Wheel­sto­ries

Fast food, only dif­fer­ent

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents -

IF LEG­ENDARY driv­ers of the 1970s were any guide, the se­cret to mo­tor­sport suc­cess would lie in 40 cig­gies a day, steak and frites at the Tip Top Club, then a hor­i­zon­tal work­out at the ho­tel. To­day’s race driv­ers, how­ever, are among the most dis­ci­plined and ded­i­cated ath­letes.

“With the amount of work they do, I’m sure they would be com­pet­i­tive in what­ever type of sport they went into,” says Kerry Leech, a di­eti­cian at Bris­bane’s Eat Smart Nu­tri­tion Con­sul­tants. Leech has worked with V8 Su­per­car driv­ers Michael Caruso and James Mof­fat to study how rac­ing af­fected their bod­ies and helped for­mu­late an ap­pro­pri­ate diet.

“My dad worked in the car in­dus­try, so I grew up watch­ing Bathurst,” Leech says. “I had a bit of a mo­tor­head background. I knew that with the g-forces and things it was a stress­ful en­vi­ron­ment. But see­ing how hot they got within the cars and the efforts the teams put in was fan­tas­tic.

“At the Gold Coast en­durance race, we did some fluid stud­ies on them, to mea­sure their sweat rates and see how they man­aged. And I went to their train­ing en­vi­ron­ment, talked about the off-sea­son work they were do­ing. I had a chat to their cater­ers at the races as well. We looked at urine colour and urine spe­cific grav­ity. It’s im­por­tant to be well hy­drated go­ing into an event, and you work on that hy­dra­tion in the week or so be­fore­hand.”

Leech com­pares rac­ing driv­ers’ chal­lenges with those of fighter pilots and en­durance ath­letes. “There’s a strength com­po­nent to it and that high-in­ten­sity work­load – they’re up there with marathon run­ners, but with the added el­e­ment of com­pet­ing against forces. And they have to main­tain fan­tas­tic lev­els of con­cen­tra­tion.”

The brain is one of the big­gest users of car­bo­hy­drates, Leech ex­plains. And con­sump­tion in­creases with body tem­per­a­ture. “When body tem­per­a­tures go up, your car­bo­hy­drate, your en­ergy us­age, goes to ex­tremes. It makes you work a lot harder, your VO2 max [peak oxy­gen in­take] and those types of things.

“Keep­ing cool is im­por­tant. They can now mon­i­tor core body tem­per­a­ture ac­cu­rately dur­ing sporting events, by get­ting the ath­lete to swal­low a pill. It’s ac­tu­ally a lit­tle ther­mome­ter that sends out an in­frared mes­sage.

“In the car they need great con­cen­tra­tion, so we need to main­tain blood-su­gar lev­els. In the lead-up to the race they need to boost their car­bo­hy­drate in­take, which will help their glyco­gen stores, and will help them store fluid as well.

“Dur­ing the week they can be sat­is­fied on a slightly higher-pro­tein diet. That’s go­ing to be lean meats, fish and chicken. But when­ever they’ve got to main­tain their con­cen­tra­tion or have high en­ergy de­mands, they need car­bo­hy­drate in­take.

“The night be­fore is prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant time to re­ally fuel up. The day of a race, they’ll prob­a­bly have smaller snacks on a reg­u­lar ba­sis be­cause when you’re work­ing at those ex­tremes your ap­petite drops off. But dur­ing an en­durance race, they may top up their car­bo­hy­drate lev­els with sports drinks and sports gels.

“Liq­uid meals can be more com­fort­able; the last thing you want is a full belly and to feel like you need to go to the toi­let dur­ing a race.”

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