-At the beginning of exercise, your body uses carbs at a very high rate since fat metabolism can not keep up up with producing ATP (energy) fast enough, so early in a workout. Carbs are quick energy makers but we know that utilizing fat for fuel can be a sustainable energy source so long as the intensity and duration are reasonable.
(This is why a warm-up is very important before you begin your actual workout to help lower your HR and taking short walk breaks frequently in the first 2-3 miles of a long run or race. To help your body metabolize the right fuels for your workout, wait around 10-15 minutes into your workout/race to start fueling (ex. on the bike and on the run but do not wait any longer than 20 minutes to ensure that your body receives the fuel it needs to help last the duration of your race/workout).
But did you know that carbs are a rate limiting fuel? In order to continue to burn fat for fuel, you need carbohydrates during your workouts even when you are working out at a low intensity but for more than 1 hour. Consuming carbs (30-60g per hour, in 10-15 min intervals with fluids) during workouts can help keep blood sugar elevated and favors carbohydrate use when you need it.
Bottom line: Exercising for fat burning purposes is different than exercising for optimal performance.
Do not sabotage a workout by underfueling/underhydrating. You can still burn and use fat even when you consume carbohydrates (ex. sport drinks/gels) during a workout.
-As an endurance athlete, you place a tremendous amount of intentional stress on your body in order to meet your fitness goals by race day. Therefore, it is important to have an appropriately planned diet to support your athletic development.
Any diet that is restrictive (e.g. paleo, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free) or lacking in variety (e.g. you rely on fast food, you don’t like to cook, etc.) may demonstrate potential nutritional deficiencies. Thus, all endurance athletes should consider working with a dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition, especially if desiring to make dietary modifications/swaps.
For any athlete who is seeking a change in the diet, be mindful that if there are underlying dietary clinical issues (e.g. IBS, food allergies, gluten intolerance/sensitivity, Hashimoto’s, PCOS, etc.) those should be considered first in an effort to create the most balanced, varied diet possible.
As a guideline or starting point, a balanced diet for your endurance body should include around 25-30% daily calories from fat, around 3-10g/kg body weight from carbohydrates, and around 1.2-1.8 g/kg body weight of protein per day.
There are many apprehensions by athletes, coaches, and outsiders who question the athletic potential (or lack thereof) of vegetarian endurance athletes. Within a restrictive diet, there will always be concerns for nutritional deficiencies so it would appear that vegetarians are undoubtedly lacking key nutrients by not eating animal protein.
There are often concerns of anemia or iron deficiency, inadequate consumption of quality dietary protein, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, and B12 and an alleged inability to eat “enough” calories/energy from plants. But, let’s not pick too hard on vegetarians. Remember that an under-fueled and undernourished athlete will always under-perform.
So, if you have recently made an extreme change in your diet or adhere to a restrictive style of eating, it doesn’t matter if you call yourself a vegetarian or where you get your protein (animal or from the earth), because ALL endurance athletes must provide the body with a variety of vitamins and minerals in order to meet the demands of your training regime.
-If you are an endurance athlete, be mindful that nutrition plays a key role in promoting the necessary adaptations that take place in response to intentional training stress and can help us maintain the energy we need, with a healthy body, throughout a given season.
Unlike high-intensity training, where fatigue is associated with a rapid decrease in the intracellular concentrations of creatine phosphate (CP) or marked acidosis within the muscle cells, there is a strong metabolic component to fatigue in endurance sports.
Although appropriate pacing, a well designed training plan, exceptional mental strength and ability to train/race in the heat contribute to great race day performances, keep in mind that any intentional change in your daily or sport nutrition fueling regime should allow for better performances. An underfueled athlete will always underperform.
The human body is an amazing machine - but every body is different. Do not assume that the nutrition intervention for one athlete is going to be the necessary nutrition intervention for you.
If you have a clear nutrition-related limiter as to why you are not improving your performance, you should be addressing that area as top priority. Never let anyone convince you that there is only one "best" way to eat, fuel and re-fuel as an endurance athlete, especially if that someone is not a trained/qualified professional in the area of sport nutrition/exercise physiology.
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