Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Nutrition Reminders for Steelhead (or Any Like-Distance Endurance Event)

By Tri-Cajun

I've been reading through Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Fourth Edition for some pointers for my upcoming race, The Whirlpool Steelhead Triathlon 70.3, which is this Saturday. I came across some good information and wanted to share it.

Fueling Before Exercise

*Fueling before the event actually starts days before the event. Be sure to eat adequate high-carbohydrate meals to fuel your muscles so they'll be ready for action. Snacks eaten only within an hour before exercise primarily maintain your blood sugar and don't significantly replenish glycogen stores.

*Your pre-exercise snack should contain a little protein and a little fat for sustained energy. Try a poached egg on toast, a bagel with peanut butter, or some oatmeal made with low-fat milk.

*Limit high-fat foods right before the event because they take longer to empty from the stomach and may cause nausea.

*Allow adequate time for digestion. You should allow about an hour for a small snack to digest.

*If you know you'll be nervous and unable to tolerate any food before an event, be sure to eat well the day before. Have an extra large bedtime snack in lieu of breakfast.

*Drink plenty of fluids. Drink extra fluids the day before. The goal is to start the event with your body in water balance. Drink two-three glasses of fluid up to two hours before the event (so you can urinate off any excess before starting), and another one-two glasses five to ten minutes before the start.

Fueling During Exercise

*You should aim to consume about 120-240 calories (30 to 60g) of carbohydrate per hour while performing endurance exercise after the first hour.

*During a moderate to hard endurance workout, carbohydrates supply about 50 percent of the energy. As you deplete carbohydrates from muscle glycogen stores, you increasingly rely on blood sugar for energy. By consuming carbohydrates during exercise, your muscles have an added source of fuel.

*The goal of drinking during the event is to prevent excessive dehydration, as defined by more than two percent body weight loss from a water deficit. The recommended fluid replacer contains a little sodium to stimulate thirst, a little potassium to help replace sweat losses, and a little carbohydrate to provide energy.

*You can get a rough estimate of your hourly sweat loss rate by weighing yourself before and after an hour workout. This information would be helpful on race day to give you an idea of how much fluids you need to consume hourly.

*Keep in mind that too much sugar or food taken in at once can slow down the rate at which fluids leave the stomach, thereby delaying the availability of fluids for replacing sweat loss. Be more conservative with sugar-fixes during intense exercise in hot weather.

*Endurance athletes need to make a nutrition plan far in advance of the event and experiment during training to develop a list of several tried-and-true foods that taste good even when you are hot and tired.

Fueling After Exercise

*Muscles break down during a hard workout, but you can stop the breakdown mode by eating as soon as tolerable after the event. You'll be taking advantage of the 45-minute post exercise window of opportunity to optimally nourish, repair, and build muscles. Even as little as 100 calories within an hour of finishing can make a big difference in recovery.

*The recovery diet should include generous amounts of carbohydrates to replace muscles glycogen stores, and a little protein to enhance the process of building and repairing muscles, and reduce muscle soreness.

*A top priority after the event should be to replace the fluids you lost by sweating so that your body can get back into water balance. The goal during the event is to drink on a schedule and lose no more than two percent of your body weight (e.g. three pounds for a 150-pound person).

*Post exercise foods/meals are usually rich in electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, and more than replace electrolytes lost by sweating. Most people can recover with normal meals and plain water. Extreme endurance athletes and athletes who sweat excessively should be sure to sprinkle extra salt on their recovery foods/meals.