One of the toughest things about endurance events is fueling for it. So, I’ve explored, and come up with, a few helpful little bits of information on how to prepare your body with the right fuel for those long slogs!
Discount the Fat Fad
The biggest fuel supply we have is virtually unlimited amount of fat we can carry on our body- but it’s not the preferred fuel source for exercise. Fat is slow to convert into usable energy for muscle contraction. It’s used more during lower intensity exercise like walking, and used least at high intensity exercise where carbs are preferred. It’s currently popular with low carb diets to push for “fat adaptation”, however this needs to be used with caution. Fat adaptation will affect training performance if used all the time by reducing your capacity to consistently train at a higher intensity. Fasted training may work well for longer, slower sessions, but not during sprint or intervals. You will miss the performance adaptations that explosive intense training provides.
Metabolic Flexibility Is Key
Metabolic flexibility means being able to be a good fat burner as well as a good carb burner. You can create this by periodising your nutrition to compliment your forever changing training. Train low carbs for a few weeks during the off season or fasted during select training sessions to gain the benefits of improved fat metabolism. Keep in mind that it is imperative that on competition days you fuel your body with enough carbs to allow you to perform at your personal best.
Glycogen and Glucose
We have a 2 hour supply of glycogen, the carb stored in your muscles and the liver. Glycogen stores are larger in the muscles that are used during training, which is part of training adaptation. During very intense activities you use most largely muscle glycogen. In smaller amounts, we also have pure glucose in the bloodstream, which is commonly referred to as “blood sugar”. Blood glucose is maintained at a level of 5.6mmol/l (a measurement of a chemical substance that equals the number of atoms in 12 grams of carbon) in healthy individuals. Any excess from our food intake is absorbed from the blood into the muscles to store in the form of glycogen. During exercise if your blood sugar levels dip below 5.6 you start to feel hungry, a little dizzy and/or light headed. At that stage you know it’s time to eat!
Prepare your Meals
Choose slow releasing carbs to form the base of your meals to help stabilise energy levels and replenish glycogen stores. These include legumes, wholemeal bread, basmati rice, pasta, sweet potato, quinoa or fruit. Faster releasing carbs are more appropriate for snacks just before heavy training sets for competition. Use high GI carbs like rice crackers, potatoes, sports drinks and gels. Although sport is important, general health is equally important. Including lean protein foods will help with muscle recovery after strenuous sessions, and of course always eat your veggies!