Nutrition Tips for Endurance Events
The amount of carbohydrates
The ideal for most athletes is around 8 g of carbs per kg of body weight, preferably slow-absorbing carbs (whole grains and their derivatives, vegetables and legumes) eaten at least three days before a competition. This strategy has already proven effective at fully replenishing glycogen reserves, delaying the onset of fatigue, and increasing performance.
The types of carbohydrates
Good sources of starch are important. This slow-absorbing carb can be found in foods such as bread (preferably wholemeal), pasta, rice, quinoa, and potatoes. The less processed the better: select whole-grain options (brown rice, wholemeal pasta, and oats) and tubers (such as sweet potatoes and cassava.) These foods have a low glycaemic index (which helps regulate body fat) and are a good source of fibre, vitamins, and minerals.
Other carbohydrates of choice should include fruit (bananas or apples), pulses, and some vegetables (such as beetroot.)
Carbs with a high glycaemic index
Save these for after your run/training session. These include isotonic drinks, energy gels, and energy bars.
Choosing a good hydration and recovery drink can help decrease fatigue levels, accelerate recovery, strengthen the immune system, and improve performance.
Any such drink must contain the mineral salts lost through sweat during exercise (sodium, magnesium, potassium, chloride) combined with fast-absorbing carbohydrates to stabilise your energy levels, delay fatigue, and spare your glycogen reserves.
Sample diet for an endurance race
Dinner the day before the race
– 200 to 300 g of carbohydrates (pasta or rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, fruit, etc.)
Dessert: jelly, and sweet rice or aletria [vermicelli-like pasta] pudding. Drink: natural fruit juice.
Breakfast – about 3 hours before the race starts
– 200 to 300 g of carbohydrates: porridge oats or Oats & Whey
– Coffee/tea (preferably without sugar)
45 minutes before the race
During the race:
Your blood glucose levels will decrease throughout the race, so it is recommended that you eat 1 g of fast-absorbing carbohydrates – isotonic drinks, gels, bars – per kg of body weight per hour. Regulating glycaemic levels is key to avoiding premature fatigue.
If you weigh 60 kg, you must eat 60 g of carbohydrates per hour.
Caffeine is recommended as it improves performance. Gels or energy bars w/ caffeine (Extreme Fluid Gel w/ caffeine and the Salt Bar) are a quick and practical way to top up on caffeine during a race. The recommended dose is at least 3 mg per kg of body weight.
If you prefer to only have caffeine before the race, you can take two doses of Pre-Workout Endurance or two capsules of Extreme Cut Explosion.
Amount of drink (water and/or Goldrink isotonic drink) – 500 to 1200 ml per hour depending on ambient temperature, humidity, and your body weight. Take small sips every 15 minutes, even if you are not thirsty.
After the race:
– 500 ml of Fast Recovery
– Fruit (example: bananas and/or apples)
Ideal: weigh yourself before and after training, and drink 1.5 l of water for each kg lost.
At least as much care must be taken after the race, as this will be key to your post-race recovery.
The following factors must be taken into account to prevent fatigue, muscle damage, dehydration and excessive cellular oxidation soon after finishing a race:
Step 1: Hydration
The main priority is hydration. As mentioned above, the aim is to drink 1.5 litres of water for every kilo of weight that is lost. The water must be moderately cool to lower your internal temperature slightly, and be drunk slowly.
It is important that you drink a beverage rich in carbohydrates with a high glycaemic index to efficiently replace the glycogen spent during exercise. Recovery drinks should contain at least one gram of sugar per kilo of body weight.
Step 2: Muscle regeneration
Requires the intake of a protein source that is rich in BCAAs (branched chain amino acids) and is preferably fast-absorbing. Whey protein is a notable example, and extremely important to recovery given its biocompatibility, as well as its high BCAA content.
Your intake should be at least 0.25 g of whey protein per kg of body weight. You can add some dried dates, raisins or dried apricots to your recovery drink for some extra potassium.
Ideally, your recovery drink should also contain several electrolytes such as sodium, magnesium, potassium, and chlorine. It is also important to include antioxidant nutrients, such as vitamin C, selenium, zinc, copper or bioflavonoids to combat the excessive production of free radicals following exercise.
Step 3: Respect the famous “metabolic window”
Between 45 to 60 minutes after physical exertion, our body’s capacity to replenish the glycogen spent during a race is four times larger. On the one hand, you must take into account that recovery requires nutrients reach your muscles, and on the other, that catabolites (cellular waste products) must be removed from your muscles. This is what makes the metabolic time window so important for replenishing nutrients, and ensuring your performance is not compromised over the following days.
Step 4: What to eat after 60 minutes
If a race does not end around lunch or dinner time, you can eat a slice of bread with jam, which significantly stimulates insulin production, a bowl of Muesli, or oatmeal with raisins. Avoid milk if you are lactose intolerant. Included bananas in your selection of post-race foods as it is rich in potassium and magnesium.
For protein, you can also have some cottage cheese or fresh mozzarella. If you prefer, you can still have a bar with between 15 to 20 g of Whey protein.