Endurance Nutrition Q&A With Adventure Racer Tessa Aukje Dekker

Endurance Nutrition Q&A With Adventure Racer Tessa Aukje Dekker

Tessa Aukje Dekker (PURE New Zealand Account Manager) practices what she preaches when it comes to nutrition and fuelling. We caught up with Tessa in the lead-up to her next adventure race Godzone to chat all things endurance. 

What's your sports background?

Back in the Netherlands I played hockey my entire life and I didn’t think I would play any other sport until coming to New Zealand. I fell in love with the beautiful outdoors and swapped my hockey shoes and stick for trail runners, bought a kayak and a few bikes.

Currently myself and three fellow teammates are getting ready for Godzone, a multi-day adventure race, this year starting in Fiorland, that can take up to 8 days (hopefully we’ll be out of the wilderness a bit quicker than that). With topo maps and a compass you make your way from checkpoint to checkpoint by mountain bike, packraft and on foot. 

Whats the longest adventure race you have been in?

Godzone 2022, it took us 7 days. Finding our way from Haast (West Coast, NZ) to Dunedin (East Coast).

How do you fuel your long training sessions and is it hard to practice race day nutrition in training? I think it is important to train with what you race with. Everyone has heard the famous saying “never try something new on race day” and it’s true. If you try new nutrition that you haven't trained with, you have no idea how your body will respond to it, it could be good or bad! Race fuel is functional, make sure you take enough of it and not under fuel in carbs, hydration, etc.

By trying different types of nutrition and brands during your training you figure out what you like and what type of nutrition your body responds well to. If you don’t like a certain flavour, it is very likely you don’t want to consume it while you are racing. Not liking your nutrition will turn into not eating enough and ultimately not having enough energy and (worst case scenario) not finishing the race that you’ve trained so hard for. You want to look forward to whatever you put into your mouth and body.

I find it easy to train and try different nutrition, I know what my body needs and what I like (my faves are the PURE Cola Fluid Energy Gels and Pineapple PURE Electrolyte Hydration). When doing exercise, I sweat quite a lot, so Electrolyte Caps are important for me as well. Electrolyte Caps contains sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium which prevents cramping but also allows your body to absorb water and hydrate your body.

What does nutrition, in the days before an adventure race, look like for you?Five days prior to a race I start taking a Beet Endurance shot in the morning, a natural way of nitrate loading. Other than that I basically eat lots of high fat food, avocados, nuts, etc and lots of veggies with potatoes or pasta. During an adventure race you probably sleep on an average 2 – 3 hours per night. You can imagine you burn a lot of energy in the other hours so it is good to have some reserves before starting the race. 

How do you fuel such long periods of exercise?I think most people’s fuel intake isn’t enough (including myself). For shorter races up to 3 hours you can almost wing it a bit and recover after the race (not recommended!). Anything longer than that you need to have a proper nutrition plan in place. You can get quite scientific with it and you might find you actually are not taking in enough fuel. On average you need 60-80 carbs an hour, which sounds like a small number. But for example a PURE Energy Gel varies between 21-26 carbs and 750ml of PURE Electrolyte Hydration (a normal drink bottle) has 37.5 carbs. Easy math – on a long day (coast to coast longest day or adventure race) one gel and a drink bottle with electrolytes should be just enough. But I can’t drink a 750ml bottle each hour for 12+ hour races and three gels an hour is not achievable for multi hour races, haha. So do some calculations and see what works for you.Depending on the length of the race, I also try to include some solids. I find it hard to eat while racing, but did find some food that works for me; banana bread (don’t have to chew), mashed potato (in a zip lock and squeeze it into your mouth) and creamed rice.

Any tips for those just getting into adventure races?Find some friends to race with and have fun. In Christchurch you have the Wicked Rogaines which have lots of series throughout the year on week nights where you can get a great taste of rogaines. Get yourself familiar with maps and a compass and as long as you don’t mind getting lost every now and then you should give it a go!