Who hasn’t spent the last mile of a long run fantasizing about a huge slice of cake, a burger or maybe for you it’s the sound of an ice cold coke fizzing in the can. There’s not a darn thing wrong with enjoying these foods because our body is reminding us that it needs fuel.
But obviously an entire day or week or month of eating these foods isn’t ideal for boosting our endurance training.
In fact, if we looked at a pyramid of what matters most when it comes to our performance a lot of people would be disappointed to realize that all the supplements and recovery tools are near the top (meaning least important!).
Thanks to my friend Lindsay Cotter, a blogger and Nutrition Specialist over at Cotter Crunch for contributing a lot of great information to this article.
What we’ve all come to learn is that every body works differently in regards to fueling and race day nutrition, but the one thing that all endurance athletes NEED is GOOD QUALITY food the 75% of time they’re not training.
What does all of that mean? Let’s go back to what happens during a workout and then focus on the nutrition outside of our workouts for the maximum gains.
Food During Workouts
My husband knows exactly what fuel works for him during his long training sessions, his hard training sessions, and during races. This basically comes from trial and error.
Clean eating isn’t as important here as sometimes just getting calories in, and without stomach distress. BUT…the cleaner the better, right? Some days a gel is exactly what gets the job done, other long rides could include some great whole food refuel ideas.
The meals that matter most are the ones that follow the 24 hours post workout/race/etc. This is where the body recovers, heals, and absorbs nutrients.
Timing is everything! (source below: Coach Matt Dixon)Notice the last section, 45-90 minutes POST TRAINING.
This is where it counts, REAL FOOD that is. Not only are replenishing your calories, you are now replenishing your NUTRIENTS!
What about carbohydrates?
Over 100 years of research back the idea that we need carbs to perform and studies are showing that those on keto are not performing as well come race day. Our bodies need proper nutrients to fully recover from each workout and to work hard when we ask it to!
A good 4:1 ratio of Carbs and Protein after your workout is key to recovery. Examples:
– Brown rice and eggs
– Turkey wrap
– Oatmeal and cottage cheese
– Cheese on GF toast
– Quinoa and chicken or pork bowl
The meals consumed after that post race/workout meal should now be protein/fat/vegetable based.
These are the “building blocks” of good nutrition, and your body will naturally crave them if you fueled properly before. And remember this isn’t about perfection or being a zealot about your food!
Yes, Protein REALLY Matters
Eating higher protein helps maintain muscle mass when you’re in a calorie deficit, really important for endurance athletes who are almost always going to be low on calories after massive workouts.
Protein expert Stuart Phillips, PhD from McMaster Univeristy says minimum is 1.6 grams per kg of body weight per day (2.3-3.1 for muscle building)Do endurance athletes really need to worry about what they eat? Tips from @cottercrunch Click To Tweet
More ideas for when you’re ready for a bigger meal:
– Salmon, steamed veggies, and avocado salad
– Steak kabobs
– Bell peppers stuffed with Tempeh or Tofu, Vegan cheese on top, and then roasted or broiled
– Shrimp and veggies (make a one sheet pan meal!)
– Grilled chicken on a bed of steamed spinach with crumbled feta, cucumber, tomatoes, and olives
– Warm breakfast salad
These are just a few examples of healthy protein/fat/veggie based meals.
It’s also important to remember that you need to get in ENOUGH calories to prevent muscle wasting. A consistent period of being in calorie deficit means your body will begin to use muscles, not fat, to provide the energy you need for those long workouts.
Read more on maintaining muscle mass with endurance training >>
Tips to Stay on Track
Now we must be realistic, this isn’t always going happen. There will be times when life happens, we’re stuck without proper food because we’re traveling or at the mercy of a work conference filled with pastries and a lunch wrap of iceberg lettuce.
Try to be prepared for that I’m too tired to cook post workout moment or the days on the road, but when you’re not, just don’t stress about it.
- Pack snacks to take with you that don’t need to be in the fridge like an apple, jerky, nut butter packets, roasted chickpeas, protein powder
- Think about meals being a balance of both protein and carbs, this will keep you from getting that raving hunger just a short bit after eating
- Actually eat enough at your meals so that you don’t need to just rely on snacks, which often aren’t as high quality food
- Decide you’re going to commit to meal prep because your goal matters
- Change your thoughts around food from restriction to eating for performance
- Focus on NUTRIENTS and you’ll find your food falls in to place more easily
- Hydrate like it’s your job…cause it kinda is.
- Don’t worry a great deal about variety, if you’ve found a way of eating that’s allowing you to eat enough and high quality, stick with it. This also helps reduce hunger interestingly.
If you can nail your nutrition 80-90% of time, then that’s great!
The other 10% of the time, do whatcha can don’t freak out about it. Sometimes that stress just causes more damage. We know it increases cortisol which is already high from our workouts and that just means delayed recovery.See even the elites aren’t perfect…though this was probably Lindsey’s gluten free, dairy free amazing Vegan Maple Cashew Cream Cheese frosting.
In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff!
Hope you found these tips somewhat useful.
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