Most fitness women are used to doing plenty of endurance training or cardio activity. Cardio is an important part of any fitness program—from general fit living to sports training. If you are looking to train for an endurance race of some sort, you will log many more hours doing cardio activity than the average physique competitor or fitness enthusiast. To protect your hard-earned muscle and fuel these conditioning sessions, you will need a lot more calories. Consider the following nutrition tips, if you are training for an endurance race:
Complex and Simple Carbs: Endurance training requires a lot of carbohydrates to keep you going. In fact, carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for endurance training. Those carbohydrates are stored in the muscles as glycogen. If muscle glycogen is used up faster than it is replaced, glycogen stores will become depleted, and as a result fatigue and the inability to maintain intensity will start to subside. Unlike a typical fitness diet that is generally lower in carbohydrates, an endurance athlete’s diet should be rich in carbohydrates to maintain muscle glycogen levels.
Depending on your training needs, carbohydrates should provide 50% to 60% of your total calories and as high as 70% as you get closer to a race. Eat carbohydrates first thing in the morning, prior to a workout, during a workout and immediately after your workouts. This will help ensure that you have sufficient energy for training, glycogen stores are refilled to hasten recovery and your body is ready for your next training session.
The majority of your carbohydrates should come from complex carbohydrates like oatmeal, brown rice and whole grains. Have simple carbohydrates during and after your workouts, as they will refuel your glycogen fast and help keep your energy levels stocked and stable.
Eat Fat: Fat packs a lot of calories at 9 calories per gram and is a great nutrient to keep your body performing at a high level. Fats help protect joints and drive important hormonal pathways that lead to muscle growth and aid in recovery and repair.
Fat cannot be broken down quickly to supply energy fast enough during intense conditioning training, so it isn’t ideal during and post training. It can actually slow down the digestion of other foods including carbohydrates. Healthy fats like the ones found in almonds, walnuts, fish and avocados should be included as part of a healthy diet. Endurance athletes can aim for about 20% to 30% of daily calories to come from fat.
Eat Less Protein: When it comes to protein and endurance training, less is actually ok! You should eat enough to help maintain your muscle mass, but it is not necessary to have a ton of protein. Endurance training really relies on carbohydrates to fuel the energy systems used to power your aerobic metabolism. So, if you are planning on tackling a race, calories from protein need only be around 20% to 30% of total calories, depending on your specific needs. Eat protein that is lean, but don’t be afraid to occasionally eat protein that is higher in fat, like lean red meat or fatty fish like salmon.
Don’t Forget the Supplements: In addition to a good diet and the right training program, you should also consider using a few good supplements to maintain muscle and keep your endurance going. Consider beta-alanine for workout endurance and to reduce fatigue while training. A serving of 1.6 g to 3.2 g of beta-alanine is sufficient for endurance. If you are looking for more energy, try caffeine. It has been shown to help improve performance by keeping the energy pathways stimulated. A dose of 200 mg prior to workouts is a sufficient amount for energy. You can also use creatine and BCAAs to help maintain lean muscle and glutamine to help fuel recovery after your workouts. A maintenance dose of 5 g of each creatine and BCAA in a 2:1:1 ratio of Leucine, Isovaline and Valine is sufficient for endurance workouts.