Cirque Series Nutrition

July 29, 2021
By Jennie Harris, MS

Cirque Series races are a unique mix of endurance and strength. Staying hydrated and fueling properly will help you to achieve optimal performance during your upcoming race. 


Sports nutrition is not a one fits all approach. Similar to training, it takes time and practice to figure out the best strategy for you. Test your nutrition and hydration plan in conditions similar to race day (elevation, distance, intensity, temperature, clothing etc.) and fine tune through trial and error. Below are general suggestions. For individualized guidance seek support from a qualified Registered Dietitian. 



The night before, enjoy a balanced meal and plan to include a carbohydrate food. This does mean that you need to carbo-load, however, carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of fuel and main source of energy for moderate and high intensity physical activity.  Consistently including sources of carbohydrate leading up to and during exercise, delays fatigue and decreases perceived effort.


On race day:

Ideally, 3-4 hours prior to the race start eat meal with a carbohydrate, protein and fat source. Ideas: a bowl of oats, bananas and nut butter, or eggs, toast and fruit. Test out different meals and timing to determine what works best for you. Too much fat and fiber before your race can lead to bloating, gas, and gastrointestinal upset. 


One hour before, have a small snack: a banana, or toast with jam. Some individuals can tolerate yogurt with berries, or a slice of toast with peanut butter. In general, the closer you get to your race, your meals or snacks will be smaller to allow for adequate digestion, and emphasis will shift to primarily carbohydrate foods. If you don’t tolerate food well before high intensity exercise, eat earlier. If you feel hungry and fatigued mid-training, try adding a carbohydrate snack an hour before. 


During the Race:

For efforts longer than 60 minutes, recommended carbohydrate intake is 30 to 60 grams per hour. Choose simple carbohydrates that your body can use easily for quick energy. Try a sports gel, sports chews, a sports drink, etc. Many gels, chews and sports drinks also contain electrolytes. Electrolytes help retain fluid and promote fluid balance by drawing water into cells. 


While fluid needs are highly individualized, adequate fluid intake is critical when you’re physically active. Without proper hydration you will see a drop in performance. Common dehydration symptoms also include cramping, dizziness and nausea. The amount of fluid and electrolytes lost during exercise varies greatly per individual and can be influenced by many factors: duration, intensity, altitude, temperature, body composition, genetics, clothing worn and training status. To determine your hydration needs, start by getting familiar with your sweat rate. Are you a heavy or light sweat-er, do you notice salt on your skin, clothes? What is your body type, and what is your exercise intensity? 



Start hydrated. Two to four hours before your race start, recommended fluid intake is 5-7 mL per kilogram of body weight. Pale yellow urine is generally a good indication that you are hydrated.  Most importantly, drink according to your sweat rate. 


During the Race

Your goal is to drink enough to limit dehydration. Aim for 200-300 mL of fluid (~6-10oz) every 15-20 minutes. Keep in mind, fluid intake should be individualized to your tolerance, training status, and environment. 

For moderate to high intensity efforts lasting longer than 60-90 minutes, try a sports drink. This will add flavor, provide both carbohydrates and often electrolytes (check your sports drink) and aid in rehydration. 


Although it’s important to drink enough water, you can also drink too much which can result in hyponatremia. In order to prevent prevent hyponatremia include sufficient sodium in your daily nutrition, eat foods that contain sodium during physical activity (pretzels, gels, chews) and use a sports drink as recommended. 



Don’t forget to refuel and rehydrate post race. Include both carbohydrate and protein foods to refuel and repair muscles.  Pack a chocolate milk, sandwich with protein, or peanut butter with banana to enjoy within an hour of your finish.  


Test these guidelines so you know exactly what works for you on race day. Don’t forgot a waistband or hydration pack that fits comfortably for your race day goodies.  



Jennie Harris, MS, is a Registered Dietitian (RD), and Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach. She is a former Division I athlete and holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Utah in Sports Nutrition. 


Jennie helps high performance athletes and professionals meet and exceed the unique set of nutrition requirements their lives and jobs demand. By optimizing their nutrition and creating a healthy relationship with food, her clients are able to feel their best and more fully enjoy life both at and outside of work.