Summarized from "Core Performance: Endurance" by Mark Verstegen and Pete Williams.
We talk so much about training and miles but we also need to focus on eating properly. There is no way to improve our athletic performance unless we recognize that eating properly is half of the formula. Without proper nutrition, we will not have the fuel we need for each training session, nor will we give our bodies the ability to recover properly.
Most of us fall into 2 categories...we fear food because it will make us gain weight or we exercise for the purpose of eating. Neither of these work well for endurance athletes so below are 5 key nutritional points.
Endurance athletes should be consuming 2-4 grams of carbs per pound of body weight per day. An easy rule is to include a fist-size portion of carbs at most meals.
Carbs are our primary source of food, they provide energy for muscle function and act as the primary fuel for our brain. When we eat the perfect amount, they are stored in our liver and muscle for future energy. But when we eat to little we run out of fuel (energy) and when we eat to many they are converted to sugar and stored as fat. Most importantly we should be avoiding processed carbs such as white bread, pastas and baked goods. Processed carbs provide little nutritional value and are converted quickly to sugar and stored as fat. We should eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, whole-wheat pastas, whole-wheat cous-cous and brown rice.
Endurance athletes should be consuming .6-.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. A portion of lean meat about the size of a deck of cards has about 35 grams of protein.
Protein builds, maintains and restores muscle. If protein is not consumed with enough carbs to give the body the energy it needs it will be used as energy, which is inefficient and ineffective. It should be included in every meal to help stabilize energy levels and rev up your metabolism.
Low-fat dairy products and lean meat are great sources of protein. It's been said that the less legs something has the better the ratio of protein to healthy fat. For example, fish have no legs and are very healthy. Squirrels have 4 legs and are NOT very healthy. :)
1 cup of milk has 8 grams, 4 oz of chicken has 35 grams, 6 oz of salmon has 40 grams, 1 egg has 6 grams (3 in the white).
** For those following a vegetarian or vegan diet, visit www.vrg.org/nutrition/protein.htm#table2
We all need some fat. Good fat provides powerful nutrients for cellular repair of the joints. These good fats can be found in olive oil, fish oil, flaxseed oil and nuts. The rule here is to avoid foods that have the words "hydrogenated" or "fractioned" in the first 4 ingredients.
4. EAT EARLY, OFTEN & BALANCED
Try forgetting 3 square meals each day and try 6 small meals per day. First and foremost, do not skip breakfast as this is your fuel for the rest of the day. We recommend 3 moderate meals and 3 small snacks.
Metabolism is like a fire, which is in constant need of fuel. If you let a fire go to long without adding wood, it would smolder and die out. Metabolism is much the same. Each time you eat, you crank up your metabolism and burn calories to digest the food. If we don't eat often the body will eat its most readily available substance which contrary to popular belief is not fat...it's muscle.
Keep the meals and snacks balanced. Your meals should be full of colorful vegetables, have a fist size portion of unprocessed carbs and a deck of card size portion of lean meat.
Endurance athletes should be consuming 1/2 - 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight per day.
There is no simpler way to maintain and improve your performance than proper hydration. Minor dehydration impairs concentration, coordination, reaction time and reduces stamina. It's said that dehydration of just 3% causes a 10% loss in strength and an 8% loss in speed.
When training over an hour or in very hot conditions it is important to drink something with glucose, sodium and potassium like Gatorade. Salty sweaters (those who end up with a white film after your workout) will need higher concentrations, which can be found in drinks like Gatorade Endurance. These drinks should only be used when training and not as a replacement for water during the day.