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What to Drink on Race Day

by Kim Wathen, M.S. Exercise Phys/Dietitian

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Good old water is still the best choice for most racers!

Monster Energy, Red Bull, Cytomax, Endurox, Gatorade, and Water: These are just a few of the drinks being paraded in front of us daily.  The energy drink companies have slick marketing campaigns and promises of stardom while Cytomax and other drinks recite science and nutrition to backup their claims.  Gatorade has been around for quite some time and is a fixture in traditional stick and ball sports, while water is pushed by the training purists.  With all this information it can be hard to decide which are good and which aren’t as good.  It can also be confusing to decide which drinks are okay to use on race day.  The following is a guide to choosing which drinks are the best for the motocross athlete and how they should be used.

The Big Boys
Over the past few years, motocross advertising has become dominated by the energy drink market.  Energy drinks are freely handed out at most big races, the Monster Claw is everywhere, and you can't throw a roost without hitting someone who has an energy drink in their hand.  Everyone else is doing it, so it must be a good drink to use for motocross?  Even the pros are drinking it (or appear to be) from their advertisement laden energy bottles on the podium. While drinks like Monster, Red Bull and other energy drinks certainly won't kill you in moderation they are definitely a "NO" on race day. These drinks are heavily loaded with caffeine, sugar and other uncommon ingredients. The problem becomes never knowing how or when each ingredient will affect the rider, and when the effects of those substances comes to an end and the rider's energy levels "crash". Consuming an occasional energy drink won't hurt; just stay away from them on race day.

Better Choices
Water is always a great choice of course, unless you don't drink enough because you are bored with the taste. There is really no need for a sport drink unless you are engaging in activities lasting more than 50 minutes or very intense activities.  However, one of the good things about sport drinks is that they contain sodium, which encourages the athlete/rider to consume larger amounts. Because sport drinks have more flavor than pure water the athlete may drink more as well. This is important so that the rider maintains hydration levels, especially on hot days.  A product like Cytomax, which is used by many of the top pros for re-hydrating, contains 50 calories, 55 mg of sodium, 13 grams of Carbohydrates, only 3 grams of sugar and is fat free.

If water doesn't offer you the flavor you are looking for, try one of the many products offered by Cytomax!

When choosing a sport drink you should look for a drink which is 5-9% carbohydrate. Anything above 9% slows digestion, promotes cramping, nausea, and diarrhea. Anything below 5% won't get enough fuel to your muscles. To calculate the percentage of carbohydrate in a drink, divide the grams of carbohydrate per serving by the milliliters (8 ounces = 236 milliliters) of drink per serving and then multiply by 100. (For example: 13g/236 mL * 100 = 5.5). Your digestive system will most likely tolerate a mixture of sugars better than a single sugar in a drink. Look for a mix of sugars such as sucrose, fructose and glucose.

Juices are fine choices too but you should try to eat a little something along with the juice if you are drinking it before your moto.  Drinking the juice alone could possibly cause blood sugar levels to spike and then “crash”, which could lead to a lack of energy during your moto.  After you are finished racing for the day it is fine to drink it alone. When buying juice look for the labels which say “100% juice”.  Other products can have very high sugar levels and are not desirable for athletes and racers.

What About Soda?
Sodas have about 12-15% carbohydrate by weight, much more than the 5-9% I recommend. Consuming a drink with too much carbohydrate will slow water absorption. This will lead to a "sloshing" feeling in your stomach and possibly nausea.

Does Caffeine Help?
Caffeine is one of the few supplements that have really been proven to have some merit regarding enhancing performance. It has been shown to boost athletic performance in the short term, but again, you never know when the effects are going to wear off. If this happens in the middle of your moto, you are not going to like the result. Also, if you are getting your caffeine from coffee, it can cause stomach upset, which you don't want to deal with while racing either. Caffeine and all its effects can be found in this article.

Either Mr. Davalos is mis-informed or there is water in that bottle!

photo: Matt Ware
Race Day Hydration
Although hydration status needs to be maintained on a daily basis, there are guidelines which should be followed on race day as well.  I recommend drinking ½ your bodyweight in ounces of water on a daily basis (for example: 180 lbs = 11.25 cups or 3/4 of a gallon).  In the 2-3 hours prior to your race you should be consuming 17-20 ounces (2-2.5 cups), and in the 10-20 minutes prior, another 7-10 ounces (about a cup). I also recommend drinking small amounts every 10-20 minutes during exercise. Obviously this isn't possible while racing, so just continue to drink between practices and motos. Water is a great choice here, but if the flavor of a sport drink keeps the liquid flowing, then find a brand that agrees with your stomach and start hydrating.

At the end of the day it is important to re-hydrate. Many companies like Cytomax offer recovery drinks as well which are good to consume after a race or workout. These drinks provide a blend of nutrients needed for recovery (48% Fat, 21% Carbohydrate, 31% Protein), and minimize blood sugar spikes.  Sport drinks and water are fine choices too, but avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol while re-hydrating.  To assure proper re-hydration, the athlete should weigh his/herself and then consume 2 cups per pound of bodyweight lost. For events lasting longer than one day it is especially important to use a sport drink or a recovery drink after you are finished racing for the day. This will assure adequate re-hydration before you compete the additional days. Your recovery drink should be consumed within 30 minutes after you race or workout. Milk is another good choice after you are finished with your motos.  The protein and carbs serve as great recovery nutrients. Skim milk is recommended as it has all the nutrients of whole milk with none of the fat.

About the Author - Kim has an undergraduate degree in Dietetics from Michigan State University and began working as a personal trainer and nutrition consultant while finishing her Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology. As a self-employed trainer and dietitian, she has the privilege of working with people at many levels of fitness. She designs custom nutrition and fitness plans based upon the client's goals and current fitness level. She has designed programs for, and currently works with a 17 year-old amateur football linemen; senior citizens, and professional motocross racers working to hone their athletic skills, and rise to the top of their sport.

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. VT Signature

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