Fuel Your High-Endurance Workouts
Marron Brookes, i.d. gym's resident elite runner and Powerbar-sponsored athlete, is here to give us some advice for fueling our high-endurance workouts.
For many of us preparing for fall endurance events, now is really the time when the training picks up, things can start to ache and peak training weeks are on the horizon. Time to take a look at how you are filling your tank!
Pre-workout meals 30 to 60 minutes prior to your training activity should contain 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates to top off fuel stores. If your body weight is 120 pounds or less, you can stay at the lower end. I will often have a PowerBar® (Vanilla!) or PowerBar Perform sports drink before a morning run, but if my first run of the day is more than eight miles I will have more carbohydrates prior like a banana with a powergel and/or Perform bar.
Higher body weights would shift toward the higher end of the range. If you workout in the evening, have a solid whole meal three or four hours before your planned workout time.
What to eat and when to eat it
It's crucial that you don't eat too much or eat foods heavy in protein or fiber in the hour before vigorous running or other exercise. Save the protein for your recovery window -- 30 to 60 minutes after your workout, when you would aim for an immediate snack of 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. Chocolate milk is popular for this, and easy to pick up on the go.
There are many other options for recovery drinks and bars, lots of which we have at i.d.'s front desk! Within two hours, plan for a whole food-based meal -- lean protein (aiming for more than 20 grams) and fresh vegetables. If you are on a grain free or gluten free diet, quinoa is a great whole food option, since it is technically a seed and not a grain and a great source of carbohydrates and protein.
Get ready for race day
Fueling during a workout is highly individual -- and it should be practiced. Start using powergel or the sports drink you plan to use during a race in your training to avoid upsetting your stomach. Our digestive systems are sensitive and need to be properly trained -- some people can tolerate caffein during exercise, while others cannot.
It's a good idea to find what works for you, now! If you plan on using what is at race-day aid stations, pick up that brand at a running or bike shop and start using it. For example, Powerbar powergel will typically be the gel offered at the aid stations in the Chicago Marathon.
You can start using them now and getting used to the consistency, and if they do not agree with you, try other brands or options like chews and sports drinks -- just prepare to carry on your own on the day of your event. The baseline recommendation is for every oneo ro two hours of activity, take in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates. Start with that and see if you have any GI issues; if you do, either back off or try a different fuel source.
Electrolytes are highly important as well, especially in summer weather. Sodium is the key electrolyte lost through sweat, which can lead to muscle cramping. You can lose 1000 milligrams of sodium in sweat so choose a gel or drink with sodium. I like that powergels have 200 milligrams and a liquidy consistency in case I have no access to water when I need it. Sodium also allows your body to absorb fluids more easily.
Other ideas for sodium, potassium and electrolytes that are not sources of carbohydrate are Nuun tablets and Saltstick capsules. These also can save the day if by chance you were "over served" the night before. Dehydration can be dangerous and inhibit performance, so pay attention to your body and back off if you feel light headed or begin to cramp -- some of the signs of dehydration.
To maximize performance...
Fueling takes practice, especially in hot weather where dehydration is common and can wreak havoc on both our muscles and GI tract. The digestive system is trainable, so it's important to practice solid nutrition plans during training season so you can perform your best.
The key word here is perform. If you are training for your first endurance event, you must eat to perform -- now is not the time to combine extreme dieting, fasting or weight loss short cuts with a heavy load of training. The purpose of these fueling practices is to help you perform at the level you have trained for, to make sure your body is nourished and ready to work.
Combining low carb diets (150 grams or less per day) with high volume endurance work can compromise your ability to recover from daily training as well as leave you depleted of energy. Practice moderation and sensible eating to both manage weight and enjoy your strength and fitness gains!
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When to find Marron...
- Vinyasa Yoga, Mondays at 7 pm, Tuesdays at 10 am and Thursdays at 11 am
- Treadmill Bootcamp, Tuesdays at 9 am and Wednesdays at 5:45 pm or 6:30 pm
- Buff Yoga, Wednesdays at 7:15 pm