Nutrition is often an overlooked aspect of training. Here are some basic and simple tips to think about and implement into your routine.
1. Eat between 250-400 calories the morning before a workout longer than 3 hours. This meal should have a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. Stay away from foods that are high in fiber and foods that are heavy and could weigh you down. A few examples: (3 egg whites with a banana and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter; 1 cliff bar with an apple and 1 handful of nuts; 1 yogurt with whole grain cereal like cheerios and a handful of blueberries). Remember everybody is different; what works for one person might not work for you. Find your "perfect" pre-workout meal.
2. Be conscious of your fluid intake 3-5 days leading up to a big training weekend or race. Don't just start chugging fluids the day before. Complete hydration starts 3-5 days out. Your main fluid source should be water but it is ok to add in an electrolyte drink as you come closer to your training day or race to keep your sodium levels adequate.
3. Once you are working out, you should be conscious of your calorie intake all the time. For workouts lasting longer than 90 minutes you need between 150-250 calories an hour to stay well fueled and replenished for the workout. These calories can come from gels, electrolyte drinks and solid food like bars or candy. Every 10-15 minutes you should be sipping fluids and every 30-45 minutes you should consume some type of food. What works for you? Practice the plan and then execute.
4. During brick workouts (bike to runs) as you are getting to the last few miles of the bike make sure you start replenishing the body with fluids and food so you are prepared to have a good run. If you start chugging fluids and eat too much during the last mile of the bike you can run into stomach problems and cramping. The last 3-5 miles on the bike is a good time frame to get those calories and fluids into the body.
5. After intense and/or long training (over 2 hours) sessions there is a 30-minute window where our body is ready for replenishment and recovery. It is crucial to have a fast acting post-workout snack ready to go. Most solid food takes time to digest and do its job so stick to a liquid supplement like whey protein, chocolate milk, or a recovery supplement The key is to have a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein post-workout.
6. Eat to Train, Not Train to Eat. After workouts of 2+ hours the body is usually famished from the activity put out. Everything looks good. But it is so important to stay disciplined and stick to healthy foods like fresh vegetables and fruits, lean meats and fish and healthy fats. Especially if you are looking to lose weight and change your body composition, sticking to the plan is imperative. Post-workout foods that are great choices can be: hard boiled eggs, edamame, nuts, oranges, quinoa, organic wild rice, lean chicken/fish and natural peanut butter.
7. Use gels, electrolyte drink and bars before, during or immediately after exercise. These foods are not meant to be consumed when you are not active.
8. On Sunday night look through your refrigerator and cupboards and make sure you are stocked with healthy foods. Preparing to have a good week is the first step to the game plan. "Fail to plan, plan to fail".
9. As endurance athletes we think eating massive amounts of breads, pastas and rice is the key to a successful nutrition program. It is very feasible to fill your glycogen tank with healthier carbohydrate options. Be cautious of over indulging on starchy carbohydrates as it can create weight gain, inflammation, bloating and stomach issues. Leading up to a big training weekend or race of more than 2 hours start increasing your carbohydrate intake during the week. This will fill your body with the fuel it needs to perform at high levels. If your race is less than 90 minutes you do not need to "carb load". Eat healthy meals that are full of vitamins and nutrients.
10. It's ok to indulge. The key is moderation. After a big race or training weekend it is ok to enjoy a food that you have been craving. You have been putting in the work and training hard so spoil yourself once in awhile. But do not let once in awhile turn into a few times a week. Be disciplined to stay on track!