Runner's Footprints

Runner's Footprints

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How to Fuel for Endurance Events

There is a great deal of information and advice available regarding healthy eating and sport nutrition science. One important question to always ask yourself first is: what is your goal? If your goal is to improve your health, maintain weight, lose weight, build muscle, and/or fuel properly for optimal performance, each have their own mechanisms and tips on how to properly fuel for each. There is a lot of overlap in the goals above; therefore, it is important to first identify what your goal is in order to understand how to pick out and experiment with what advice will work best for you. First, I am a passionate advocate of healthy eating, so regardless of what my goals or goals of my athletes are, I aim to focus on revolving fueling strategies around healthy choices first.

If you are looking for my tips on “How to Lose Weight as an Endurance Athlete” you can visit: here. Below are tips on how to fuel with healthy choices for your endurance training or races for optimal performance. Experiment with what works for you. What works for one athlete may not necessarily always work for another athlete. Also, what your individual needs may also change as you become a more efficient endurance athlete and/or vary your intensity in training and races.

For Training LESS than 1HR:
Normally, you do not need to emphasize or worry too much about consuming a surplus of calories before/during training or at an event that is less than one hour. Truth is, our bodies have a large fat reserve so regardless of intensity or your personal body composition, you have a storage of calories for your body to use. You can optionally opt to fuel with a small snack or energy boost at least 30 minutes prior to the onset of training or event. After your training whether it is high intensity or not, you will want to consume something with high quality protein either in food form such as: lean chicken, lean grilled fish, salmon, etc. or a lean protein drink. 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 are a great option. If you are looking to refuel with a meal replacement: a protein shake with a mixture of carbohydrates is an acceptable option, but keep in mind these shakes can vary between 400-500 Calories so it is meant to be a meal replacement. Many protein shakes out there have an excess of carbohydrates so it is unnecessary for less than an hour of training.

For Training MORE than 1HR:
Here is where you will want to focus on calorie quality and quantity depending how long and intense you are training or racing. For any long training session and/or endurance event such as a half marathon, marathon, Ironman, try to consume complex healthy carbohydrates mixed with lean protein and/or healthy fats before, during, and after.  Simple carbohydrates are usually the best choice during the activity, as it will get absorbed into the bloodstream faster. Some examples that have worked for my longer training sessions or races of 2hrs or more are listed below. These are my go-to snacks that are healthy, lean, contain quality nutrients, and won't upset my stomach. The longer the training or endurance event, the more important it is to find a fueling strategy and frequency that works with your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Sometimes, you will find some athletes report after an Ironman or ultra event that they were sidelined, slowed, or DNF’d due to GI tract issues. Most of the time, this is due to lack of training the stomach to withstand a proper fueling strategy while racing for 6hrs, 12hrs, 24hrs or longer. Physiologically, our GI tract can be trained properly but it needs practice. If we do not do long training sessions AND train the GI tract to consume a large amount of calories, it will shut down on race day and cause you GI issues. My strongest Ironman times have risen from a combination of proper training, race execution, and the final touch is proper fueling strategy. Always make sure to practice different fueling strategies in training first before utilizing it in a race. Key point to remember: 

Your individual needs may change as you become more efficient and/or 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 or have already trained to require less. What works for one may not necessarily always work for another. Experiment with what works for you and implement that strategy for you on race day.

BEFORE: 200-500 Cal ~1-2hrs before start
* greek yogurt with granola or almonds/walnuts
* whole wheat bread toasted with almond butter and sliced banana
* whole wheat crackers with peanut butter, sliced banana, drizzled with honey
* lean chicken breast with pico de gallo (normally this is for my afternoon or evening sessions)
* whole wheat bread toasted with avocado and tapatio (adds sodium)
* light smoothie with frozen banana, almond milk, flax powder, chia seeds, and any 2-3 fruits I have in my fridge at the time
* one scoop of Top Secret Nutrition Cardio Ignitor in my water bottle

DURING: 100-300 Cal/hr
* gels (for road marathons only, I usually only need one or none)
* high calorie power mix in my water bottles (for my long bike rides)
* nutty bars 
* trail mix
* PB&J
* Justin's individual packets of almond butter
* chips
* crackers with cheese
* turkey slices with avocado and tapatio
* note: all most of these options are meant really when training is 3hrs or more and I use them on my mountain outings where I carry more.

AFTER: 100-300 Cal within 30min of finishing
* protein drink (within only protein if possible but if it has carbs that's ok)
* lean grilled chicken with wild rice and steamed veggies
* lean grilled fish with kale & couscous  
* salmon with quinoa
* grilled shrimp or scallops with baked sweat potato 
* note: it is very important to consume protein within 30 minutes of finishing your activity because that is when your cells will absorb it the fastest as they are their most active. That is why having a packet of pure protein powder helps to just get the protein in when you're done training/racing. Then within 1-2hrs or whenever you feel hungry, you can have your healthy recovery meal. It is VERY important to reward ourselves with healthy food meal options. Every healthy meal will help cleanse our system and most importantly set it up to be stronger for the next training session. Recovery happens faster by choosing what we eat. You trained or raced hard, so now you DESERVE a healthy, wholesome meal.