Fueling Up for Endurance Activity
Your daily nutrition is by far the most important consideration in supporting your endurance training. After all, food is fuel. Here's what to do:
- Aim to eat well at least 80% of the time (80-20 Rule) and emphasize a variety of different foods.
- Eat three meals a day with the largest portion being vegetables or fruit but also ensure you add some lean protein. A minimum of three of the four food groups is ideal. This ensures you get adequate protein and enough carbohydrate to fuel your muscles and brain.
- Keep fat intake low: a) don't eat a lot of foods that grease actually drips out of, b) limit foods that leave grease on your fingers and c) limit foods that you see grease glistening in. Emphasize good fats like olive oil, flax, or fish oil and nuts.
- Eat two or three healthy snacks each day.
- Stay well hydrated. Drink water with all meals and snacks, anything sweet or salty and in a 1:1 ratio with caffeine, alcohol or pop. You'll know when you are well hydrated when you go pee every 1-2 hours during the day and your urine is clear or pale in colour.
- Consider a basic vitamin supplement, but don't rely on it as insurance!
- Show up adequately hydrated.Aim for at least 1 cup of water before activity.
- Eat a smart dinner the night before – lots of vegetables, grains and some lean protein – for example:
– Vegetable-tofu stirfry over brown rice
– Vegetable-laden sauce with 3-4 oz chicken over pasta
– Bean and vegetable soup with bread
– Fish, vegetables and rice
- Have a high carbohydrate evening snack, especially if you can't eat breakfast. Some examples: fruit, bagel with jam, popcorn, cinnamon toast.
The Morning of the Activity
- Aim for a breakfast with mostly carbohydrate but also a bit of protein for staying power. Keep this meal low in fat and moderate in fibre. The more time you allow between eating and exercise, the larger quantity you can eat.
During the Activity
- Staying hydrated is the most important factor. Ideally drink about 1/3 cup water every 15-20 minutes. Carry water with you! Don't rely on your thirst mechanism to tell you when to drink. It is not reliable during exercise. If water doesn't cut it, use a sports drink or eat part of an energy bar to keep energy up.
- Some good examples if you have 1 hour or less: a shake made with soft tofu, juice and banana, a fruit and yogurt shake, juice and banana, an energy bar or cereal, blueberries and milk. If you have 2 hours or more: ½ bagel with peanut butter and banana, an egg with 2 pieces brown toast and a piece of fruit, a large bowl of oatmeal with nuts and dried fruit or 2 pancakes with fruit and other fixings.
Recovery Eating After a Long Workout
- Drink at least another 2-4 cups of water
- Eat or drink carbohydrate foods within the first 30 minutes of finishing – e.g. fruit, vegetable, yogurt, bagel, cereal and milk.
- Continue to eat every 2-4 hours
- If you drink caffeine, alcohol or pop, drink extra water.
Patricia Chuey MSc., RD is a dietitian/sport nutritionist. She is employed as the Manager of Nutrition Affairs for Save-On-Foods (see saveonfoods.com) and also operates the consulting firm patriciachuey.com.
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