Working to improve your nutrition habits early in the season can help set you up for better results down the road. Here are our top five behaviors to start with.
At Axes, we have a saying: “Today’s hydration happened yesterday; tomorrow’s hydration is happening today.” Even if you think you’re good at hydrating, it’s always best to pick a few days to track your intake just to be sure you’re getting enough. The typical recommendation of 64 ounces per day is only going to be enough for when you’re not sweating. Sweating, whether it’s from just standing outside in the middle of the summer or putting in a good workout, will cause your hydration needs to increase. It is always good to do a sweat test to find out what your sweat rate is (your coach can help you with this). Also, water is the best thing to drink to stay hydrated on a daily basis, but during longer training sessions and events, you may need something with some sugar (for fuel) and/or electrolytes.
#2 Eat your produce
Vegetables and fruit are the foods that are critical in meeting our needs for vitamins, minerals and fiber, and yet they are often not eaten in enough quantity to benefit our bodies. Endurance athletes should try for at least 5 half-cup servings daily, but more is usually necessary. It is also important to get a variety of colors of vegetables and fruit. Each different color brings with it a slightly different complement of nutrients. For instance, green vegetables are higher in calcium and folate, whereas red vegetables and fruits are a bit higher in vitamin A and vitamin C.
#3 Don’t fear carbohydrates
Eating healthy sources of carbohydrates in the appropriate portions for your body is not “fattening,” as many marketing fads may have you believe. In fact, it will help you to fuel your training and performance. Healthy sources include: fruit, legumes, whole grains, starchy vegetables, and low-fat milk and yogurt. Endurance athletes need 5-12 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight per day, depending on current training cycle, which translates to 340-815 grams per day for a 150-pound person. To give you an idea of how many grams are in food, a large banana has 30 grams, 1 cup of brown rice has 45 grams, and a cup of black beans has 41 grams.
#4 Don’t over-emphasize protein
Yes, protein is important, but not in quantities beyond what the body requires. Endurance athletes need 0.8-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, depending on current training cycle, which translates to 55-135 grams per day for a 150-pound person. To provide perspective, a 4-ounce cooked chicken breast has about 35 grams of protein. And don’t forget, you get a little protein from those whole grains you eat as well (a half-cup of quinoa has 4 grams). It’s important to note, however, there is a good deal of research that supports the practice of consuming about 20 grams of protein shortly after a long or otherwise intense training session (within 30 minutes).
#5 Be careful not to under-fuel
Many people begin training to get in shape and/or manage their weight. These are great goals! To do this in a healthy manner without compromising performance, however, you must be careful that you are getting enough calories to support your activity level. While it’s true that the only way to lose weight is to maintain a calorie deficit, too large a deficit or not fueling at the right times (post-workout for instance) could seriously compromise not only your performance, but also your health. Under-fueling could potentially lead to stress fractures, impaired healing, poor sleep, loss of sexual desire, and myriad other issues. It’s always a great idea to speak to a dietitian to be sure you’re getting the nutrition you need to support ALL of your goals.
Kathryn Adel, MS, RD, CSSD, LD
Kathryn Adel is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She holds degrees in both Kinesiology and Nutrition, as well as a Master’s degree in Sports Nutrition from Laval University in Canada. She is also an accomplished athlete, having run track and cross-country at a national level. She works extensively with athletes of all levels, helping them achieve optimal performance through personalized approaches. Kathryn is also trained to help endurance athletes who suffer from gastrointestinal symptoms during exercise. She is experienced with the Low FODMAP Diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and is certified by Monash University in Australia. Her extensive training and experience in Sports Nutrition, along with her personal experience as an endurance athlete, allows her to help athletes achieve peak performance.
Kathryn Adel: [email protected]
Janet Carter, MS, RD, LD, CPT, CLS, FNLA
Janet Carter is a registered dietitian with a Master’s degree in nutrition science from Boston University and over 20 years of experience. She is a clinical lipid specialist and Fellow of the National Lipid Association, a certified personal trainer and holds a certificate of training in pediatric and adult weight management. She is also a runner and triathlete, having completed 11 marathons, including Boston, and over 70 triathlons, including 2 Ironman finishes. Her knowledge of performance nutrition, coupled with her practical experience, allows her to help athletes of all ages achieve peak performance.
Janet Carter: [email protected]