USA Pentathlon Multi... News Blog Pentathlon Edge Training Vault The Proof Is In The ...

The Proof Is In The Pudding

By Robert Killian | Dec. 20, 2017, 12 a.m. (ET)


The one question I get asked the most across the board is how I’m able to go from a short course stadium format one weekend to 24 hours of nonstop obstacle course racing the next. Well, the proof is in the pudding so to speak and nutrition is a key factor in optimizing performance and speeding recovery for any distance or multi sport event. For me the light bulb moment came when I was introduced to coaching experts Iñigo San-Millán, PhD, Director of the CU Sports Performance and Physiology Lab and Genadijus Sokolovas, PhD, high performance director for US Modern Pentathlon. I was taken through the process of testing my running physiology to see exactly what my body was doing below the surface.  


For this test I was hooked up to special machinery that monitored my air exchange and heart rate while gradually increasing the intensity of my running pace.  After every five minutes a sample of my blood was taken and tested to determine the source of calories I was burning via fat and glycogen oxidation rates. After about 45 minutes I was at my peak heart rate zone running at 5:13 min per mile pace at an elevation of 5,000ft ASL and the test was concluded.  


The results gave me a much better understanding as to the exact number of calories my body burns per hour depending on the intensity or heart rate zone I’m in. That information is especially important for multi sport or longer distance 24 hour type races so you know how many calories to consume per hour and where those calories should come from, either Fat or Glycogen stores. For racing I’m typically around an average HR of 160 BPM and burning around 1200 calories, 1050 from glycogen and 150 from fat. 


As we all know, preparation is the key to success so I met up with Genadijus right before the Spartan Iceland World Ultra Championships to go over what I should be doing about one week out from a world championship race like this. We hit the white board and he walked me through a six day plan that had me cutting my complex carbohydrate intake down to about 15% for three days and then back up to 90% for the last three. The idea is that you are starving your body of carbs for the first three days so it’s hungry to replenish fresh stores. During the last three days your body will replenish and maximize the glycogen stores in the muscles to help you have a peak performance.  


As the race nears it’s also important to not allow your body to trigger release of stores prior to your event which is where simple carbs like bars and fruit come into play to give you the energy you need without tapping into much needed stores for the long run. After only one hour of obstacle course racing your body is nearly depleted and in need of replenishment. My go to has been Tailwind Nutrition that provides 100 calories per scoop of glycogen replacement as well as sodium, calcium, potassium and magnesium (electrolytes) essential for maintaining energy.  It’s also important to eat solid foods as well so I pack almond butter and 100% fruit jam sandwiches made on whole wheat bread.  Other good options are udon noodles mixed in organic vegan protein broth, steamed rice, or organic oatmeal.  


Whatever you choose to use it’s important to experiment during your off season training cycle with long slow runs where you test nutrition supplements and find what works for you. Once you’ve got the system down, incorporate it into the normal on season routine and especially focus on refueling your body after every workout by eating whole foods and quality protein. My choice for recovery within 30 min post workout is Ascent Whey Protein, which provides 25g of native whey and essential amino acids to help trigger muscle protein synthesis. As always, don’t forget to hydrate and I’ll see you guys out on course in 2018!  


Robert Killian 


To view the YouTube video of Robert Killian talking with Dr. G about pre-race nutrition go to