Fueling for Endurance Sport Racing – Gravel Locos 2024

UnTapped athlete Laura King recently placed 5th at Gravel Locos in Hico, TX. Laura shares how she fueled her day, powering through the heat and humidity, to earn a spot on the podium!

I’ve spent half of my career working in sports nutrition with a multitude of brands. I’ve taught clinics regarding implementation of different fueling techniques for Ironman triathlon and endurance sport racing. While I’m still experimenting with what works best for my body, I can tell you that there’s no perfect formula I can hand you, nor calorie consumption number that will meet all your nutritional needs perfectly on the day across the board.  But what I can share with you is what I have learned and what help me succeed at this year’s Gravel Locos race that resulted in a podium finish fueling on purely UnTapped products.

First thing’s first – practice, practice, practice! Even practice likely won’t make perfect, but it will surely help. Did you know that you can train your gut to better absorb fuel during exercise? Or that your insulin response during exercise is different than at rest?  The goal with continued fueling during exercise is to avoid a dip in energy or total bonk that will come from not keeping ahead of your calorie intake. My best recommendation is to fuel early, often and proactively. In addition, dehydration is actually the leading cause of fatigue during exercise. While fueling is important, many underestimate the importance of hydration and electrolytes during activity.

Fueling for Heat and Humidity

For @gravellocos, heat and humidity were major factors I had to take into consideration. The higher the dew point and temperature (plus high intensity riding), the harder I knew my body would need to work to cool down.  The harder my body works to cool itself down, the more blood would get shunted away from my gut to my extremities, and thus making digestion more challenging. The high carb movement is in full effect, but I knew with the heat challenging my gut absorption I had to be careful.  I’ve had many a race where my gut is distended, upset, and not absorbing the carbohydrates and hydration at the rate that I’m ingesting them. 

Working in sports nutrition has allowed me to observe trends and how they affect the consumer’s fueling strategy. For a while it was all about eating your calories and drinking your hydration, but absolutely not mixing the two. Even the company who pioneered that theory has gone on to create a high-carb drink. That’s not to say either of those trends don’t have merit, but I think remembering the physiological factors at play, understanding your own body and proclivities will lead to the most optimal outcome. 

My goal in the heat and humidity was to ingest calories as often as possible, but not in a hyper concentrated fashion where I risk overdoing it. With maple syrup as my decided fuel choice for Gravel Locos, the drinkable viscosity of maple syrup makes it extremely easy to get down. This is key as I generally expect nausea in the heat – nothing sounds good and even chewing feels like a chore. The ease of a refillable flask full of UnTapped maple allows me to dose small sips of syrup, and allowed me to have the constant flow of calories in an amount which my stomach would accept without being limited or committed to a standard packaged fuel size. 

How I used UnTapped on Race Day

The concentrate level of the UnTapped Grape Mapleaid was perfect for quenching thirst while delivering the calories and electrolytes I needed. I’ve struggled with a hyper concentrated beverage solution not quenching my thirst and also contributing to flavor fatigue. I was able to find balance with ingesting 160 calories/600 mg sodium in each bottle, while still addressing my hydration needs. Bonus, the grape isn’t a flavor, it’s real grape juice, so it tastes light and refreshing and not synthetic or artificial. Don’t underestimate the importance of sodium. In layman’s terms, sodium helps you to “hold onto” your hydration. Sodium is the key electrolyte lost in sweat and is essential to replace in long endurance efforts. 

Using the “Salted” varieties of UnTapped product is my go to in the following: 

🍁 2 soft flasks (one each pocket) full of Salted Raspberry Maple Syrup (each flask is 500 calories, 300 mg sodium).

🍇 🍁 8×24 oz bottles MapleAid: Grape MapleAid. 160 cals per bottle, 600 mg sodium

3 bottles water

Note: I carried an extra bottle in my back pocket because I really don’t like hydration packs and didn’t want that extra heat layer!

🍁 1 UnTapped Chai Waffle (140 cals)

🥤 3 mini cokes (90 cals each)

As much 🧊 and 💦 as I could store in my jersey and dump on my head

avg: 336 cals per hour

I was fortunate at Gravel Locos to have UnTapped on course as the sponsored fuel, but this isn’t always the case. Know what fuel is out there and research its merits. Have a good gauge of how many grams of carbs or calories you’re ingesting from a drink mix and what type of sodium levels it contains. If it’s not a fuel that you’ve practiced with, you might consider bringing your own trusted nutrition in your pocket or handlebar bag. Have a few ideas of how to pivot should whatever you ingest not be settling well on your day, and pay attention to your cravings! Your body will give you cues and, over time, your practice will prove insightful to help you make on the fly decisions that will fuel you toward success.