Below we have assembled some genericbullet points to keep your nutrition and hydration on track. The first section is specific to your training sessions, while the second section references your daily nutrition that supports the physiological adaptations that your hard work contributes to creating. If either training, or daily nutrition are not optimized, or worse ignored, then the gains in fitness that you seek will not be fully realized. This requires that you put some thought into your plans for fueling yourself during workouts/races and during the remaining parts of each day. Read More...
TRAINING NUTRITION & HYDRATION: Basic Fueling recommendations during training and racing to maximize performance.
- Place a premium on hydration, especially during sessions in excess of 3 hours. Hydration requirements vary from athlete to athlete; therefore, it’s recommended you complete a sweat rate test. A general rule is to consume 16-24 oz. of fluid per hour under normal conditions.
- Higher temperatures and the addition of humidity will increase total fluid requirements. In some cases, this can double your needs, or more. The goal is to replace as much of your sweat loss per hour as possible. Each athlete tolerates fluid intake differently, so experiment during your training.
- High temperatures also slow gastric emptying. The gut absorbs fewer calories during high heat sessions because the body is sending additional blood to the skin in order to help regulate your core temperature. A 10-20%+ reduction in total hourly caloric intake may be required under these extreme conditions. It should also be noted that liquid calories absorb better than solids under these circumstances.
- Electrolytes are a key driver in maintaining a hydrated status. Plain water alone is not sufficient during longer trainings. Sodium is the primary electrolyte we are concerned with replacing, as it is the one excreted in the highest quantities. Potassium, magnesium, chloride, etc. also play critical roles within the body and are usually included in smaller quantities in many sports drinks or electrolyte supplements. Look to replace 350-600mg of sodium per hour of exercises lasting longer than 2 hours under normal conditions. High temperatures, especially hot and humid conditions, can easily double this requirement.
- Shorter workouts that are 1 hour in length or less typically require only plain water. This is especially critical when not adapted to heat and humidity.
- For aerobic sessions from 90-120 minutes in length consider adding a small electrolyte profile to your beverage, such as a diluted sports drink, after the opening 60-90 minutes on plain water. This will provide a small amount of sugar and electrolytes over the final 30-60 minutes of your session and help fuel your slightly longer efforts.
- If you have a high intensity workout that is 1 hour or greater in length, consuming a sports drink will provide the body with the easily accessible carbohydrates and electrolytes to sustain your efforts. Bouts of high intensity at, or above, your maximal steady state (FTP) rely purely on glucose and glycogen as the fuel source, while fat combustion runs to zero.
- Longer endurance-based workouts and races of 3 hours or more help to improve fat metabolism, but also require carbohydrate to meet the total energy demands. Fueling during these sessions with a carbohydrate source containing glucose (or similar sugar) and a smaller amount of fructose can maximize your hourly absorption rate. This is due to the sugar sources utilizing different metabolic pathways through the wall of the small intestine. Current scientific literature suggests the maximal hourly absorption is 90g per hour in a ratio of 60g Glucose & 30g Fructose. Not everyone will be able to handle this amount of caloric intake per hour and many athletes may not need to supplement with such a quantity. You need to practice your nutrition to optimize it for your body. That said, the gut can be trained to adapt over time, but only if you practice.
DAILY NUTRITION & HYDRATION: Eating and drinking for maximizing fitness gains.
- What you eat is just as critical as how much you eat. Think of your daily nutrition as the high-performance fuel to allow your body to gain the fitness from all your hours training. Focus on high quality, whole foods, complex carbohydrates, lean protein sources and healthy fats, while avoiding highly processed foods.
- Stay hydrated throughout the week. A good starting point is to consume 24-32 oz. of water per day. We are not camels and do not store excess water. You might find that 48-60 oz. is better for you, but if you find yourself making consistent trips to the bathroom every 1-2 hours during the day, you’re over doing it.
- Your food choices can also be an excellent source of fluid for our body. If you eat lots of fresh fruits, leafy greens and veggies on a daily basis, you’ll likely need less additional water throughout the day. Plus, these foods provide you with the important nutrients that are required for improvements in fitness.
- Aim to consume smaller meals throughout the day with an emphasis on breakfast. A small, quality snack in between meals helps to keep blood sugar and insulin levels more stable and decreases the urge to over-eat at your next feeding.
- Seriously consider cycling your macronutrients based upon training load for a given day. Increase carbohydrate intake on heavy training days, while rest days should place a premium on higher protein and good fat to achieve your total caloric demands. Diets extremely high in carbohydrate depress the body’s ability to metabolize fat as fuel to the working muscles. Therefore, a good starting point to work from is a daily diet of 40% CHO, 30% PRO & 30% FAT. Adjust the macronutrients from here to assist in sustaining your training load and intensity.
- When possible, your post workout recovery nutrition should come from a proper meal. When this is not achievable, your goal should be to get in a small amount of carbohydrate and protein with very little fat within 30-45 minutes of exercise. This is the optimal window to replace depleted glycogen stores and begin muscle recovery.
- Often athletes believe that they are eating healthy. But, simply making healthy choices does not mean that you are maximizing and meeting your daily nutritional requirements. Not many would argue that eating Vegan or Vegetarian is a healthy choice. However, a choice in diet in and of itself does not make it healthy. Your choices & timing for each meal and snack throughout the day are what count. There are many vegans, vegetarians & carnivores who do not get in the appropriate blend of macronutrients to sustain their training load, with some simply getting in too many calories overall. Keep a food journal for a week and truly see what you are eating. It may open your eyes to the fact that your daily nutrition needs some adjusting.
- These are general guidelines and every athlete & gender have different preferences and tolerances to training nutrition and hydration. It is part of your training to develop a plan that works for you and to adjust it according to atmospheric conditions you are presented with on a given day. Place a premium on fluid and electrolyte intake, while staying on top of your caloric demands to maximize your training benefits.
- Your daily eating habits & timingalso play a key role in the actual fitness gains you will realize from your training. Learn to cycle your macronutrients based upon the training load for a given day. Reducing a high carbohydrate diet by substituting some of those calories in the form of healthy fats and lean proteins can help improve the body’s fat metabolism and ensure proper recovery. A good place to start with making adjustments to your daily nutrition is to keep a food log for a full week where you write down absolutely everything you eat and drink. If you are honest with yourself, this will give you an accurate overview of your eating habits, and perhaps realizing that these choices are not as optimal as you thought…
Train smart, eat smart.