Nutrition: how to fuel your training
Nutrition. It’s an important part of everyday life – fuelling our bodies in the right way to enable us to thrive is something we do naturally. Maybe not always in the right way. But when training brings additional demands and stress, it’s essential that we pay closer attention to our needs.
For endurance athletes, carbohydrates are key. They are converted into a fuel source called glycogen which is stored in your liver and muscles and is essential for generating muscle contraction. Marathon runners often refer to glycogen loss as ‘hitting the wall’ – this is when all the energy stored has been burned up and your muscles simply stop working.
On a less active day, carbohydrates should make up around 40-50% of your intake. On training days, you should expect to see these numbers skew towards 70% carbs. Here’s our lowdown on how to fuel those long runs effectively:
Prior to a training session, try to consume a range of carbs which sit easily on the stomach. This is the perfect time for light meals which are packed with energy, such as sushi or a pasta dish with white meat or fish. These will provide you with enough glucose without making you feel too full. Foods with too much fibre at this stage have the potential to leave you with a lot of undigested food in your GI tract, which could be a disaster for overall performance. Keep it light and energised!
Depending on how long you’re running for, you may need a carbohydrate source like gels, fruit or sweets. If your session is only going to last 60 minutes or so, you shouldn’t really need anything more than liquid and maybe some electrolytes if it’s hot or you tend to sweat a lot.
According to the International Society for Sports Nutrition, the amount of carbohydrates you may need during exercise are as follows:
- Up to 1 hour = Zero
- 1 – 3 hours = 30 – 60g per hour
- 3+ hours = 60 – 90g per hour
Aim to consume sugary foods with a high glucose concentration during this time. Gels are ideal, but some people don’t get on with them and prefer more natural foods like dates. Everybody is different – experiment and see what works for you. It’s important to not wait until you’re almost at the point of hitting that wall. Keep drip feeding those carbs every 30 – 60 minutes.
Many events will have a nutrition sponsor, so give the brand a go during your training to see how you get on with it. Remember: never try anything new on race day!
After your session, the calories you’ve used should be replaced, ideally with quality carbohydrates and whole foods – although, after a 1,000 Calorie training session, some Belgian waffles aren’t the worst thing in the world!
It goes without saying that staying properly hydrated should be a priority for anyone, even more so if you’re taking part in a sport or physical activity. A rough figure to aim for is 24ml per kilogram of body weight during rest, with an additional 750 – 1000ml per hour of sport. Including Awesome Electrolytes with or without carbs to your liquid intake during training can dramatically improve absorption rates and allow you to stay hydrates with less liquid – meaning fewer pit stops during a longer run.