WHAT TO EAT FOR ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
Each week we build our mileage with a LSD (Long Slow Distance) run when training for a race. In addition to improving cardiovascular function and building mental confidence, the LSD teaches your body to use glycogen stores more effectively by forcing adaptations as your glycogen levels become low.
In addition to this training adaption, you can improve your performance by eating plenty of carbohydrates. Carbs are the preferred source of energy for the muscles and brain. They become glucose during digestion which can be stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. The larger the glycogen stores before exercise, the longer and harder an athlete can train without needing more glucose from food/beverages. Muscle glycogen stores take 24-36 hours to replenish, so consistently eating a high carb diet is critical for fueling your workouts. Liver stores supply an immediate source of glucose to the brain to keeps athlete’s from “bonking”. Avoid this fatigue by ingesting carbs when exercising longer than 60 minutes.
TYPICAL RUNNER’S DIET
66 % of calories from carbohydrates (whole grains, pasta, bread, potatoes, fruits and veggies)
22 % calories from heart-healthy fat sources (oils, avocados, nuts)
12 % calories from protein (fish, meat, chicken, beans, dairy)
Within 30 minutes of completing a hard workout, refuel with a low-fat snack containing carbs and protein at a 4 to 1 ratio to replenish your glycogen stores so you can be ready for your next workout (toast and peanut butter, yogurt, chocolate milk).
THREE DAYS BEFORE A RACE – Increase consumption of carbohydrates. Maintain the same number of calories, just shift some of your protein and fat calories to carbs.
THE NIGHT BEFORE A RACE – Don’t experiment. Stick with familiar foods that have worked during training. Race night is traditionally carbo-loading time. This is simply getting the majority of your calories from easy-to-digest carbohydrates (pasta party!)
CHOOSE NUTRIENT RICH FOODS!
PROTEIN, FAT & FIBER – Have your whole grains, fiber-rich fruits and veggies as staples on most days. These are a healthy and necessary part of an athlete’s diet. Lean protein and healthy fats are also important for building and maintaining muscle; however, try to load up on these foods throughout the week rather than the night before a long run or race to avoid GI problems. Simple carbohydrates will give your muscles the glucose they need for immediate performance!
RACE DAY SUGGESTIONS
BEFORE: simple carbohydrates, “things a baby can eat”: white bread, rice, cereal, banana.
DURING: sports drinks, performance gels, gummy candies, pretzels.
AFTER: recovery drink, non-fat chocolate milk, energy bar, turkey sandwich.
SEE WHAT WORKS FOR YOU – TRY IT ON LSD DAYS!