Runner's Footprints

Runner's Footprints

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

How to Fuel for Endurance

There is a great deal of information available regarding healthy eating and nutrition science. One important question to ask yourself first: what is your goal? Is it to: improve your health, maintain weight, lose weight, build muscle, fuel properly for optimal performance? Each have their own fueling mechanisms and tips. There is overlap in the goals above; therefore, it is important to first identify what your main goal is in order to explore and experiment with what will work best for you. Below are my tips on "How to Fuel for Endurance" in training or races to optimize your physical performance and recovery. 

For Training LESS than 1HR:
Normally, you do not need to emphasize too much about consuming a surplus of calories before or during training that is less than one hour. Our bodies have a large caloric reserve, particularly lipid and glycogen storages. You can opt to fuel with a small calorie intake or caffeine boost 30 minutes before. After training, you will want to consume something with high quality protein either in solid form such as: lean chicken, grilled fish, salmon, hummus, etc. or a protein drink/smoothie mixed with some simple carbohydrate to facilitate absorption. What type of protein drink or shake you choose will depend on your goals. If you are looking to simply refuel, pure protein drinks usually are around 200 Calories per serving and a quick option. If you are looking to refuel with a meal replacement, a protein smoothie with a ratio of proteins/carbohydrates is a great option. Keep in mind these smoothies can vary between 400-800 Calories so it is meant to be a meal replacement. 

For Training MORE than 1HR:
Here is where you will want to focus on calorie quantity and quality depending how long and intense you are training. For any long training session and/or event such as a marathon, ultra marathon, or Ironman, consume complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) mixed with protein and/or healthy fats before, during, and after.  Simple carbohydrates (monosaccharides or "sugars") are the first choice during activity, as it gets absorbed into the bloodstream faster. Some examples that have worked for longer training sessions or races of two hours or more are listed below. These are my go-to snacks that are healthy, contain quality micro/macro nutrients, and normally do not upset my stomach. The longer the endurance training or event, the MORE essential it is to find a fueling strategy that works with your gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

You will find some athletes report after an Ironman, marathon, or ultra marathon that they were sidelined, slowed, or DNF’d (did not finish) due to GI distress, cramping, etc. Most of the time, this is avoidable and due to lack of training the GI tract to withstand a fueling strategy, while racing for 4, 12, 24 hours, or longer. Physiologically, our GI tract can be trained; however, it needs practice equally as our muscular and skeletal systems need in order to endure the length of these events. Long training sessions AND training the GI tract to process a large amount of calories are both necessary for an optimal performance. My strongest Ironman, ultra, and marathon times have been from a combination of proper training, race execution, and the final touch of a proper fueling strategy. This has been practiced and honed in on during long training sessions. Practice different fueling strategies in training first before utilizing it in a race. Below are some ideas:
BEFORE: 200-500 Cal 1-2 hours before start
Vital4U energy shot 30min before available in 4 flavors (35 Cal/packet with 150-200 mg caffeine)
* greek yogurt with fruit, granola and/or almonds/walnuts
* whole wheat bread toasted with almond butter and sliced banana drizzled with honey
* whole wheat crackers with peanut butter, sliced banana, sprinkled with walnuts
* lean chicken breast with pico de gallo (normally this is for my afternoon or evening sessions)
* whole wheat bread with avocado, hummus, tomato, and tapatio (adds sodium)
* bowl of fruit with cottage cheese
* light smoothie with frozen banana, almond milk, flax, chia, and 2-3 fruits
* Stryve biltong lean beef biltong sticks (100 Cal/serving of protein)
* Mas Korima Korimalitas snack bites made of Pinole (100 Cal/packet of carbohydrate)
* Liquid IV electrolyte powder mix at the correct osmolarity for your cell absorption
DURING: 100-500 Cal/hr
Vital4U for races, I take a 2nd energy shot halfway. During long training sessions, I may opt for a 2nd energy shot depending how much sleep I had the night before.
* gels (average across several brands are 100 Cal/packet of simple carbohydrate)
* high calorie powder mix in my bottles (long bike rides or mountain runs at 100 Cal/scoop)
* Andale Pinole mix by Mas Korima (100 Cal/scoop)
* nutty bars 
* salty trail mix
* almond butter sandwich 
* individual packets of almond butter
* chips (great salt content)
* crackers with cheese
* turkey wheat sandwich with avocado, spicy hummus, veggies, salsa (lunch on mountain days)
* Liquid IV (hydration multiplier) comes in three flavors taken one packet/hr
* most of these options are meant for training 2 hours or more. Experiment with liquid and solid nutrition

AFTER: 100-300 Cal within 30min of finishing
* protein drink or chocolate almond milk
* Stryve biltong
* lean grilled chicken with wild rice and steamed veggies
* grilled fish with kale and couscous  
* blackened salmon with quinoa
* grilled shrimp or scallops with baked sweat potato 
* ceviche or mariscos with pico de gallo and air popped popcorn
* Liquid IV 3-4 L/day with the hydration multiplier throughout the day
* Drink Present CDB Infused sparkling water (0 Calories/can) for its anti-inflammatory properties and relaxing effects during sleep

It is important to consume healthy fuel within 30 minutes of finishing your activity because your cells are most active in enzymes and mitochondria to assist in a quicker absorption rate. Having a packet of protein powder helps conveniently to get the protein efficiently in when you're done training/racing. Within 1-2 hours or when your appetite returns (as some athletes report not being hungry post long endurance events), have the healthy, balanced meal. Every healthy meal will help strengthen body systems and set it up to be stronger for the next training session. Recovery happens faster by how we refuel. 

Also, your individual needs may change as you become more efficient. They may change as you vary your intensity in training and races. You will notice some athletes will need less than others because they are either pushing at a higher intensity, have already trained to require less, and every human body has a unique physiology. What works for one may not necessarily always work for another. Experiment with what works for you and implement that strategy on race day. Feel free to contact me if you're looking for an endurance coach to help you reach your next fitness / health goal this season.


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