This week our question goes to Namrita O'Dea. A licensed dietitian and member of the Topeak/Ergon racing team. O'Dea helps riders fine tune their bodies for maximum performance through her business 55 Nine Performance Nutrition.
Question: I am an ultra-endurance racer and was recently diagnosed with acid reflux (GERD) that is exacerbated by hard efforts on my bike. I'm aware that I should avoid caffeine, however I am not sure how to best fuel for ultra-endurance races to limit my reflux during a race. What do you suggest?
Answer: Symptoms of GERD can understandably be frustrating, especially while you are riding. There are a few things you can try and while you are experimenting, I suggest you keep a log of what you are changing and how you are feeling, as a result. This will help you to come to a reasonable strategy for managing your symptoms.
First, eat well in advance of your workout or event. Avoid the foods that typically trigger symptoms of reflux (i.e. spicy, high-fat, dairy, citrus, high-fiber), but also avoid eating solid food within 1.5 hours of a ride or 2 hours if you are doing a hard workout or race.
Spacing out your carbohydrate intake in small sips or bites should be more tolerable than taking in larger amounts of energy at one time. During your ride, avoid highly sugared sports drinks that can aggravate your symptoms. Instead, a sports drink with a 5-6% carbohydrate concentration can be used with small increments of supplemental carbohydrates such as a few PowerGel blasts at a time. If you find a carbohydrate gel that you can tolerate, empty several gels into a flask (I recommend the 8 oz Hydrapak Softflask) and take a "sip" every 20 minutes. This avoids having to eat an entire gel packet at one time which may trigger your reflux. If possible, carry a small bottle or hydration pack with plain water which you can use to wash down the gel and/or gel blast chews. Avoid fiber, protein, and fat during the ride.
Have a professional take a look at your bike setup if you have not already done so. If your bike fit is constricting your mid-section, this could be adding to the aggravation, especially during intense efforts.