Spring Challenge Nutrition

Spring Challenge Nutrition


How to fuel yourself and have a great day

By Emily Miazga, M.Sc. Clinical Nutrition, Cert. Advanced Sports Nutrition, 3x Coast to Coast Champ

Carbohydrate and Fueling

  • Fuel for all sports “Carb is King”
  • Vital for essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and dietary fibre
  • Carbohydrate foods are turned to blood glucose which drives metabolic systems during exercise
  • Glycogen stored in the muscles and liver is used for prolonged activities

Carbohydrate Types

Category Description Examples Use for sport
Nutrient-dense carbohydrate, also low glycaemic index (GI) Carb foods that are also rich in other nutrients including protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants Wholegrain breads, cereals, grains, pasta, rice, fruit, starchy vegetables (potato, corn), legumes, low-fat dairy products, Em’s Power Cookies These foods should be eaten everyday as part of a normal healthy diet while also providing other nutrients
Nutrient-poor carbohydrate, also medium to high GI Carb foods and fluids that contain little or no other nutrients Sports drinks, energy gels, lollies, cordials, soft drinks Limit these in everyday eating but are necessary for meeting fuelling needs before, during and after training
High-fat carbohydrate Carb foods that are also high in fat Pastries, savouries, cakes, crisps, hot chips, chocolate and other junk food These are treat foods to be eaten on limited occasions and should not be used as training food


Emily Miazga, founder of Em’s Power Cookies


Food Ideas Pre-Exercise

3-4 Hours Pre-Exercise 1-2 Hours Pre-Exercise < 1 Hour Pre-Exercise
Bagel or toast with Pic’s peanut butter and jam

Fruit and yoghurt

Baked potato with salsa or cottage cheese

Fruit salad with fruit-flavoured yoghurt

Baked beans on toast

Pasta or rice meal

Breakfast cereal

Sandwich and fruit or yoghurt

Em’s Power Cookie

Fruit smoothie w/Pure Protein

Liquid meal drink such as “Ensure”

Milkshake or flavoured milk

Breakfast cereal


Yoghurt with added fruit

Energy drink such as Pure

Energy gel such as Pure


Em’s Power Cookie



Em’s hearty veggie stew ~ 60g carb per bowl


How to figure out Carbs

Food item Portion Grams carb – approximate*
Piece of fruit Medium-size 20g
Sandwich 2 pieces bread 40g
Milk 250mL 12g
Flavoured milk 250mL 40g
Muesli – toasted 50g 35g
Refried beans ½ can or 200g 18g
Tortilla 1 large 70g 30g
Steamed potato 1 med – egg size 20g
Cooked rice or pasta 1 cup cooked 40g
Sports drink – Pure Electrolyte 750mL bottle 40g
Energy gel 1 gel 25g
3-4 Hours Pre-Exercise 1-2 Hours Pre-Exercise2 < 1 Hour Pre-Exercise2

 *Reading nutrition info panels is the most accurate way to determine carb grams (include sugars in the total carbs!)


Rafting in Spring Challenge


3-Hour Event

  • How long do you think your team will take to finish?
  • If close to the 3 hour mark, then carb needs are 30-60g per hour
  • If longer than 3 hours then carb needs are 60-90g per hour


6-Hour and 9-Hour Events

  • Carb needs are 60-90g carb per hour
  • Try and estimate your finishing time
  • Plan on a longer day – you will likely be on course longer than anticipated so carry more than you think you need


Framework for 1 Hour of Fuel:

½ Em’s Power Cookie or Power Bite                   20g carb

1 bottle Pure electrolyte hydration                        40g carb

1 sports gel or large banana or 5x gummies         25g carb

Total Carb per Hour                                                  85g

This framework gives an idea of how to balance out drink, with real food, and something sweet. Some people like to eat more at once, for example having a large Em’s Power Cookie will last a couple hours, which means you don’t have to eat as often compared to having smaller Bites. However, you still need to keep up with the fluids and gels/bananas in between the bigger feeds.

The total amount of carbs over a training session or race day doesn’t have to add to up the exact targets of grams per hour, as long as the total at the end of the day divided by the hours exercising, equals the targets per hour.

To illustrate this, when Em was racing Coast to Coast, over 13 hours she would have about 1000g carb over 13 hours. During the Mountain run her carbs/hour were just under 40g, but on the bike legs she consumed over 80g/hour. At the end of 13 hours, her average carbs per hour were approximately 70g over the whole day.


Martin and Mitch on the Heaphy


Exercise for working out your sweet carb spot during training

  1. Go out for a longer training session – such as a long hike or bike ride > 3 hours
  2. Decide what you will take for food and drink using the above information as a guide, and make sure you consume it during the session
  3. Afterwards, write down exactly what you consumed (food and drink) and how many grams of carb it came to
  4. Divide the total grams of carb by how many hours the session took, and this will tell you the grams of carb/hour
  5. Assess how you felt during and after the training session:
    1. Did you feel good with your energy levels and tummy tolerance? Great! You’ve hit the sweet sport for your carbs/hour
    2. Was it too much food? Then back it off next time
    3. Did you feel low in energy and come home hungry? Then increase it next time
  6. Repeat in future training sessions until you find your sweet spot



Other Considerations and Suggestions

  • What is your team goal for pacing? Be sure to all agree on the race strategy
  • Will you stop to eat, or will you eat and drink on the go?
  • Keep it simple. Don’t try to over-engineer your foods
  • Apply an eating plan that you can replicate each hour for however many hours it takes



  • Transitions provide an opportunity to stop, rest and fuel up (if that is what your team agrees to do)
  • Your crew can have pre-prepared items ready for you, such as hot soup or noodles if it’s cold out
  • Use the transitions to add some variety to the hourly nutrition routine of sweet stuff while out on the course
  • If you’re team is competitive team and you want to save time, then don’t stop to eat in transitions
  • Have food/drink ready for your next leg of the race so you just drop, grab and go



  • Fluid needs vary from person to person
  • General recommendation is 250-300mL every 15 minutes
  • Use training to fine-tune your own individual needs:
    • How much do you sweat?
    • What is your metabolic rate?
    • What are the weather conditions?
  • When it is hot you will need more fluid and sodium
  • Crucial to use a good sports drink (Pure) that is formulated to contain the correct concentration of sodium, which can help minimize cramping
  • If you’re carrying the weight of water, make it count and use a good sports drink instead which takes care of 3 things: 1) carbs (fuel) 2) sodium 3) fluid


General Tips and Tricks:

  • Practice eating and drinking during your training
  • Nutrition can make the difference between a really fun day and a miserable day
  • Avoid bliss balls and raw “health bars” because the high fibre causes tummy stress
  • Decide as a team how you plan to race and work together and help each other
  • Use sports drinks as part of your carb-loading plan in the 36-72 hours before the event: aim for 3-4 bottles per day
  • Pre-hydrating is a good way to boost carbs for an effective carb-load
  • Carb-load by increasing carbs by about 25% during the 36-72 hours before the event
  • Add 1-2 extra snacks each day to help carb-load, such as an Em’s Power Cookie, or sandwich
  • Save caffeinated gels or Coke for the latter half of your race, to get a little extra kick
  • Keep your nutrition plan simple. Bringing the “kitchen sink” can create complications
  • Choose foods that work for you and that you enjoy eating
  • Long training sessions are perfect for practicing your race day nutrition
  • When racing, you will be pushing harder than normal and this can affect digestion

Happy training, and see you at the event! Em 🙂


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