As an endurance athlete you will have very specific nutritional demands, but are you maintaining a solid nutritional base layer to be a high performance HUMAN?
Nail these positive habits before you start introducing the specific demands of your training and you will function better, sleep better, have better congnitive function and more longevity in life, also perform and race better
Its absolutely true that you are what you eat!
So, what do we mean by nutrition?
This is your daily eating habits, such as breakfast, lunch dinner & snacks . Its also your fuelling before, during and after exercise, your daily hydration, training/racing hydration and the supplements you need beyond normal meals & eating habits.
The following pointers are some recommendations I picked up from one of Matt Dixons latest podcasts (who speaks a lot of sense btw!)
We are all human beings and care about life performance, which can be summarised as:
1. Your investment in your future self & and optimal quality of life
2. The here and now.
So lets focus on the here and now. Your eating choices today have an impact on the quality of life moving forwards, and it doesn't really matter if you are an athlete or not at this stage.
Is a business person’s challenge any different to an endurance athlete?
They are still focused onhigh-performance, they are ambitious, committed, have a lot of travel and responsibility. Work performance is still critical. Without good nutrition and stable energy, this can compromise cognitive function they won't be at their best.
No-one can perform their best consistently without a good balance of nutrition. I'm not talking about diets here, but setting up positive habits for life.
What habits should I embrace?
Here are a few key central habits under the banner of daily eating that you can do tomorrow that will help promote stable energy and the ability to show up with better cognitive function (not exluding the need for recovery, movement and strength training!)
1. Consume wholesome unprocessed foods as much as possible.
2. Commit to 9 servings per day of various servings of fruit & veg.
3. Consume ½ gram protein for every Ib body weight
4. Reduce sugar & minimise big white statchy carbohydrates
5. Finish your main meal 2-3 hours before bed
6. Introduce a fast (!) This might not be as radical as it sounds, partiocularly if you manage no5 above. From last meal of day to breatfast, its usually around 12-13 hours per day so there isn't really much restriction here
7. Consume protein following every exercise to stimulate muscle repair and cortisone.
Obviously there is plenty of room here to fit in your own lifestyle & preference specifics.
Manage your insulin
To stabilize and manage insulin outside of exercise we need to keep glucose levels stable and avoid spikes which can disrupt body composition management, sleep and cognitive function.
1. After eating a big meal, go for a walk immediately afterwards, esp at night 10-20 mins
2. Limit high sugar food & snacks outside of exercise window which will create and insulin response
3. Eat leafy greens & salads before main meal
4. Apparently apple cider vinegar has a stabilising effect on insulin too
and what about hydration?
1. Have 1ltr water as soon as you wake up because you are dehydrated & have lost approx 1ltr through the night
2. Have 2-3 ltr over the day
3. Add electrolytes to the water (possibly 250mg sodium tablet)
4. Enjoy coffee/tea but not after 12pm so that your sleep is not impacted. The half life of caffeine is about 8 hours....
5. Reduce alcohol consumption. It is, after all, a poison & disrupts performance in the days following.
6. Eliminate all sugary drinks & sodas from diet
The above is the athletes base layer (as for everyone) establish these first, particularly at this time of year when there are no other pressures of racing. Get this right, then you can build your more performance aspects related to sport.
The majority of endurance athletes tend to under consume calories in relation to their energy demands. Almost 70% athletes are at risk of RED-s (ie they don’t consume enough calories) adding additional stress to life and body, loss of tissue integrity and health, risk of injury, compromised immune system and energy management.
Baseline expectations and habits for athletes:
Here are some universal fundamental truths for athletes
Work on your midset using some helpful phrases and words;
Remove ‘diet’ and ‘race weight’ from your vocabulary. They have negative consequences unhealthy in the mindset of an athlete.
Don’t confuse 'healthy eating' with 'fuelling for training'. Whilst social media is loaded with gymtrim bodies showing off wonderfully colourful and nutritious veggie salads & lean proteins, these foods are your base layer and often don't fuel the body with enough calories!
As and endurance athlete you need to add to that lovely green base
Fuelling in general terms: if <60 or 90 mins you don’t require much additional fuelling to get through the sessions successfully.
BUT you will benefit from a post workout consumption of calories to help adaptions and repair. You need protein & carbohydrates to restock energy levels, lower cortisol levels, and feed the brain through the day. You also need this to provide your body with enough calories to support the training. The body is like a sponge post-workout, so make the most of it
Feed the engine!
Live by this phrase – it supports a good positive, strong, robust mindset.
Dial up the fuel as an endurance athlete – to support your training efforts, and set a path to a platform of health, better performance, stabilized energy and ultimately better results.
The more & more exercise + heavier training days/sessions you do, the more you will require additional carbohydrates. It doesn’t happen by accident and can’t be left to random. You need to work at getting this right by creating good habits right now.
Don't chase the diet; be stable & consistent, and your body composition will naturally improve.