In the 1985 Race Across America (RAAM), Jonathan Boyer rode to victory using a liquid diet as his primary fuel source. Since then it has become the norm for endurance and ultra-endurance athletes. Liquid nutrition is the easiest, most convenient, and most easily digested way to get a calorie and nutrient-dense fuel. Solid food, for the most part, cannot match the precision or nutrient density of the best liquid food fuels. In addition, too much solid food consumption will divert blood from working muscles for the digestive process. This, along with the amount of digestive enzymes, fluids, and time required in breaking down the constituents of solid food can cause bloating, nausea, and/or lethargy. Lastly, a good portion of the calories ingested from solid foods is used up simply to break down and digest them; in essence, these calories are wasted.
So while some solid food intake can be a welcome diversion during ultra-endurance efforts, we don’t recommend it as your primary fuel source. Inasmuch as exercise diminishes digestive system functioning to begin with, regular solid food intake should be limited (the exception, not the rule) in your fueling strategy because of the increased the likelihood of performance-inhibiting stomach discomforts such as bloating, stomach cramps, nausea, and lethargy.
Recommendation: Use Hammer Gel, HEED, Sustained Energy, and/or Perpetuem as your primary fuel source during exercise. These provide precise amounts of specific nutrients and are designed for easy digestion, rapid nutrient utilization, and less chance of stomach distress.
Next time, Mistake # 7: Using Something New In A Race