Sunday, May 6, 2012

DIY Sports Drink and a 12-hr race

For those that want the headline: 194 miles over 12-hours of handcycling...

The best test for my DIY Sports drink is to take consume it on a long race.  Yesterday (May 5th) was the perfect test -- Calvin's Challenge -- for which many classes of cyclist (standard bikes, recumbents, HPV's, ellicpticals, and hancyles) compete in an array of races (50 mile TT, 100 mile TT, 6 hour , and 12 hour races).  My goal in training was to break the record in the 12-hour handcyling distance.  The stars have to be perfectly aligned in order that the weather is great (read: low wind speed) and that bike breakdowns are limited.  

If the stars are aligned, then one needs only fight bonking.  Bonking (sometimes called "hitting the wall") is the state of the body in which the liver and muscles are depleted of glycogen.  I have bonked may times over the years.  For those that have not bonked, the best way for me to describe it is to give you two examples.  When running a marathon years ago, I "hit the wall", for which I could walk 5 or 6 steps and then run 2 more steps. I just could not run more than 2 steps. Another example was when I cycled a 24-hour event.  About 20 hours into the race, I saw an arrow on the road to turn right on the next turn.  I stopped my bike and looked a the sign for what seemed like a minute in order to decide what direction the arrow called for.  You see, glycogen is required by the brain as well.  I just did not have enough left in my body in order to make a simple, simple decision.

Well, yesterday, my DIY Sports Drink must have worked perfectly.  I never bonked; my decision-making was good; I seemed to have the energy pretty much on demand.  I broke the 12-hr record ( the record was 160.5 miles) by completing 194 miles.  Why not 200 miles?  Do the math -- 12 hours divided by 6 miles equals another 1/2 mile per hour of speed required. A half a mile per hour more does not seem like much, but it is a lot!

What changes have I made on the drink over the many (9) training rides that were in the century (100 miles) or above over the last 7 weeks?  Basically the complaints for sports drinks are in two categories -- stomach discomfort and taste. Let me hit those points:

Taste: Initially, I had used the KoolAide powder to add taste.  It did not work for me. Finally (and luckily) I decided to add nothing for taste. Perfect!  The maltodextrin (a poly-glucose) is somewhat sweet and its taste is -- or almost completely lack thereof -- is great.  It is literally the first time that I have been able consume a sports drink over this number of hours without wishing for another drink.  

Stomach discomfort:  Basically, I had near zero stomach discomfort.  Yes, I did have some gas, but it was in much smaller amounts than I expected.  A lunch with sauerkraut or beans is far worse. 

Due to some more studying, I have changed my formula a bit more.  Some of the studies call for a larger quantity of sodium. Since sodium is only 40% of the weight of salt (salt is comprised of sodium and potassium) I made some adjustments.  Additionally, I have have upped the percent of maltodextrin by weight.  In the future, I may increase both the salt and maltodextrin even more.

100 oz of water (3000 grams)
265 grams of maltodextrin
60 grams of protein whey
3000 mg of sodium (1 and 1/4 teaspoon of salt)
400 mg of caffeine ( a couple of 200mg tablets that easily dissolve)

(If I know the race day is to be hot -- 90's for instance -- I will increase the salt by another teaspoon full.)

This formula gives a nearly 10% formula of carbohydrates/protein to water by weight. That is high compared to many sports drinks.  The usual formulas call for 8% or less.  But many of the commercial drinks add fructose and/or sucrose (cheaper source of carbohydrates than maltodextrin).  Studies have shown that the stomach discomfort may well come from these simple sugars.  Therefore, I have stayed away from them. Additionally, the simple sugars have so many disadvantages including the insulin reaction and glucagen production.

The results speak for themselves... 194 miles in 12 hours of handcyling... the drink works! 

As one final note.  I did bonk four hours after the race.  I went to bed and started shivering probably from the lack of enough glycogen to keep my body warm.  I was not hungry after racing and therefore did not eat much... so I bonked four hours later.

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