If you're logging countless miles and hours endurance training, your body can't perform on sub-par nutrition. Endurance athletes have unique nutritional needs, and the foods they eat should meet three main goals:
1. Provide calories needed for exercise
2. Restore glycogen -the storage form of glucose that allows you to exercise tomorrow, too
3. Repair lean body mass to increase muscle size and strength
Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for endurance athletes, especially in the form of glycogen; therefore, it's important to consume a carbohydrate-rich diet, about 60-70% of total calories. To figure out your needs:
Weight in pounds x 3.2 = grams of carbohydrates per day
Protein isn't easily utilized for energy, but it's vital for muscle growth and repair. It also helps keep hunger pangs at bay during exercise. Aim for 12 - 15% of total calories from protein. To figure your needs:
Weight in pounds x 0.6 = grams of protein per day
Fat is vital for endurance athletes for three reasons: provide essential fatty acids, aid in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, K) and meet energy needs. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids also have anti-inflammatory properties needed for recovering muscles. Fat should comprise about 30% of total calories, but the type of fat may be more important than how much. Look for unsaturated fatty acids like oils, nuts, fish and avocados.
Glycemic Index: measure of how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a certain food. High glycemic foods cause blood sugars to rise very quickly, whereas low glycemic foods cause blood sugar levels to rise more slowly.
Peak performance starts before you even exercise. Pre-exercise meals should
* Prevent hunger before or during exercise
* Maintain steady energy throughout exercise
Meals three to four hours before exercise need to supply your body with energy from carbohydrates and also protein, which helps deliver slow and steady energy to the muscles.
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