John's headline numbers
Carbohydrate is the main fuel you burn when racing. Failing to fuel properly is a leading cause of underperformance in longer races.
After winning the Gravel Worlds earlier in the 2023 season, John was looking to replicate his fueling strategy and energetic performance in Bentonville, Arkansas. He successfully carb-loaded, and topped up his energy reserves right before the race, during which he averaged an impressive ~110g of carb per hour via a mixture of solids, gels and liquid fuel sources. This variety provided differing textures and was tolerated well by John who was able to rate his gastrointestinal comfort a perfect 10 (out of 10). Unfortunately John’s cramping hindered his performance on the day, however credit to his fueling strategy, he felt he had the energy to finish the race on the podium had these cramps not occurred.
Taking on board an appropriate amount of fluid and sodium is essential to maintaining blood volume and supporting the cardiovascular effort needed to perform on race day.
Whilst the absolute amount of sodium and fluid consumed per hour is important, it’s critical to consider these in relation to each other. This is known as 'relative sodium concentration' and it’s expressed in milligrams per litre (mg/L). How much sodium you’re taking in per litre of fluid is more important than the absolute amount taken in per hour.
Sweat sodium concentration (mg/L) is largely genetically determined and remains relatively stable. Knowing how salty your sweat is enables you to replace a good proportion of your sweat losses, which can range from 200-2,000mg/L.
Given John’s losses are High (1,310mg/L), nailing his hydration strategy becomes especially crucial when it’s hot and/or humid.Learn more
With an average intake of ~541ml fluid per hour while riding at such high intensity for nearly five hours with temperatures peaking at 27ºC / 81ºF, it’s unsurprising that John felt he could have done with increasing his fluid consumption towards the end of the race. In similar weather conditions to his previous race, John replaced ~750ml of fluid per hour and reported less urge to drink any additional fluid. This, alongside muscular fatigue and the intensity of John’s continuous neuromuscular output, are likely to be the major contributing factors to his cramping. John also replaced over 500mg of sodium more in each litre of fluid that he drank during the race, than the concentration he loses in his sweat which may explain his craving for extra fluid at the end of the race.
Beyond the Three Levers of Performance (carb, sodium and fluid), caffeine is one of only a few substances that is proven to improve performance for most endurance athletes as it can help stave off mental and physical fatigue.
John may have slightly overdone his caffeine intake during this race, which could be another contributing factor to the onset of cramping. When considering the contribution from the ~750ml of coffee that he had with breakfast, it’s likely that John actually consumed close to 10mg of caffeine per kilo of bodyweight, which the science suggests would have had no more ergogenic benefit than had he stopped at 6 mg/kg. In future races of this length and intensity he may want to consider swapping a couple of his PF 30 Caffeine Gels for some original PF 30 Gels.
How John hit his numbers
Here's everything that John ate and drank on the day...
John's weapons of choice
John's full stats
There is some confidence in the quantities and brands of products consumed but the data may lack specifics (e.g. volumes specific flavours). A high number of estimations have been made and the room for error is moderate-high. There may also be the possibility that some intake has been grossly over- or under-estimated.