If you’re running marathons or playing sports that last longer than 90 minutes, then fueling your body for endurance training is critical. This means more than a pasta dinner and lots of the water the day before. Here are some keys to understanding how your body works and how to fuel up with the right nutrients:
It’s important to load up on carbs to store glycogen – or energy – in the muscles and liver so it’s available when you get depleted. This makes sense for many people because their bodies can easily convert the sugar into protein. However, some people actually perform better with a mix of higher protein and fat before workouts, replacing energy through glycogenic amino acids instead of glycogen.
With the rise in popularity of Paleo eating, some athletes have stopped extreme carb loading. But it’s a delicate balance: you need energy available so you don’t get dehydrated or encounter nausea and other issues. Some ideas to help avoid fatigue:
- Focus on pre-event carbs with a lower glycemic index plus protein, such as whole grain pasta with lean chicken breast and lentils.
- Three to four days before the event, eat 10 to 12 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight.
- Within one hour before the event, eat 1 to 4 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight.
Plan on snacking during your workout, but avoid fruit because it’s not as efficient for providing energy, and it can also cause digestive issues. Allow about 30 to 60 grams per hour of exercise or 90 grams per hour if you’ll be working out for longer than two and a half hours.
After your workout, replenish your body with higher carb foods, plus moderate fat and protein. Complex carb sources like green vegetables, whole grains, pasta, whole-grain breads, and oatmeal are good choices. The 24-hour recovery period is when you achieve the greatest rate of storage of glycogen back to your muscles.
Up Your Endurance Training
You already work out and build strength to perform at a high level with training tools and coaching. How you fuel your body for endurance training is just as important as the regimen itself. Don’t skip it!