So just imagine this scenario: tomorrow is race day. For the last few months you have been training for (insert here – a triathlon, aquathon, marathon, or any activity that brings you further than the walk from your refrigerator to your couch) and your muscles, mind, and spirit are set to crush the course.
In the last few hours, before the start whistle blows, you gather all the tools you need to finish this test of physical endurance. You’ve packed the tennies, the padded shorts, the swim goggles, and an extra pair of socks. But don’t forget one of the most important items you need to keep your body moving – fuel.
While there are a bounty of flavors and textures that you can choose from in the sports drink/sport snack department, the majority of them are very high in sodium. A vanilla Power Bar? 200mg of sodium. Chocolate CLIF Bar? 140mg of sodium. And the old standard, orange Gatorade? 270mg of sodium.
To circumvent the high sodium energy snack issue may seem like an impossible feat (worse than climbing that 11% grade, and if you don’t know what that means, your thighs thank you). And packing a bag full of granola isn’t a very practical, or aerodynamic, solution. Although, I have seen an older gentleman who bikes with three bananas tucked into his jersey pocket every weekend and he looks quite happy. So I guess never say never.
But here’s the great news. For effective, low sodium race snacking, there exist two brands of liquid fuel, which do a great job of keeping you energized, without overloading you with salt. I discovered these energy shots three 4th of Julys ago, when I was taking my first bike ride across the bridge and I had completely underestimated my need for carb loading, or eating anything, before I began. Towards the end of the ride, almost 20 miles later, I suddenly felt my body shut down. There was nothing left to burn and as I looked forward, to the rolling hills ahead, I knew I was done. My bike partner was ready to finish the ride, grab the car, drive over the bridge, and rescue me from my malnutritious state. But I was stubborn (what a surprise) and asked if he had anything I could eat. All he had were some GU performance energy gels and we both thought that we were out of luck.
But thankfully, we flipped the packet around to see that it only contained 40mg of sodium (less than an egg) and at that point, I needed all the electrolytes I could get. Within minutes of downing the molasses-like treat, I felt my body perk up and off we went, riding into the sunset and stopping for salt free french fries before we headed home.
So if you really are training for a race, pick up a box of GU or CLIF Shots – two low sodium treats that pack a true punch. They are also great for camping trips and even to carry with you during travel. When living with a dietary restriction, you never really know where you’ll be able to find your next meal (especially when you are beyond the comfort of your kitchen). And these packets are a great emergency snack to have on hand when you start to feel like your light is burning out.
Now it’s time to really get pumped. There’s a 56 mile ride ahead of me tomorrow. Tonight, I plan to carbo load, get some rest, and as always, chow on.