(continued from part II) Now that you have a good understanding of the synergestic components necessary for success in reaching your goals, let's see how they apply to the young multi-sport athlete named Flash, who has been struggling with fatigue during training and subpar performance during races.
Remember, in order for success to be possible, a balance is necessary between physical fitness, diet, and lifestyle. Flash is engaging in a smart exercise program that is centered around proper levels of swimming, cycling, and running combined with balanced rest and recovery. His physical fitness practices could not be better. He also has an active social life, a satisfactory job, healthy sleep patterns, and a happy family. So it appears that lifestyle is also well balanced (as opposed to Mrs. T from the previous article). Furthermore, Flash focuses on eating 5-6 small meals per day, proper fueling before and after each workout, and adequate, but not excessive, caloric intake. Like many endurance athletes, his meals consist of large amounts of pastas, cereals, energy bars, pancakes, bagels, fruit juices, and breads, but all in moderation.
Here is Flash's problem: his body is not able to metabolically thrive on his current nutritional profile, and his blood sugar levels are at constant roller-coaster levels of destabilization. Although the type of foods that he is consuming is indeed "high-energy" food for endurance athletes, it neglects two primary components of nutrition that are necessary for everyone: stable, complex carbohydrates and complete amino acids.
Flash is unfamiliar with the fact that not all carbohydrates are created equal. His intake of "quick-release" sugars, also known as "high glycemic index" sugars, are causing a rapid spike in his blood glucose levels upon consumption. This is followed by quick rise in insulin levels, which results in hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels. The final effect is low, unstable energy levels, during both training and racing. Combine this with inadequate protein intake, which will not supply enough amino acids necessary for muscle fiber repair, as well as not provide the stabilized uptake of carbohydrate that proteins offer. Furthermore, without less sugary carbohydrates like vegetables and fruits, Flash is unlikely to have proper intake of antioxidants necessary to scavenge the high levels of damaging free radicals produced by exercise.
If Flash walked into my office, here would be my advice for him:
Eat protein with every meal. This will not only provide adequate amino acids, but also stabilize uptake of carbohydrate by acting as a sugar "chaperone".
Eliminate all "high glycemic index" bread and pasta based carbohydrates, unless consuming during or immediately after exercise. The rapid glucose spike is followed by a significant drop in energy levels.
Replace these carbohydrates with "low glycemic index" carbohydrates, like apples, blueberries, yogurt, dark vegetables, beans, and legumes. These will provide a long term source of energy that doesn't include a high release of insulin.
Understand that even if you're not an athlete, and just a very active individual, you can't use this an excuse to beat up your body with constantly unstable blood sugar levels. This places unnecessary stress on the pancreas, liver, and digestive organs, putting you at risk for insulin-resistant diabetes and poor weight management, as well as providing low-grade fuel for training. Your body simply does not operate as well when forced to process these sugars as energy.
Are you at a plateau? Have you suddenly stopped losing weight? Have your runs or training sessions suddenly become stale or slow? Then ask yourself if you have a synergestic balance of all three components necessary for physical success - smart exercise, proper nutrition, and a wellness-focused lifestyle. For some of us, this may mean changing our sleep-wake cycles. For others, this may mean altering our perception of how the body utilizes items like energy bars and granola. My job as a trainer and coach is to identify synergestic imbalances. Let me know if I can help you.