Nutrition for the Endurance Athlete
Endurance athletics is a great way to strengthen the body, but keep in mind it can actually make you weaker over time without proper nutrition. Consuming the right foods before, during, and after your workout helps to the body recover more efficiently for the next workout.
The body typically has enough carbohydrates stored as glycogen in the muscles to support up to an hour of moderate to high intensity exercise. If you are active for longer than 60 minutes than it is going to be important to you consume sufficient energy to maintain your level of activity. Energy bars and gels are a good option, however keep in mind scientifically engineered foods are not the only option. When choosing what to eat keep the following guidelines in mind:
|Less than 1 hour||Eat a small carbohydrate rich snack such as cereal and milk, peanut butter and jelly sandwich at least 2 hours before you workout to allow the food to fully digest. You will most likely not need anything during this duration.|
|1-2 hours||Follow the same pre-workout guidelines as above. For a workout/competition lasting longer than 1 hour, you should try and match your water and energy consumption with enough fluids to match your sweat losses and enough carbs to maintain a normal blood sugar. Stamina can increase by consuming 100-200 calories (25-60 grams) of carbohydrates per hour after the first hour.|
|Over 2 hours||Eat a solid meal at least 2-3 hours prior to your workout. Avoid high fat foods and focus on healthy carbohydrates and lean proteins as the base of your meal. Depending on the workout aim to consume 100-300 calories (25-90 grams) of carbohydrates per hour after the first hour. Combine solid foods with a 4% sports drink (4 grams per 100 ml or 80 calories per 500ml). Remember to balance your water and energy consumption as mentioned above.|
When you deal with the rigors of a tough training schedule remember what you eat after the workout or competition greatly affects your recovery. Your top dietary priority should be to replace the fluids you lost sweating to get your body back into water balance. For every pound lost post workout you need to consume 16-24 ounces. Since cyclist, runners, and tri-athletes are at risk for dehydration it is important to establish your sweat rate. Your second priority is to optimize muscle glycogen replenishment. The best recovery meal will be a 4:1 carb to protein ratio, such as 1% chocolate milk, milk and cereal, yogurt and fruit, peanut butter and honey sandwich within 30-45 minutes post workout and then have a complete meal within 60-90 minutes post workout.