2/22/16

A well-fueled body on the weekend


It takes a lot of food to fuel an endurance athlete.
But not every food is well tolerated before and after a long workout.

I'm constantly aware of the food that I eat around long workouts for two reasons.
First off, food is my fuel. I do not use food as reward or to control emotions. Seeing that long distance training is very stressful on the human body, I do not want to self-sabotage myself by under on my longest workout days nor do I want to throw away a great workout by eating (or not eating) food that will not help me recover and refuel. 

Secondly, I know what foods work and do not work for my body.  This has little to do with body image and a lot to do with performance.
Ironically, my body stays in good health, despite not counting calories, eating carbohydrates at every meal, every day of the week, using sport nutrition during workouts, eating before all workouts and not having a "bad" food list.
This isn't because I'm lucky, this is because I understand exercise physiology, nutrient timing and sport nutrition.

The"diet" that I follow around my workouts is my style of eating that is guided by a focus to ensure that my body performs well when I need it to perform well and recovers and refuels adequately so I can repeat the training stress the next day.
There are no food rules for how I eat but you better believe that I am going to eat the foods that work best for my body when I ask my body to train.
When I eat well, I perform well and this keeps my body in great health.
If I didn't eat well around my workouts, either my health or performance would decline.
Typically, it's one before the other but often, both decline overtime. 


I find that many athletes get confused when they hear a pro or elite athlete say "I don't eat x" before or after a workout or race. This statement doesn't mean that x food isn't "allowed" at other times in the day or this is a "bad" food.

When you are performance focused, you are going to prioritize foods that help you improve performance. If you focus on body image or something aside from performance when making food choices, it's very difficult to ask your body to perform (go harder or longer) without adequate energy and nutrients in a restrictive diet.

The issue of not fueling properly before, during and after long workouts is very common for the fitness enthusiast turned athlete who doesn't understand the great metabolic stress of going long, the athlete who struggles with an unhealthy relationship with food or the body or a chronic dieter who is training for an endurance event. 
These athletes have built a diet from healthy vs unhealthy, good vs bad foods and haven't learned or accepted that some foods that may not be "healthy" throughout the week or on lower volume/intensity workout days, but are actually best consumed before/after workouts for performance benefits....and actually keep the body healthy because metabolic needs are met.
 
And as far as those "healthy" foods that we should be eating every day, well I eat a salad every day for lunch but I do not eat my normal fiber-rich salads on the weekend, when training long.
I am not going to refuel with a salad after a 4 hour bike ride and 2 mile brick run but this doesn't mean that I have freedom to eat whatever I want or I don't eat veggies on the weekend.

As I said before, I know what works and doesn't work for a body that is training long. I have a different diet on the weekend and it's not built on "reward" food or "bad" food but instead, food designed to fuel, refuel, recover, repair and nourish.
And I never feel deprived, with an empty pit in my stomach or suffer from extreme food cravings when training long on the weekends.

I'm sure you have a list of foods that are best enjoyed on long weekends but my hope is that these foods are not for "reward" because you earned it or because you can "burn off those calories." I also hope that you are not strict with your diet because you want to lose weight through long distance training and intentionally underfuel.

I encourage you to create two different diets, with foods during the week helping to keep you satisfied, nourished, fueled and to control blood sugar and then on the weekend, to help you adapt well to longer training stress, in order to postpone fatigue and to recover the damage that is done from long distance training.
 
Be mindful that some foods will not work well before and after your short and long workouts and this is ok. It's actually very good if you can recognize this as you will create a diet that works for you and your body.

Be respectful to your body and always have a great relationship with food, especially when going long.
You can only maximize performance if you have a well-fueled AND healthy body.

Here are some of the foods that we enjoyed over the past two weekends of long training:

Fresh rustic farmer's bread, grilled cheese sandwich with mozzarella, sliced tomato and arugula. 


Tomato soup packed with sauteed veggies, beans and boiled potatoes (pretty much a bunch of leftovers added to homemade tomato soup)

Egg and veggie scramble - plenty of leftovers for two long workout recovery meals

Veggie and egg scramble with fresh rye bread and oranges

Yogurt w/ berries and oranges (this is an older picture but I eat at least a cup of Greek 0% plain yogurt every day)

Cottage cheese (2% Daisy brand) with a spoonful of fig preserves


Homemade grilled pizza made with Publix pizza dough (aka "salad" on bread)
Homemade crepes made by chef Karel (think thin pancakes with lots of surface area for topping)

Baked sweet potatoes with cinnamon and honey (served with 2% Daisy Cottage Cheese, not pictured)



Mashed cauliflower and sautéed onions and garlic, baked sweet potatoes, cooked tofu and a romaine and arugula salad with pecans, orange slices and avocado.


And in addition to all this delicious food, I still eat before ALL workouts and use sport nutrition during any workout over 75 minutes (or intense workout less than 75 minutes).

Don't destroy your body and health with excessive exercising and poorly planned eating.  

Just imagine what you can do with a well-fueled and healthy body......