The short answer is yes!
While we know food is fuel, the reality is that our digestive tracts can only absorb so many nutrients at once. If you overload your system, you will likely end up with GI issues like nausea, bloating, cramps…or worse!
We recommend starting with 150-200 calories per hour of activity for races or training sessions over 60-90 minutes.
It’s possible to train your body to absorb more calories, and some people can tolerate up to 400 calories per hour. More calories in means more energy to burn and less reliance on stored carbs (glycogen).
To train your gut to absorb more calories, start out at 200 calories per hour during a long run or ride and add 25-50 calories per hour on successive long training sessions to assess your tolerance. (Note – training your gut to absorb more than 250 calories per hour is important for events lasting longer than 2.5 hours. For events under 2.5 hours, you can afford to rely more heavily on your body’s glycogen stores.)
Carbohydrate are the easiest energy to absorb and metabolize during endurance activities or high-intensity exercise. When you exercise, blood flow to your viscera (i.e., stomach, digestive tract) is redirected to your muscles to provide sufficient oxygen for muscular contractions. Reduced blood flow means reduced ability to digest and absorb nutrients. It’s not surprising that half of endurance athletes encounter GI issues during exercise!
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