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Nutrition During Training for Westminister Devices Kayak Canoe race

Nutrition during training
Achieving energy and fluid balance
Dietary carbohydrate intake
Nutrition immediately before
and during the race
Nutrition before the race
Nutrition during the race
Recovery after the race

Nutrition during training

Achieving energy and fluid balance

Athletes often spend hours in daily training and
competition where they expend large amounts of
energy. It is thus very important to maintain an
energy balance by matching this energy expenditure
with total energy intake from food. Energy
comes from carbohydrates, proteins, fats and
alcohol in food and fluids. Carbohydrate is the main
fuel for exercise, especially for prolonged or highintensity
exercise when rates of body fluid loss
are high due to the sweating needed to dissipate
body heat produced. Low carbohydrate stores in
the body and just a small degree of dehydration
(2% body mass loss, or 1-2 kg) lead to fatigue and
impaired performance. Hence the importance of a
nutritional strategy that will minimize carbohydrate
depletion and dehydration. This means ensuring
adequate dietary carbohydrate and fluid intake,
along with periods of rest between training sessions
and in the days leading up to a competition.
Nutrition during training 5

Carbohydrate rich foods that provide
approximately 50 grams of carbohydrate


  • 750 ml of a sports drink
  • 1-2 apples
  • 2-3 slices of white bread
  • 2 medium ripe bananas
  • 1 PowerBar
  • 3-4 medium pancakes
  • 50 grams of Cornflakes
  • 2 cereal bars
  • 200 grams of boiled spaghetti
  • 1 jam sandwich
Dietary carbohydrate intake

The carbohydrates that generate energy come from foods and drinks and/or from glycogen stored in limited amounts in the liver and muscles. Glycogen – long chains of glucose molecules – is the natural storage form of carbohydrate in the body. Also, some 15 to 20 grams of glucose is present in the blood. The goal of carbohydrate ingestion is to maximize the body‘s internal carbohydrate stores. High carbohydrate diets can push up muscle glycogen concentrations by 100-150% above normal levels and this can be beneficial for endurance performance. Recommendations on dietary carbohydrate intake are found in the tables on the following page.

Carbohydrates are especially important in the week before a competition, combining an exercise taper with a high carbohydrate intake (8-12 g of CHO per kg BM/day) to build up muscle glycogen stores. Most athletes need 36-72 hrs for a full carbohydrate load. The pasta party on the day before a race is a popular form of carbohydrate loading.

Daily dietary carbohydrate intake goals

Minimal physical activity
(<3 hours/week) 2-3 g CHO per kg BM
Light physical activity
(3-5 hours/week) 4-5 g CHO per kg BM
Medium physical activity
(10 hours/week) 6-8 g CHO per kg BM
Professional/elite athletes
>8 g CHO per kg BM
CHO loading for a cycling marathon
8-12 g CHO per kg BM
CHO = carbohydrate; BM = body mass. Adapted from Burke et al. PowerBar Brochure, AIS.


Dehydration will impair endurance performance, reducing physical and mental function and increasing risk of heat-induced ailments. Sweat losses vary widely from one person to another, and also depend on weather conditions, exercise intensity and body size.

Athletes must take measures to avoid body water deficiency and its adverse effects. This means drinking. The sensation of thirst, in response to signals from the brain, triggers the desire to drink. But when you feel thirsty, it is too late. Dehydration has already begun. Athletes should therefore take in enough fluid to prevent thirst setting in. Before starting training, 300-500 ml of fluid is recommended, followed by small, regular amounts of fluid during the exercise, e.g., 100 ml every 10 min.

The choice of beverages largely depends on the
specific demands for replacement of water, carbohydrate
and electrolyte imposed by a given event.
If it is hot and sweat losses are high, a hypotonic
or isotonic carbohydrate, electrolyte drink is best.
In cold weather, you need a more concentrated
carbohydrate drink that supplies the energy needed
by working muscles.

Training is the time to experiment with different
drink strategies and with different beverages
(and food) to develop an optimal and comfortable
strategy for the event. It also offers a means to
estimate sweat losses in different weather conditions,
by measuring body weight before and after

Calculation of sweat loss:

Body weight before exercise (kg)
+ fluid intake during exercise (litre)
– body weight post-exercise (kg)
= Body weight should be measured in minimum
clothing and after going to the toilet.

The body also loses electrolytes as you sweat,
which must be replaced to maintain fluid balance,
but this may be more important after rather than
during exercise. However, sodium replacement
may be necessary during very prolonged training
with very high sweat losses. This is best done with
a commercially available sports drink (40-80 g carbohydrate
and 450-700 mg sodium per litre). This
will rehydrate the body, replace lost electrolytes
and provide carbohydrate for energy.

Nutrition immediately before and during the race

Nutrition before the race

Pre-exercise carbohydrate ingestion can enhance carbohydrate availability by increasing body glycogen stores, or by providing a source of glucose in the gut for later release into the bloodstream. Ingesting high amounts of carbohydrate (i.e. 150- 300 g) 2 to 4 h before exercise may be effective for some athletes, but others may prefer a light breakfast or carbohydrate snack 1 to 2 hours before the start of the race, taking on more carbohydrates as soon as the race starts. The carbohydrate meals chosen must be easily digested to prevent gastrointestinal discomfort. This is even more important for carbohydrates consumed shortly before the race (<60 min) because there is less time for complete digestion and absorption of foods.

As in training, athletes are generally recommended to drink about 300 to 500 ml of fluid 1.5-2 h before the start of the race. This gives adequate hydration and allows time to excrete excess water. Nutrition during the race It is well known that carbohydrate consumption during prolonged exercise (>60 min) enhances endurance performance. This has been attributed to better maintenance of plasma glucose concentrations and higher rates of carbohydrate oxidation late in exercise, when muscle and liver glycogen levels are low.

The optimal rate of carbohydrate ingestion is not known. Based on oxidation rates of single carbohydrates (<1.0-1.1 g/min), a carbohydrate intake of 60-70 g/h has been recommended. A higher intake may provoke gastric discomfort, while a lower intake may be sub-optimal. In hot conditions, slightly less carbohydrate should be consumed (50-60 g/h) because the oxidation rate is lower. When consuming carbohydrate foods or gels, these should be accompanied by drinking some water (100 ml) to dilute the stomach content.

Athletes should try to limit body mass losses during exercise to 1% of body mass. Here, because of the large variations in sweat rates between individuals, it is difficult to give concrete guidelines for fluid intake. The general advice could be to drink about 100 ml every 10 min. But excessive fluid intake must be avoided as it can cause a life-threatening condition called hyponatremia. Those most at risk are small athletes with low sweat rates and slow competitors who may consume large amounts (up to 8 or 10 litres in an event) of low-sodium or sodium-free drinks (i.e. tap water). Drinks with 450 to 700 mg sodium/litre are better for optimal absorption and to prevent hyponatremia.

Recovery after the race

Recovery after exercise calls for replacement of the muscle and liver glycogen energy stores and restoring water and electrolyte balance. For those who participate in events on two or more consecutive days, there may be less than 16 hours between finishing day one and starting day two, so a quick recovery is crucial to maintain optimal performance.

The repletion of glycogen is important in any fast post-exercise recovery process. The timing of carbohydrate intake is crucial. The quickest replenishment of glycogen occurs in the first 60-90 min after exercise, so it is recommended to consume carbohydrate as soon as possible in the post-exercise phase.

The most important factor for the rate of synthesis of muscle glycogen is the amount of carbohydrate consumed. The highest rate is achieved with 75-90 g/h of carbohydrate consumed at frequent intervals (every 15-30 min). This allows a maximal rate of storage in the first 4 to 6 hours postexercise. Consuming more than 90 g/h provides no additional storage of muscle glycogen and may give gastrointestinal discomfort. Adding certain amino acids and/or proteins to a carbohydrate supplement can increase glycogen synthesis rates.

Optimal glycogen replenishment depends on consuming easily digestible carbohydrate-rich foods (i.e. white bread+jam, rice cakes, sports drinks). If appetite is suppressed immediately after exercise, drinking carbohydrate beverages offers an alternative to solid foods. These also have the advantage of providing fluid for a rapid rehydration. Post-exercise rehydration is best with beverages that have a high sodium content (>1300 mg sodium/l) and the volume of fluid consumed should be at least 150% of sweat loss (= body mass loss).

Depending on the extent of glycogen depletion and provided that at least 8 g CHO/kg BM/day is consumed, glycogen stores can be completely restored within 24 h. Storage in the first 24 h is not affected by the frequency of food intake as long as sufficient carbohydrate is ingested. Practical issues like appetite and the availability of food may determine how much and how often food can be consumed, and whether carbohydrate intake is enough. Since sleeping hours interrupt feeding hours, it is recommended before sleeping to ingest approximately 200 grams of easily digestible carbohydrate rich food so as to attain a total carbohydrate intake of 8-10 g/kg BM/day over the first 24 h.

So now, you know as much as we do. We sincerely hope that these guidelines will help you improve your performance and get more enjoyment out of your sport. But please remember: each one of you is an individual, different to all the others. So like your training, you must develop your own personal nutrition strategy to be at your best every time.

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