We love new data. It gives us new knowledge, which helps us inform new behaviors that can improve our performance.
Here are 4 ways you can improve your next race day with better glucose control:
- Increase your average glucose by around 10 mg/dL 24 hours prior to the event.
- Steadily increase your glucose levels and fuel to keep them in your optimal glucose range.
- Maintain higher glucose levels for 12 hours before the race.
- Optimize Glucose Stability leading into the event to have better Glucose Stability during the event.
We choose to display the athlete's lifestyle as a cycle because our decisions today will always affect our decisions and performance tomorrow. Each phase impacts the following one in an ongoing, cyclical manner. It should be no surprise that what you do during your Recover and Prime windows impact your Performance.
Some recent data from the Mallorca 312 event (a 312km cycling race with 5000m elevation gain) gave us powerful insights on the correlations between glucose control through all three phases and race-day performance.
40 athletes raced with Supersapiens, continuously tracking their glucose levels. This data set gave us the chance to look at some promising relationships that we’d seen through early internal experimentation at Supersapiens.
The Supersapiens Glucose Score was designed to better enable users to understand their glucose availability during exercise and modify fueling through all three phases (Prime, Perform and Recover) to optimize their performance and achieve the highest Glucose Score possible.
Here are the four key learnings that you can use to improve your glucose control and maximize your performance potential:
1. Increase your Average Glucose before the event
There was a strong correlation between higher glucose during the event (for fuel availability) and increased glucose levels for the prior 24 hours. The athletes who raised their 24h Trailing Average Glucose by 10 mg/dL were able to increase their glucose by about 8 mg/dL higher during the event compared to those who did not prime.
2. Steadily increase your glucose levels and fuel to keep them in your optimal glucose range
Those with a higher Trailing Average Glucose over the previous 24 hours were able to spend more time in their GPZ. To best support your glucose availability, try to keep your Trailing Average Glucose higher than normal.
3. Maintain higher glucose levels for 12 hours before the race
Athletes 12h Trailing Average Glucose seems correlated with their finishing position, with those who had a higher average glucose level for the 12 hours leading in to the start of the event finishing faster. This gives some promising indication that glucose level before exercise might play a role in supporting faster racing. It’s also easy to see the potential role of good priming before the race to top up your glycogen stores and sustain your average glucose during the race. However, it’s always worth considering the variability observed between athletes (and the span of positioning at the same 12h trailing average displayed in figure 4) and tailor the priming approach down to your individual characteristics and glucose response.
4. Optimize Glucose Stability leading into the event to have better Glucose Stability during the event
Those athletes who had greater glucose variability (less glucose stability) leading into the event had a higher glucose variability in the race. It may be pertinent to try and keep your glucose more stable leading into the event to help prevent steep upward and downward movement (and drops) during the event.
Without looking at the data, you might think that traditional carbohydrate loading protocols will work every time; and the more glucose you intake, the more fueled you will be.
But that might not always be the case. Current Supersapiens can, no doubt, appreciate the nonlinear relationship between carbohydrate intake and glucose levels. Yes, you heard that right. Intaking more glucose does not necessarily equate to sustained higher glucose levels. And more glucose certainly does not equate to better glucose control (or perceived energy!)
This is because your glucose levels and metabolic responses are influenced by food order, meal composition, activity levels, intensity, volume, and any number of other things.
Despite this, preliminary data has found that traditional carbohydrate loading protocols seem to increase 24h Trailing Average Glucose by around 10 mg/dL. Now, thanks to a much bigger and better dataset, we are able to see this replicated in a consistent fashion.
So what should you do for your next race? (And, of course, practice these before the race. Remember? Nothing new on race day!)
- Carbohydrate Load: your goal should be 5-7g of carbohydrate/kg/24h of bodyweight for 2-4 days prior to the race.
- Aim to increase your Average Glucose by 5-10mg/dL in the 24 hours leading into the race, and sustaining it for the 12 hour window before the start of the race. You can adjust your target average glucose by scrolling down on the "RECOVER" screen and clicking on "Today's Average Glucose" to help you easily track this.
- Prime properly and effectively: Have a carbohydrate rich meal about 4 hours before your race and try to avoid any additional metabolic imbalance (glucose instability) over the next 4 hours before the start of the race.
- Once the gun shoots, nail your fueling using live glucose data to ensure you are fueling optimally – high enough glucose levels, no steep drops or lows, and more glucose stability.
- Nishino K, Sakurai M, Takeshita Y, Takamura T. Consuming Carbohydrates after Meat or Vegetables Lowers Postprandial Excursions of Glucose and Insulin in Nondiabetic Subjects. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2018;64(5):316-320. doi: 10.3177/jnsv.64.316. PMID: 30381620.
- Jonathon A. B. Smith, Mladen Savikj, Parneet Sethi, Simon Platt, Brendan M. Gabriel, John A. Hawley, David Dunstan, Anna Krook, Juleen R. Zierath, and Erik Näslund. Three weeks of interrupting sitting lowers fasting glucose and glycemic variability, but not glucose tolerance, in free-living women and men with obesity. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism 2021 321:2, E203-E216
- Jeukendrup and Gleeson Sports Nutrition Human Kinetics Champaign IL, 2010