The requirements for carbohydrates are about 7-10 grams for every 2.2 pounds of body weight. This will account for 65 to 70 percent of your calories. To delay the onset of fatigue, an extra 30-60 grams of carbs. in a liquid form may be necessary. So for that same 170 pound person, that equates to 541-773 grams of carbohydrates per day.
Proteins form important parts of the body’s main structural components – muscles and bones. Proteins supply 4 calories per gram. The requirements for protein are about 1.5-1.9 grams for every 2.2 pounds of body weight. During times of intense training periods, requirements may increase slightly. So, Mr. X who weighs in at 170 pounds will need 116-147 grams of protein.
Fats are essential for protecting your organs and insulating your body, and are required for absorption of vitamins and minerals. Requirements for fat can be met by referring to the suggested servings listed below in a balanced diet. However, fats in your diet should be used and not abused. Fats are the most calorie-dense, supplying 9 calories per gram.
The most neglected factor in a rider’s training routine is most often water consumption. I cannot express to you enough the importance of drinking plenty of water. I suggest consuming at least one gallon of water per day. That’s right! I said one gallon. There are many reasons why water consumption is so importance, but here is the most important: By the time your body decides to let you know that it is ready for a drink, it is too late. Your body is already a state of dehydration, and your decision making ability is decreased by about 8-10%.
Commercial sports drinks can be beneficial in helping prevent dehydration and delay the onset of fatigue when events last more than one hour. But for most weekend warriors, anything other than water is unnecessary. Water is completely adequate and less expensive for the recreational rider. However, riders competing at The Loretta Lynn's level or above should explore some of the specific formulas designed to assist with hydration and lactic acid build up. See this earlier post for more on hydration.
A balanced diet will consist of 6-11 servings of bread, cereal, rice, pasta and potatoes; 3-5 servings of vegetables; 2-4 servings of fruit; 2-3 servings of milk, yogurt or cheese and 2-3 servings of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans or eggs. Although this is what you should strive to accomplish, it does not always work out that way, so it’s not a bad idea to take a multi-vitamin with all the anti-oxidants, as well as Beta carotene. The bottom line is that there is no such thing as good or bad foods. All foods can fit into your training program in moderation and at the appropriate times.
Nutrition is probably the most important factor in a rider’s training program and is also probably the most neglected factor. I see guys all the time at the races eating hamburgers and french fries. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good burger and fries as much as the next guy, but certainly it’s not the preferred fuel for race day. Peak performance requires working with a qualified trainer to create tailored regimens that include a healthy, high carbohydrate meal plan.
About the Author - Innovation Training Systems (ITS) is a fitness, nutrition & wellness consulting and healthcare education business. ITS is dedicated to serving the needs of amateur, professional and occupational athletes, as well as those who aspire to be the best they can be in everyday life – no matter what they do. They also offer convenient education programs for the healthcare, wellness and fitness industry. ITS is owned and operated by Exercise Physiologist/Firefighter/Paramedic/Former Professional Motocross rider, Kirk Layfield, who originally hails from Gainesville, Florida and now resides in Clermont, Florida.
That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness.