Whether you’re a runner, a cyclist or a Triathlete you’re an Endurance Athlete.
One of the most frequently asked questions is what to eat pre, during and post training?
Let’s discuss this one by one.
Pre-Training Nutrition for Endurance Athletes
Most of the training done by us recreational runners is done early in the morning. Especially for those who live in a HOT climate like ours. So for us, the pre-training nutrition starts from dinner the night before.
Prefer having an early dinner which gives at least an 8-hour window till the workout.
Have light and easy to digest food ( complex carbs & small portion of protein)
So what to have before we step out for a workout.
I personally prefer going out for my training on an empty stomach. But that is not something that I would recommend to beginners or those who are just starting on this journey. It is best to have something very light on the stomach at least 15-20 minutes before you start your workout. Eg. Banana or a bowl of porridge.
If it is a race, you can have a gel 15-20 minutes before your event flag off. ( Again I personally don’t do this)
The overarching idea is to ensure that the body focuses on preparing for the activity that is planned rather than focusing on digesting the food in the stomach.
During the Training Nutrition for Endurance Athletes
While performing the exercise activity the muscles are working hard and are burning calories to fuel the workout. This is happening at a rapid rate and after a certain point, the stock of ready to use energy ( called glycogen) starts depleting. Normally this happens about 60 mins to 90 mins range ( depends on how well the body is trained and the intensity of workout).
In addition to the above, the body is losing a lot of fluids as perspiration as it tries to keep itself cool (quite literally let off the steam). Along with the fluids, the perspiration, you body also loses salt.
So, it is imperative that we have an external supply of nutrition, fluids and salts to ensure that the intensity of the activity is maintained. What can we have?
Nutrition that can be quickly digested ( even while moving) and supply energy quickly. Example – Nutrition gels, banana, orange, watermelon etc
Typically the nutrition taken during the activity are sources of simple carbs.
Fat and Protein-based food items are difficult to digest and may cause distress. So, I recommend beginners not to have peanuts, snickers etc in a race( unless they have been trying it in training and have found that their body is able to digest such food items).
Electrolyte solutions are a must as they replenish the salt levels in the body. Drinking plain water on long runs/rides can actually be detrimental.
Always have electrolyte mixed drink or at least add a mix of black salt, pink salt and table salt to your water bottle.
The big question is how much of these should one be having? Let’s see
While doing the activity, your body has the capacity to digest about 120-150 calories per hour. To give you context, a medium-sized banana is about 70 calories and a gel is 100 calories.
Fluids – This depends on the weather condition and the sweat rate ( amount of sweat you produce per hour). I recommend a minimum of 300 ml per hour and it can go up to 800 ml per hour of fluids. Like I said before, it depends on a lot of factors.
Post Training Nutrition For Endurance Athletes
You’ve put in a hard workout. A long Sunday run or a century ride. Now is the best time to get home and pounce on that ice cream / cake !!!
You’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re training hard and not providing the right food for the body to recover.
So what should you be having?
Your muscles have worked hard and they need some recovery food. Your body has depleted the glycogen storage and that needs replenishment too.
So the best combination is to have a 4:1 carbohydrate: protein ratio meal after the workout.
What does that look like?
Bread and Eggs
Mixed boiled sprouts
Bread and Beans
Poha and Chana
The protein will help in muscle recovery and the carbohydrates will replenish the glycogen stores.
Drink more electrolyte fluid after the workout too ( especially if your pee is dark and thick ). You may have tender coconut water too as that is an amazing natural source of electrolyte.
The body is an instrument of performance. In addition to training, it needs proper nutrition to recover and perform better than it did earlier. So treat it well and keep it healthy.
Stay Healthy and Stay Safe!