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Race Nutrition 101 - Why You Should Care About Your GER

Jill here - do you know what your GER is?

Maybe not but I bet you know when you've eaten or drunk something that sits in your stomach and causes bloating, discomfort or nausea. We've all been there and it's not fun!

Your GER is your Gastic Emptying Rate. It's the length of time it takes fluid or food to pass through your stomach and into your small intestine.

Think about your stomach as a reservoir. It receives and mixes food and fluid before emptying it bit by bit through a small muscular 'tap' (the pyloric sphincter) into the small intestine.

That's where the real performance magic begins. That's where your macro and micro-nutrients and fluids are sifted, sorted and absorbed through various active and passive transport methods. Once delivered to your tissues they're used to create forward momentum.

What you want is the fuel you eat and drink on the bike to pass through your stomach easily and without undue delay on the way to the place where performance magic happens, your small intestine.

You don't want your fuel to be uncomfortably held-up.

You don't want bloating, you want forward momentum.

That's why you need to care about your GER.

So here's what you need to know.

What SLOWS DOWN your gastric emptying rate:

  • high intensity exercise (say 70-80% of max effort)

  • high psychological stress

  • increased core temp

  • dehydration

  • solid or semi-solid food

  • high calorie density fluid or food

  • warm fluid or foods

The most common combination I see is a state of mild - moderate dehydration mixed with high calorie fluids or semi-solids. Think an extra scoop of your bottle mix plus a gel, it results in nausea, bloating and discomfort for many of you.

I understand you may want to increase your carbohydrate intake, especially if you're stressed and under pressure. But often this can be counter productive.

You can do as much harm overfeeding as underfeeding. That's also why you may want to consider becoming less dependant on carbohydrate.

What SPEEDS UP your gastric emptying rate:

  • lower intensity exercise

  • managed psychological stress

  • regulated core temp

  • hydration

  • increased volume of liquid

  • lower calorie density fluid or food

  • cold fluids

  • high moisture content foods

If you're starting to experience any digestive distress, drink colder, lighter-calorie fluids (go down to 1 scoop of your bottle mix), stop your solid or semi-solid foods for an hour and if you can decrease the effort and stress to allow your gut to recalibrate and empty a little faster you'll soon be firing on all cylinders again.

Make no mistake, there's a place for all kinds of fluid and solid food combinations.

Solid foods provide steady, time-released energy that you need to go the distance while higher-calorie liquids provide an instant boost.

It's about knowing the types of fuel your muscles need in varied and sometimes extreme race and environmental conditions.

Bottom line, you need to understand and manage what happens between your mouth, stomach and small intestine in diverse situations.

Complicated - but of course! Isn't that's why we love the intricacies of endurance cycling?

I'd be really interested in your comments and experiences so please post and let's keep the conversation going.


If you're interested in learning more about performance or race nutrition check out our performance coaching section or drop me an line at

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