Half Marathon? Full Marathon? Ultramarathon training? The aim of this post is to give guidance on what the best plan of action might be to keep yourself properly fueled for your training needs. I hope you enjoy reading, please share this on social media if you can.
Foods are made up of carbohydrates, protein & fat. People who partake in a high level of exercise everyday or regularly should consume foods HIGH in Carbs. Other foods should be moderate in protein and LOW in fat. Another key nutrient that is a must for athletes is water. Being properly hydrated is vital for the best possible performance.
If you give your body Carbs to train on it will thank you, it is the best form of fuel for your body. Glycogen is the body’s storage form of carbohydrate. If muscle glycogen breakdown exceeds its replacement, glycogen stores become low. The result is fatigue (Hitting the wall) and will result in a reduced intensity of training/racing. In order to replenish and maintain glycogen stores, the athletes diet needs to be high in Carbs.
What amount of Carbs are needed?
Carbs should provide 60-70% of your total daily calories. To work out the amount that’s right for you, multiply your weight in kilograms by 7, or multiply your weight in pounds by 3.2 – this will give you the number of grams of carbs you should aim to consume everyday.
The highest carb foods are wholegrain foods such as, bread, rice, cereals and pasta, as well as, fruits, vegetables and lowfat dairy foods. Food labels tell you how many grams of total carbohydrate are in a serving of that food. Each day, an endurance athlete should aim to eat at least 15 servings of grain products, at least 6 servings of fruits and 6 servings of vegetables, and at least 5 servings of lowfat dairy foods.
1 serving of grain product, such as a slice of bread or 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta, and a serving of fruit, such as a piece of fruit or 3/4 cup fruit juice, each provides 15 grams carbohydrate
- 1 serving of dairy, such as 1 cup of lowfat milk or yogurt or 1.5 ounces of cheese provides 12 grams carbohydrate
- 1 serving of vegetables, such as 1 cup of leafy raw vegetables, 1/2 cup chopped vegetables, or 3/4 cup vegetable juice provides 5 grams carbohydrate.
Be aware that starchy vegetables such as peas and corn, as well as dried beans such as lentils or garbanzo beans provide greater amounts of carbohydrates, about 15-20 grams per 1/2 cup serving. These should be the food of choice as they make it easier to get your daily allowance in.
I hear Protein was important…..?
Protein is needed for muscle growth and repair. Regular physical training tends to reduce muscle protein breakdown and protein loss from the body. While some protein breakdown may occur during exercise, protein build-up is enhanced during the recovery and the effectiveness of protein synthesis is increased. When muscle glycogen stores are high, protein contributes no more than 5% of the energy needed. However, when muscle glycogen stores are low, due to inadequate calorie and carbohydrate intake, protein is used for energy rather than for muscle growth and repair and may contribute as much as 10% of the energy needed for exercise. Such use of protein for fuel is expensive and inefficient.
How much protein do I need to eat?
Endurance athletes need up to 50% more protein than sedentary adults. Protein should contribute 12-15% of total calories per day. To figure out the amount for you, multiply your weight in kilograms by 1.3, or multiply your weight in pounds by 0.6 to calculate the number of grams of protein you should consume per day.
Good sources of protein include lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products which contain all of the essential amino acids and thus are complete proteins. Other good protein sources are tofu, nuts and dried beans. As with carbohydrates, food labels tell you how many grams of protein are in a serving. An endurance athlete should consume 3-5 servings per day. One serving of lean meat, fish or poultry is 3 ounces, roughly the size of a deck of playing cards.
- a 3 ounce serving of lean meat, poultry or fish, e.g. 1 medium pork chop, 1 small hamburger, 1/2 of a whole chicken breast, or a small fish fillet provides 21 grams of protein
- a 1/2 cup of cooked beans, 1 ounce of cheese, 1 egg, 2 egg whites, 4 ounces of tofu or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter each provides 7 grams of protein
- one cup of lowfat milk or yogurt provides 8 grams of protein
- one serving of grain products (preferably whole grain) such as a slice of whole wheat bread provides 3 grams of protein
What are the consequences of eating a high protein diet?
When an athlete eats more protein than he needs, he either burns it for energy, or stores it as fat. Carbohydrates are a more efficient and less expensive source of energy. In addition, consuming too much protein increases the body’s water requirement and may contribute to dehydration, because the kidneys require more water to eliminate the excess nitrogen load of a high protein intake. Also, a high protein, high fat diet after heavy training will cause incomplete replacement of muscle glycogen and impair performance. Such a diet is hard to digest and may lead to feeling sluggish. A high carbohydrate diet, on the other hand, is easy to digest and quickly restores muscle glycogen.
How much fat can I eat?
Endurance athletes as well as all people should consume less than 30% of total calories from fat and less than 10% from saturated fat. If, as an athlete, you eat 3000 calories per day, less than 1000 of those calories should be from fat.
High-fat foods include chocolate, fried foods, ice cream, bacon, hot dogs, and cookies. Food labels tell you grams of fat and percentage of calories from fat per serving. Choose foods with less than 30% of calories from fat.
Will a high-fat diet impair my performance as an athlete?
Muscle glycogen is preferred over fat for fuel for high intensity exercise of long duration because fat breakdown cannot supply energy fast enough. In addition, fat takes longer to digest than carbohydrates and thus should be limited in pre-exercise meals.
While this is only a guide you should consult your Doctor before undertaking regular exercise and always before changing your diet dramatically.
Nothing is set in stone and I wouldnt worry about missing the odd day or two, you have to reward yourself for all that hard training sometimes!