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Recently, I gave a sports nutrition talk to a local triathlon club. As an ice breaker, I started by asking a few basic questions to gauge their knowledge about proper hydration while training. Their answers and misconceptions mirrored those that I have heard from hundreds of athletes over the past three decades. Athletes, specifically runners, when asked about their hydration practices, most frequently respond by saying such things as, “I don’t need to hydrate while running, and will drink after my workout.”

Other athletes have no hydration plan at all, saying such things as “If I become thirsty, I will stop and sip from a water fountain along the route.” While others will make excuses about why they don’t drink while training, including not willing to carry fluids and sport drinks hurt their stomachs or make them nauseous.

Trust me, I have heard every excuse why athletes do not hydrate during their workouts. 

I get it, carrying fluids during a run can be inconvenient, heavy, cumbersome, and another detail to consider before heading out for a run.

However, a significant loss of body fluids, known as dehydration, can be detrimental to your running performance. Athletes have a healthy fear of the proverbial ‘hitting the wall’ or ‘bonking’ hence they will prioritize nutrition, including gels or another sports fuel over hydration. But dehydration will stop you in your tracks long before your fuel reserves run low. Remember this rule: the primary cause of early fatigue while running is dehydration. Simply put, drinking during a workout is essential, especially in a warm or humid climate, and if you are not hydrating while running, your performance and fitness gains are exponentially reduced. 

Within some sport nutrition publications, you may find these contradictory messages: 

  • “Drink only when thirsty.”
  • “Avoid dehydration at all costs.”
  • “Consume plenty of water.”
  • “Drink fluids with electrolytes.” 

It’s no wonder athletes are confused. Let’s simplify things and provide a framework for your hydration strategy, to support your performance goals and overall health objectives.

Why is hydration so important?

Water is required for the majority of chemical reactions during athletic performance. This water comes from plasma volume, which makes up 50-60% of total blood volume. Therefore, when you become dehydrated, the most significant impact is a reduction in your total blood volume. In the body, blood circulates from the heart, throughout the body and back to the heart through the lungs and continuously repeats this circuit. When your blood volume decreases, performance of key bodily functions diminishes. 

During exercise, the blood has three critical tasks listed here in order of priority: 

  • Blood releases heat generated by the body through the skin via sweat. If sweat rate decreases as a result of dehydration, your core body temperature will rise. This is the first priority and the last to fail in a dehydrated state. If your body is unable to cool itself, severe hyperthermia (>104 F) can lead to organ failure and death.
  • Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles for energy. The faster you are moving as a runner, the more oxygen and nutrients the body demands. In a dehydrated state, this is the second task to be shut down. 
  • And lastly, blood assists with the absorption of calories and fluids consumed during exercise – in other words, hydration promotes digestion. However, during exercise, blood is diverted away from the gut to the working muscles. In a dehydrated state, this is the first task to be shut down, leading to gastrointestinal distress. 
Dehydration and Performance Correlations

Athletes of all abilities battle fatigue associated with dehydration since it is impossible to maintain 100% hydration status without experiencing a health and performance backlash. With as little as 2% fluid loss, there can be a noticeable decline in performance.When fluid loss exceeds 2%, performance rapidly deteriorates, and once it reaches 4%, the rate of fluid absorption from the intestines decreases, making it nearly impossible to counteract.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration:

  • Dizziness, confusion, lightheadedness
  • Dry lips, mouth, skin
  • Physical and mental fatigue
  • Decreased pace and performance
  • Darkened urine (one of the first indicators)
  • Increased body temperature, HR, and Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
The Impact of Humidity on Dehydration

As if heat’s impact on dehydration isn’t bad enough, athletes in non-arid environments participating in moderate to high-intensity exercise must also contend with humidity, which further increases core body temperatures and sweat rates. Remember, it is the evaporation of sweat, not just the process of sweating, that cools the body. However, in humid climates, because the air is already full of water vapor, sweat does not evaporate as quickly, and is therefore a less effective means of body temperature thermoregulation. During high-humidity environments, expect your body temperature, heart and sweat rate and perceived exertion to be significantly higher, all while losing fluids and valuable electrolytes. As previously explained, without replenishing these fluids, performance can quickly diminish.

Let’s Talk About Sweat 

Do crusty white salt marks appear on your face and clothing when you work out? This can help determine if you are a salty sweater, and a signal to increase sodium intake during the workout. Keep in mind that sweat rate isn’t directly related to sodium loss. You can be a heavy sweater and not necessarily have high sodium losses and vice versa. 

Sweat contains electrolytes: sodium, potassium, chloride, and small amounts of minerals (iron, calcium, and magnesium). Of all these, sodium takes the biggest hit from sweat loss; thus, it’s the most important to replace. Generally speaking, most athletes lose about 500mg sodium per pound of sweat loss, and heavy, salty sweaters can lose more than 1500+mg sodium each hour. 

How to Determine Your Sweat Rate

Determine your sweat rate by weighing before and after training sessions that are 60 min or less. Add ounces consumed to the oz/lbs. lost during the session. 16oz = 1 lb Remember this will not reflect sodium loss, only fluid loss and percentage of body weight lost. Contact a sports RD to help determine your sodium loss.

What Should I Drink; Can I Drink Too Much? 

Most of us have been taught the 8 x 8 rule: to drink eight 8 ounces of water per day, and that drinking water is important to our health. However, you should avoid drinking water only in hot, humid conditions or during runs lasting longer than 60 minutes. In endurance races, drinking water only can lead to severe hyponatremia, a metabolic condition where there is not enough sodium in the blood, which can be life-threatening. Over-hydration causes the brain and lungs to swell, as fluid shifts to balance out blood sodium levels. Low blood sodium can be caused by overhydrating in the days leading up to a big race, or from overhydrating with water during the race, flushing electrolytes from your body. 

Sports drinks that contain sodium are designed to replace sodium lost through sweat. Additional sodium may be needed for heavy, salty sweaters and should be taken with plenty of fluids. 

Some signs of hyponatremia:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Loss of energy
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Muscle weakness, spasms or cramps
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness
  • Coma
Sports Hydration Overview

The best nutritional intervention to enhance performance is hydrating adequately by drinking early and often and taking little sips frequently. Waiting until you are thirsty to drink is a big mistake. Higher fluid volume in the stomach promotes gastric emptying with about 50% of the stomach contents being emptied every 10 minutes. The more dehydrated an athlete becomes, the slower the gastric emptying. Once gastric emptying slows, drinking more fluid only exasperates the problem, usually resulting in vomiting.When possible, grab ice to cool your drink since colder fluids empty from the stomach faster than warm fluids. During hot races at aid stations, you’ll be tempted to reduce your core body temperature by pouring cold water over your head before drinking, however this only yields short-term relief. Instead, prioritize drinking cold liquids first to promote hydration and then pour water over your body to cool it further. Also, try putting ice in your hat to cool the top of your head. 

Sports Hydration Guidelines: 
  • Exercise lasting less than 60 minutes: water is sufficient, drink to thirst.
  • Exercise lasting more than 60 minutes: consume .1-.18 oz/lb per hour. Example: A 150 lb athlete should consume 15-27 oz per hour.  Note:  Aim for the lower end of the range in cool conditions and upper end in 75+ degrees. In hot, humid climates, I recommend drinking up to .28 oz/lb per hour.
  • Sip fluids every 10-15 minutes. One generous sip = 1 ounce.
  • Sports drinks should not exceed 8% concentration of carbohydrates. Ideal concentration is 4-6%, which is approximately 10-14 grams/carbs per 8 oz of fluids.
  • When consuming calories such as gels, Bloks, Chomps, etc., always chase with water to facilitate gastric emptying. Avoid taking in large amounts of calories or fluid at one time as it may cause gastric distress.
  • Sodium consumption range: include 180-225 mg sodium/8oz fluids consumed during activity to accelerate absorption and fluid retention and encourage fluid intake by driving the thirst mechanism.
  • Note: Women in high hormone phase (10 days pre-menstrual) or postmenopausal have a dampened thirst sensation, so drinking on a schedule is beneficial.
  • Children are more susceptible to dehydration than adults because their ratio of surface area to body mass is higher. Therefore, they need to be more vigilant with hydration especially in warmer climates. 
Post Workout Tips:

For every fluid pound (16oz) lost in exercise, consume 20oz to cover obligatory urine loss. The rehydration beverage should contain both sodium and simple carbs to accelerate reabsorption. 

Daily Hydration Tips: 
  • Water is best – shoot for at least half your body weight in fluid ounces independent of training volume intake.   
  • Aim to drink 16oz of water with every meal and sip water throughout the day.
  • Caffeine consumed during training in small doses 75-200mg (aim for no more than 2-3mg/kg body weight) can help sustain performance, reduce RPE, and is unlikely to alter hydration status. Avoid consuming after 12-1 pm, so it doesn’t negatively impact sleep. 
  • Alcohol is dehydrating and disrupts sleep and recovery. Avoid consumption within 72 hours before or after training. 
Listening to Your Body

Even with a detailed hydration plan, listen to your body, and pay attention to warning signs that your plan may need adjusting. If you are feeling nauseated, have a sloshy stomach, or are disinterested in eating/drinking, this suggests an imbalance of calories to fluids, a pacing issue, or overheating. To get the gut moving, stop fueling for 20–30 minutes, periodically take a few sips of water to dilute the gut content, and slow your pace.

On the other hand, if you are feeling unmotivated, mentally down, grumpy, unfocused, it is time to grab fast-acting carbohydrates. The best options are simple sugar, gel, or sports drink. 

Final Thought on Hydration

No matter which sports drink, sodium replacement, and fuel supplement you choose to use on race day, it is imperative that you rehearse this hydration plan repeatedly in race day simulated sessions to train the GI system and assess your body’s response.

The post Hydration​ and Athletic Performance appeared first on Race Smart.

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Race Smart by Susan Kitchen - 1w ago

Unless you are a professional athlete whose daily schedule is simplified around a train, sleep, eat, and repeat cycle, then you along with most athletes walk a fine line between balancing life stress with training stress. Amateur athletes should view their training loads as one part of a healthy, productive, and engaged life. It’s critical to take inventory of your life both in and outside sport to recognize your overall stress environment as it relates to fitness and performance. 

The word stress oozes negativity. It’s definition: “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Athletes incur two types of stress: non-training and training stress. Both affect our body, energy, hormones, performance, mood, etc. Let’s break down the origin of our stress and learn how to mitigate its negative effect on our lives. 

Non-Training Stress

Non-training stress arises from unpredictable, uncontrolled daily stress that is not specific to improving your performance.  Daily life stressors include but are not limited to: work, family, finances, travel, personal expectations, time-management, and environmental stress. 

Life stress that goes unmanaged inflicts a significant blow to the endocrine system. The two main hormones affected in a stress response are testosterone and cortisol, which work in tandem to create the Fight or Flight response. In a state of fight, testosterone is elevated; in a state of flight, cortisol is elevated. When these hormones are out of balance due to the body’s response to stress, the ability to recover and yield fitness gains becomes a pipe dream. In this scenario, your body is in an over-reached, over-trained, or under-recovered state despite the best-laid training plan. 

Training Stress

On the other hand, training stress is triggered by physical activity that causes hormonal, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal stress. Training stress is strategically applied, specific, intentional, and critical to facilitate improved performance. The trick is to apply the appropriate amount of training stress to create positive adaptation, but not so much that you become over-trained, sick, or injured. This is coined “greedy” in the performance world. We over-train with the mindset of more equals a faster approach in hopes of banking fitness, when, in reality, we dig a hole of fatigue that is too deep to climb out of.  

When planning your training load and approach, it’s essential to quantify training stress with the non-training stress in your life to strike a balance that is manageable for you. For example, if you are in the process of a move, deadline at work, or personal relationship or family crisis, realize the effect this situation has on your overall body stress and ease up the training load.  Avoid being so pragmatic that you overreach in an attempt to “stick” to the schedule no matter what. This situation results in lose/lose. 

Quantity v. Quality 

I rarely encounter athletes who do not judge their training plan by volume. In our world of “more is better,” athletes are eager for a consistent increase in weekly mileage. No, not because they just love to run, all day, every day…well, maybe a few, but more, because they believe intense training will translate into a stronger, faster, better runner. Ultimately, this reasoning is fueled by the emotional and physical drive to self-validate and give a stamp of approval to your training plan. What’s more important to consider is, “can you recover from this training load?” If not, pushing past your ability to recover is an unwise use of your physical and emotional resources.  Bite off onl what you can chew. 

The bottom line: stress = stress = stress. Whether stress comes from training or life, it’s all the same accumulated total body stress in the end. 

Identifying Accumulated Fatigue

Cultivating self-awareness of your recovery state and level of fatigue is absolutely critical to your success. A smart athlete can train right up to the red line, then intuitively know when to pull back, rest, and recuperate before pushing onward. 

Let’s unpack the signs and symptoms of excessive fatigue to identify the kinks in your training approach. Our goal is to maximize the quality of your training load to create positive physical adaptation and fitness. 

The following are signs of being over-trained or under-recovered, which are synonymous. 

Sleep

  • Waking up in the middle of the night with night sweats suggest cortisol levels are too high 
  • Broken sleep patterns 
  • Experiencing extreme daytime fatigue but trouble falling and staying asleep at night
  • Waking up feeling tired despite what felt like a full night’s sleep

Training and Performance 

  • A high perceived exertion relative to the heart rate, pace, or effort in a workout. In other words, the workout feels harder than it should.
  • Inconsistency in training sessions from day to day. One day feels good, and the next day feels terrible.
  • Unable to reach or hold an intense, fast effort (high intensity, short bursts of high speed) in a training session
  • Inability to recover from a single workout
  • Poor race performance despite good fitness 

Body and Appetite

  • Unusually sore muscles related to recent training stress
  • Taking longer to recover from a balanced training load 
  • Frequent sickness and injury
  • Drastic changes in body composition. A) sudden drop in weight; B) sudden weight gain or noticeably increased fat accumulation, especially in the abdomen.
  • Drastic changes in appetite and cravings
  • Changes in food choices
  • Blood-value red flags: decreased Vit. D, serum ferritin levels, elevated morning cortisol 

Mindset and Emotional Health

  • Decrease in ambition or motivation to train 
  • Feeling down or drab 
  • Lack of joy in the journey
  • Apathetic toward the sport and personal goals

How to Monitor and Track Recovery

Now that we have outlined the signs and symptoms of excessive fatigue and negative stress, it’s vital to have applicable methods to track stress and recovery. 

Objective Feedback: 

It’s wise to keep a training log or journal that tracks training volume, intensity, and post workout commentary on how the session felt. As you monitor your training sessions over time, you’ll easily be able to determine if you ramped up the volume or intensity too quickly with inadequate recovery.

Tracking daily body weight and resting heart rate (morning) are effective and objective methods of monitoring recovery. If your heart rate is consistently higher for three or more days in a row, that is a sign you are experiencing fatigue. As mentioned, if body weight suddenly decreases or increases along with appetite changes, that is another red flag. 

Subjective Feedback: 

Dialing in how you feel and listening to your inner voice is the key to your training guide. First thing in the morning when you wake up, ask yourself: how you feel; what’s your mood; and are you excited to train today?  Listen to that voice and if it’s saying I am feeling tired, unmotivated, and emotionally down–take the day off from training guilt free! In the end, you’ll gain fitness, not lose, by allowing the body to adequately recover and by taking the smart approach, not an emotional one. 

The post Stress and Athletic Performance appeared first on Race Smart.

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The other day I overheard a conversation between two runners discussing training plans and weekly mileage as it related to their performance in an upcoming race. I’m not one to eavesdrop, but the conversation was eerily similar to a discussion I had recently with one of my coached athletes. Both conversations circled around “cutting-edge run workouts alongside becoming leaner to reach optimal race weight.”  

Goodness… where do I start debunking? I’ll begin with the foundation–where I started with my athlete. This is a jam-packed topic that seems complicated but is actually quite simple. I’m cutting to the chase, so listen up.

There is no magic approach, training plan, sprinkle of fairy dust, cushy running shoe, or recovery cocktail that will be THE differentiator in your performance and physical ability. This is where we want to complicate the situation because there must be a secret that we aren’t privy to. I’ll let you in on the mystery; it’s not sexy, shiny, and you won’t pay $$$ for it. It’s so basic–you will laugh–but it’s the truth. More importantly, it’s crucial for longevity in the sport while balancing life and maintaining health.

Nail. The. Basics.

Master the foundational habits of your life and training with consistent quality, not quantity, and you are well on your way to shattering the glass ceiling. This is not a charge to be obsessive in your habits or routine, but instead a charge to anchor them in a solid foundation. Here are the building blocks to support both life and sports’ performance. 

Daily Nutrition:

Nourishing your body with healthy, good food consistently in meals and snacks are the foundation of health; therefore, a healthy diet is the foundation of performance. Without nailing these basic habits, your labor is built on quicksand and in vain. In this article, healthy, good food simply means fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meats, and healthy fats. Meals serve as the main pillars of your nutritional foundation. Snacks are designed to bridge the gap between meals that are more than four hours apart or pre/post-workout. 

Here are a few rules to chew on:

  • Never skip breakfast; it sets the nutritional tone for the day.
  • Include 20+ grams of protein at breakfast with whole grains and/or fruit.
  • Don’t skimp on carbs, especially around a workout.
  • Create a colorful plate at meals–think fruit and veggies. 
  • Lean meat or complete protein is essential for muscle repair, quality, and strength.
  • Fat-free is a thing of the past. Fat in of itself will not lead to being fat. Aim for at least 1g of fat per kg of body weight/day. 
  • If dinner is three to four hours before bedtime, include a small bedtime snack, ideally dairy because of casein (slow-releasing) protein to support muscle anabolism, blood sugar stability, and repair/recovery while you sleep. 
  • Reducing food intake to the point of low energy availability will lead to injury, illness, burnout, and increased fat stores due to muscle breakdown and elevated cortisol levels. Ironically it results in the opposite outcome of the intended end goal.

Sports fueling

We don’t need to take in supplemental fuel during a workout year-round but it’s crucial in the build training phase of a race. 

First, by training under fueled, we are unable to dig deep and hit the effort we are shooting for and capable of. So that begs the question, what are you getting out of the long tempo or 20+ mile run if you are running on empty? In short, you are in the red. The body will be in a catabolic state and unable to repair and recover, you’ll feel worn out and depleted. Not to mention the upcoming workouts may feel like torture and resemble a death march. It’s a silly rookie mistake – avoid it. 

Second, by test driving a fuel plan in training, it’s also training your GI system to process sports fuel at race like efforts and conditions. Don’t wait until race day to find out your fuel plan wreaks havoc on the GI system. Just as you are training your body to go the distance you are also training the body to digest specific sports fuel at the specific outputs and environmental conditions.  

Hydration

Did you know that dehydration is the primary cause of early fatigue? When we run in a dehydrated state, heart rate and perceived exertion are elevated. Sweat rate decreases and we risk overheating, know as hyperthermia. In this physical state, recovery is inefficient and will take much longer than if you had hydrated appropriately

As a starting point, aim for 4-6oz per 15 min and if you are a heavy sweater or it’s hot and humid, increase the amount. When running sessions are more than 60 min, water is not sufficient, you need electrolytes and fuel to keep the body properly hydrated for optimal performance, adaptation, and recovery. 

Hydrate not just in training but also within your daily life. 

Recover properly

After an intense track session, tempo run or long endurance run, the recovery fuel is non-negotiable. The post workout/event recovery fuel is designed to speed up the repair of damaged muscle tissue, replace glycogen/energy stores, and promote physical adaptation. Immediately following a training session, muscle cells are open, insulin sensitivity elevated, and the body is primed to absorb simple sugar and protein, so the quicker you refuel, the better.

The optimal recovery window to jumpstart the process is short, just 30 minutes! As time ticks on, insulin sensitivity declines, it takes the muscles longer to absorb glucose from the bloodstream, therefore, glycogen storage is less than optimal. This creates a stressful environment for the body.

By consuming a recovery snack within 30 min, you can extend your ability to effectively refill glycogen stores up to eight hours by snacking on carbs every couple of hours. If you skip, well, then 2-2.5 hours post workout, your glycogen stores fall to 50%. That doesn’t bode well for recovery, performing well in tomorrow’s training session or for the tidal wave of cravings that is going to hit you later.

To be clear, it’s not essential to fuel after an easy recovery workout or a walk with the dogs around the neighborhood. Consuming regular, well-balanced meals will suffice on easy or rest days. The recovery fuel is intended for an intense, long, or tough workout where you are left feeling depleted and wrung out or between multiple workouts in one day.

Ideally, take in 20-30g protein, 40-60g carbs, and sip 16-24oz fluids gradually over time. For women a 2:1 ratio is better, and men can go with a 3:1 ratio (carbs/protein). Choose carbs that are lower in fiber, low in fat, and easy to digest so they go into your system quickly.

Train smart

An essential basic in your arsenal is learning to execute and dial in the intent and rhythm of your training. Each run or workout should have an intention or mission behind why you are doing a particular session. Your fitness arsenal holds a plethora of tools such as Zone 2 steady-state endurance, strength endurance, tempo, speed, short frequency, form focused, short pickups with cadence focus, and strength, conditioning, and mobility work to support a strong, balanced body. Ultimately, the KEY to success is the mindset in and execution of your workouts.

A few tips to lean on:

  • Keep the efforts easy, such as during rest intervals and Zone 1 and 2 steady state runs. 
  • Do not “leave your race on the track.” Training sessions are not “Race Day,” there are no medals for “winning” in a training session; save your best efforts for Race Day when it counts. 
  • Scale workouts when time is limited and don’t feel bad about cutting it short.  Let it go. Life-Balance is vital, and sometimes life calls. 
  • When sick–skip your workouts. You won’t start losing fitness for 5 to 10 days. Focus on getting well and start back easily when your body is recovered. 
  • Those missed workouts due to life or work commitments and illness are gone. Don’t drag and drop them to the weekend when you have “time” to do the whole weeks’ worth. Workouts are spaced appropriately to allow for recovery, so making up for lost sessions is a NO GO. Once you missed them, let them go. Most coaches will re-integrate if they feel it’s an important session for you. 

Get your zzzzz’s 

You’ve heard this 1000 times, but it’s worth repeating – avoid chiseling away on your sleep time to be more productive. With only 24 hours in a day, it’s tough to strike a healthy balance between personal life and family, work or school, training, and getting enough sleep. But what if I told you sleep is the BEST and MOST impactful performance enhancer at your disposal – and it’s FREE! Sure, sitting on the couch is resting, but the magic happens during sleep. Both the quality and duration of sleep are vital, and the goal should be 6-8+ hours or until you wake up without an alarm clock – especially during heavy training phases. Research suggests just 2-3 nights of restricted sleep reduces muscle repair (synthesis), impairs cognitive function and immunity.  On those occasions when you’re running on fumes consider trimming the workout, scaling the effort or skipping the workout all together. There is no sense in digging a deeper recovery hole that you’ll just have to climb out. 

We’ll dive into sleep in the next article. But for now, prioritize sleep and you’ll start to see positive changes. 

Everything in moderation, including excess 

As we discussed, don’t become obsessive and lose your focus when trying to nail the basics. Rather than fretting over the quantity of miles/week, focus on the quality of miles and stringing together consistent runs. Enjoy dessert, just not every night, and if you have a mishap – don’t throw the whole day or week out because of one bad apple. Be kind to yourself, focus on the process, the intention of each workout and remember there is no magic bullet. The choices we make, the rhythm and mindset we adopt and consistently apply 80% of the time is where the real magic happens. 

The post The Secret Recipe to Performance Enhancement​ appeared first on Race Smart.

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Runners come in all shapes and sizes. Just like books, they shouldn’t be judged by their cover. Still, whether it’s to shed a few unwanted pounds or improve running efficiency, striving for leaner body composition is an ongoing process for many athletes. But, how to achieve this ideal physique is like a fork in the road, and the weight loss GPS may guide you on an off-road journey leading to a dead end. Follow the tried and true path, and heed advice from this guide to burning calories and a balanced macronutrient ratio before you get started.

Counting Calories

With the numerous health and fitness apps at our fingertips, such as MyFitnessPal, MyPlate, and Lose It!, counting calories consumed minus calories burned has become an easy and convenient way to fit weight loss into a busy day using a simple math equation. Most assume that if the consumption of 3,500 calories equals one pound of body weight, reducing your intake by 3,500 calories via a combination of eating less and exercising more will result in one pound of weight loss, right?  No, it’s not quite that simple.

Here’s how calorie counting becomes problematic: When a completed workout reports X number of calories burned, we assume that X calories all came from carbohydrates, which is glycogen that needs to be replaced. But in this case, the math doesn’t work like that. In all activities from sleeping to running all out on the track, your body is fueled by a combination of carbohydrates and fat and a small amount of protein depending on the duration of activity and food intake. You burn a higher percentage of fat when the heart rate is low (like when you’re recovering on the couch, sleeping, walking, or light jogging); and a higher percentage of carbohydrates when the heart rate is high (during speed work, tempo runs, and hill repeats). 

But there is always a mix of substrate utilization (fuel source) at any given time. 

So, for example, when you go for a one-hour run, let’s say an app reports you burned 700 calories. Knowing this, you might think there is some cushion in your daily caloric allotment. What the app doesn’t take into account is the fuel source of the 700 calories – which depends on the intensity and duration of the workout. During an easy one-hour recovery run, you might burn a 50/50 ratio as 350 calories from fat and 350 from carbohydrates. The fat calories don’t need to be replaced if the goal is to shed fat, but the carbohydrate calories do, and 350 calories will naturally occur at your next timely meal. As you can see, the calories-in, calories-out approach is a bit more complicated than merely entering your activities and meals.

It should be noted the reported 100 calories burned per mile is a rough estimate and may not be accurate in your case. Also, the more aerobically fit, the higher the percentage of fat (or lower percentage of sugar) utilized at higher intensities. 

Training Intensity Zones and Substrate Utilization 

Zones 1-3 utilize primarily a mix of blood glucose, muscle glycogen and fat. 

  • Zone 1: RPE=1-2; 52-60% VO2 Max, Very Easy effort – Carbs 40%/Fat 60%
  • Zone 2: RPE 3-4; 61-70% VO2 Max, Easy Effort   – Carbs 65%/Fat 35%
  • Zone 3: RPE 5-6; 71-79% VO2 Max, Moderate effort ~Marathon pace – Carbs 80%/Fat 20%

Zones 4-5 utilize blood glucose and muscle glycogen 

  • Zone 4: RPE 7-8; 80-89% of VO2 Max; half marathon to 10K pace – 92% Carbs/8% fat
  • Zone 5: RPE 9-10; 90-100% VO2 Max; 5k to 3K race pace – 98-99.5% Carbs/ <2% fat

*This should not suggest a runner spent more time in Zone 1-2 for the purpose of burning more fat but rather for aerobic endurance and resilience training. In higher effort zones, we burn a higher rate of calories which therefore increases the %fat burn. 

Balance Your Macronutrient Ratio, Not Calories

This may come as a surprise, but the makeup of the calories you consume is more important than the number. Calories are made up of three main macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Athletic success, body composition, injury prevention, and overall health rely on proper nutrient timing and the right balance of carbs, protein, and fat.

As a general rule, but still, depending on the training cycle, daily activity level and intensity, gender, and age, most athletes require 40 to 60 percent of calories from carbs, 20 to 25 percent from protein, and 20 to 30 percent from healthy sources of fat. The proper nutrient timing, along with the correct ratio of macronutrients, stabilizes blood sugars and insulin response, decreases food cravings and ultimately improves body composition. Working with a sports-certified dietitian can help you customize a macronutrient plan that fits your needs, goals, and health concerns. Additional resources, like apps and websites, show macronutrient breakdowns for thousands of food items.

Frequency and Balance

If you’ve ever felt lethargic or moody after missing a meal or snack, you’re probably well aware of how often and when you eat is critical. But did you know it’s just as important as what you eat? Always start your day off with a balanced breakfast that include all macronutrients – carbs, protein, and fat. Aim to eat a snack or meal every 3-4 hours during the day. 

Keep in mind that a meal may look healthy while being unbalanced, but a few simple changes can make a big difference. Just looking at your plate should give you a good indication of whether it’s healthy and balanced. Here are a few examples:

Breakfast (unbalanced):

  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 cup skim milk

Totals: Carbs: 55g; Protein: 13g; Fat: 2g

Breakfast (balanced macronutrient ratio):

  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal
  • 1 small banana
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 cup skim milk

Totals: Carbs: 55g; Protein: 25g; Fat: 12g

Lunch (unbalanced):

  • 1 large salad with leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, strawberries, pineapple slices, and few pecans with non-fat raspberry vinaigrette
  • 1 whole wheat roll

Totals: Carbs: 40g; Protein: <1g; Fat: 5g

Lunch (balanced macronutrient ratio):

  • 1 large salad with leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, strawberries, 1/4 cup edamame, 1/4 cup corn, 1 oz. goat cheese, few pecans, 3 oz. grilled chicken breast, and non-fat raspberry vinaigrette
  • 1 whole wheat roll
  • 1 tsp. butter

Totals: Carbs: 55g; Protein: 36g; Fat: 22g

Takeaway

Adequately fueling your body in motion is important but knowing where those calories come from is what facilitates the real magic. The body utilizes and processes carbs, protein, and fat differently. To rev your fat-burning engine, ward off cravings and insulin spikes, and achieve optimal body composition, dial in the macronutrient ratio that works for you.

The post The best macronutrient ratio for athletes and the truth behind calories burned appeared first on Race Smart.

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In the athletic world, regardless of talent or end goal, athletes and non-athletes alike can easily be swept up by the latest performance and body-composition enhancing diets with the hope of transforming into faster, leaner running machines. Fad diet trends are nothing new and have come full circle, from Atkins to Paleo, to Whole 30 to Keto (short for Ketogenic). All of these diets either eliminate a whole food group or have a starring villain, namely sugar.

Most recently, carbohydrates (carbs) are the bad guy. Carbs, especially sugar, are labeled the villain and come with a nasty reputation. You’ve likely heard the rumors, Carbs: are unhealthy; cause weight gain; reduce the body’s ability to burn fat; contribute to diabetes, insulin resistance, and cravings; cause energy crashes; and finally, negatively affect performance. Yikes! No wonder everyone is avoiding carbs like the plague. However, not all rumors you hear are true. Don’t be so vulnerable and misled.

Here’s the deal, so lean in… 

Let’s take the popular keto diet or LCHF, a diet that drastically reduces carbs to <50g/day and was originally developed to help reduce seizures in children with uncontrolled epilepsy. 

First, use some common sense. Eliminating or drastically reducing an essential macronutrient, namely carbs (in the absence of a specific health condition) should immediately raise red flags. Plus, ask yourself this question: is the keto diet sustainable for a lifetime, nutritionally sound and support my health and performance? If it sounds too good to be true, most likely it is. 

The role of carbs 

To put it simply, carbohydrates are essential for health and serve as the primary fuel for the body. Before you lace up your shoes, the body requires 120 grams of carbs (about 500 calories) per day to fuel the brain, support the central nervous system, and maintain red-blood -production and immune health. 

During exercise, the body utilizes carbohydrates for energy in the form of glucose. This fuel assists in fat metabolism, delays fatigue, promotes recovery, and supports the central nervous system. In high-intensity exercise, carbs are responsible for converting fat to glucose quickly; fat is burned in a carbohydrate-fueled flame. The proverbial “wall” or “bonking” referred to by runners occurs when glycogen (long-chain glucose in the muscle) stores are depleted. In the absence of glycogen, no fuel is available to convert fat to usable fuel quickly.

You read that correctly: carbs help your body burn fat.

The body’s glycogen stores in the muscle and liver are limited. Fully stocked, we are fueled for approximately a two-hour effort at moderate intensity. Keep in mind, the higher the effort, the more carbs you use, and the faster you burn through glycogen stores.

What you eat day to day and the timing relative to exercise directly impacts how much glycogen you have stored in the tank.  

Adequate carbohydrate intake that matches activity level can safeguard your glycogen storage, muscle tissue, support blood sugar levels during exercise, optimize recovery, and protect your immune system.

Daily carbohydrate recommendations 

Some of the healthiest and fastest runners in the world consume a carbohydrate-rich diet. “Eating carbs is almost a universal practice among the world’s best endurance athletes,” said Matt Fitzgerald, dietitian, writer, and endurance runner. Fitzgerald explains the typical Kenyan diet is 78% carbs and they are dominating the world in distance running. 

Still, the research and rumors on carbohydrates may, at a glance, conflict. However, by prioritizing wholesome, nutrient-dense carb sources in place of processed, refined, or nutrient-poor choices, you can experience great performance without sabotaging your health or body composition goals. 

No, all carbs are not created equal. Complex carbohydrates break down into glucose a bit slower than simple sugars and provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Be choosy with your carb choices and strategically adjust carb consumption around exercise sessions and the most active parts of the day.For example, a morning runner should include carbs at breakfast and lunch but can taper off carbs at dinner and include more veggies and fruit. Exception: if it’s the night before a long, intense workout or race, don’t skimp on carbs at dinner. 

Here are some diet recommendations for improving your carb intake:

Nutrient-dense carbohydrate choices:white/sweet potatoes, brown/wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal, winter squash, beans, peas, legumes, corn, fruit, root vegetables, to name a few.

Daily carb recommendations based on training volume/intensity

Low intensity <1 hr/day                           3-5 g/kg/day*

Moderate intensity 1 hr/day                     5-7 g/kg/day*     

Moderate to high intensity 1-3 hr/day      6-8 g/kg/day*

High intensity 4-5+ hr/day                      8-12 g/kg/day*

*Remember as training volume and intensity increase so does the need for carbohydrates

1lb-2.2kg

Carbohydrate portions based on training phase

Another way to manage appropriate carb intake based on training load is by the portion size on your plate. 

  • Off-season or lighter training days: 25% of your plate
  • Intense peak-training days, race phase: 50% of your plate
Carbohydrate recommendations during activity 

To maintain blood glucose levels and keep glycogen stores from hitting empty, supplementing with sports nutrition products is wise during long and/or intense training sessions. 

  • Low intensity 45-75 min.:                  No fueling is required*
  • Moderate to high intensity up to 75 min.:    Hydrate and fuel as needed
  • Endurance/intermittent high-intensity up to 2.5hr:             30-60 g/hr
  • Endurance/ultra-endurance >2.5 hours:    60-90 g/hr

 *Water is recommended. Electrolytes may be necessary for extreme sweating. Low intensity include activities such as golf, yoga, and walking the dog around the neighborhood. 

Prioritize your recovery

Post workout recovery fuel is designed to speed up the repair of damaged muscle tissue, replace glycogen/energy stores, and promote physical adaptation. Immediately following a training session, muscle cells are open, insulin sensitivity is elevated, and the body is primed to absorb simple sugar and protein. The faster you refill the tank, the faster the body gets the green light to lean up and burn body fat. 

The optimal recovery window to jump-start the process is short, just 30 minutes!As time ticks, insulin sensitivity declines, and muscles take longer to absorb glucose from the bloodstream; therefore, glycogen storage is less than optimal. These hormonal reactions create a stressful environment for the body; hence, cortisol is released which promotes fat storage especially in the abdominal area.

By consuming a recovery snack within 30 minutes, you can extend your ability to effectively refill glycogen stores up to eight hours by snacking on carbs every couple of hours. If you skip a recovery snack, then two to two and a half hours post workout, your glycogen stores fall to <50%. This lack of glycogen stores doesn’t bode well for recovery, performing well in tomorrow’s training session, or for the tidal wave of cravings that will hit you later.

To be clear, refueling is not essential after an easy-recovery workout or a stroll after dinner. Consuming regular, well-balanced meals will suffice on easy or rest days. The recovery fuel is intended for intense, extended, or tough workouts, (also between multiple workouts in one day), where you are feeling depleted and wrung out.

What to eat after a workout

Within 30 to 45 min. after a workout, aim for a 3:1 or 2:1 (Carb/PRO) ratio. Men follow a 3:1 ratio, while women need a tighter 2:1 ratio immediately following workouts for anabolic triggers to repair and aid muscle growth. It’s important to include both carbs and protein because they work in tandem to boost glycogen storage, reduce inflammation, and boost immunity. Research shows that athletes who consume a recovery snack with Carb/PRO restock glycogen stores four times faster than those who refuel with carbs alone.

Recovery guidelines based on duration of activity 

1. Short, less than one hour            

  • 20-30g protein and 40-60g carbs

2. Moderate, 1-3 hours                             

  • 20-30g protein and 60-90g carbs

3. Long-Endurance, 3-10 hours 

  • Within 30-45 min.: 25-30g protein and 60-90g carbs  
  • 2 hours post: 20-30g protein and 60-90g carbs  
  • 4 hours post: 20-30g protein and 60-90g carbs 

It’s common to have a decreased appetite following a hard workout; choose a cold liquid that sounds refreshing and goes down easy.

Recovery Options
  • Smoothie with 20g whey protein (cocoa elite whey)
  • Low-fat chocolate milk with almonds or Greek yogurt for added protein
  • Fat-free Greek yogurt with a banana and grapes
  • Bagel with low-fat spread (nut butter). (V)*
  • Smoothie with whey protein, frozen bananas or mangos, fat-free yogurt or sweetened-almond milk (V)*
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwich (V)*

*(V)=Vegan option

Knowledge is empowering and the more you understand carbohydrates’ role in supporting your body, health, and active lifestyle, the closer you will be to achieving your goals. To recap, not all carbohydrates are created equal, and carb-timing is key to proper adaptation, recovery, and body composition optimization. Consume carbs during your most active time of the day. Limit refined, sugary snacks and desserts but if you can’t kick that nagging craving – go for that sweet treat right after a workout or include post meal to diminish the hormonal and blood sugar response, therefore, reducing the fat storage effect. 

Is Sugar bad for you? The Last Word

Limiting a macronutrient or following a diet regimen that isn’t sustainable for a lifetime is not sound nor will itprove to be successful in the long run. 

The answer to your body composition and performance goals will not be achieved by reducing or eliminating carbs. It’s just not that simple.

The post Is Sugar Bad for You? The Role of Carbs in Your Diet appeared first on Race Smart.

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Whether you are gunning for a PR, podium placement or toeing the line at your first IRONMAN or marathon, the one thing that links all athletes is the desire to be in the best shape while feeling good in our own skin. Because of our heavy training load, it’s crucial to follow a nutrition plan that matches activity level while supports health and performance. But this is where things get tricky and body composition can easily be confused for fitness.

To that end, even in the triathlon/endurance world, it’s impossible to ignore the allure of trendy diets. Such as the controversial, infamous keto diet, continues to be front and center on the world stage.

According to its proponents, keto is the best thing since—literally—sliced bread. It’s not hard to see why: at first glance the success stories of rapid weight loss, reduced appetite, improved insulin sensitivity, and increased endurance at aerobic efforts make it sound appealing. However, on the flip side, keto has been termed a “medical diet,” and it comes with serious risks. 

When you’re an Ironman athlete in training, should this trendy diet be part of your plan?

What Is the Keto Diet? 

The keto (short for ketogenic) diet is a weight-loss trend that’s been making headlines for athletes seeking to improve performance and body composition. In a nutshell, it’s a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet, originally developed to help reduce seizures in children with uncontrolled epilepsy. 

It restricts carbohydrate intake to less than 50 grams per day (or about 5% of your daily allowance)—that’s equivalent to the carbs found in a half cup of oatmeal and a single medium banana. The rest of your calories should come from fat (75%) and protein (20%). 

Because carbohydrates are drastically reduced on a LCHF diet the body can’t rely on it’s preferred fuel source, glucose for energy. Instead, on the keto diet, we utilize ketone bodies, a backup fuel, in the absence of glucose, that the liver produces from stored fat.  

Low Carb for Long Training Sessions?

How does a low-carb diet work for triathletes/endurance athletes, with our demanding training and race-day energy requirements? Advocates of the diet, such as Dr. Phil Maffetone, a pioneer in contemporary medicine who has worked with six-time Hawaii Ironman champion Mark Allen, believe that athletes can achieve optimal performance by using keto to tap into the body’s fat-burning system. According to Maffetone, by maximizing your aerobic system under a low carb environment, the ability to utilize fat during endurance, strength and high intensity efforts is expanded. And, this leads to less GI distress, steady energy levels and a leaner physique. 

But the idea of eliminating or drastically reducing your intake of an essential macronutrient (in the absence of a health condition) should immediately raise red flags. Plus, is it sustainable for a lifetime, and nutritionally sound? Hardly! 

Even before you lace up your shoes or go out for a ride, at a bare minimum the body requires 120 grams of carbs (about 500 calories) per day to fuel the brain, support the central nervous system, and maintain red blood cell production and immune health.

Running on Empty

Especially during exercise, the body needs carbohydrates for energy. And during high-intensity exercise, it’s carbs that are responsible for converting fat to glucose quickly: afterall, fat is burned in a carbohydrate-fueled flame.

The body’s glycogen stores in the muscle and liver are limited. Fully stocked, we are fueled for approximately a 2-hour effort at 75% max VO2. Keep in mind, the higher the effort, the more carbs you use, and the faster you burn through your glycogen stores.  

Although some research shows improved fatty acid oxidation from LCHF diets the body will outsmart our plan. In the case of inadequate carbs under training stress, the body will utilize fat as secondary source of fuel. But, in turn to counteract fat depletion, it will then increase fat storage! And, to make matters worse, a LCHF diet elevates cortisol, the stress hormone, which promotes abdominal fat storage. In case you haven’t been convinced yet, cortisol also promotes muscle breakdown.

That’s right, LCHF diets can encourage burning (and storage) of fat, but they can also burn through muscle tissue you are working so hard to strengthen.  

Interested in test driving keto?

If you’re a keto-curious athlete, keto guides recommend making a dramatic macronutrient shift to trigger greater oxidation and nutritional ketosis. The 2-4-week transitional shift is broken down as <=50g carbs/day, 65-80% calories from fat, and .6-1.0g protein per pound of lean body mass. 

It can be challenging to find satisfying meals that fit the macronutrient proportions of this diet. Animal proteins and leafy vegetables might make up most of your intake with an occasional fruit, as demonstrated in this sample menu.

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, sliced avocado, few slices of bacon.
  • Lunch: Salmon fillet pan-seared in butter with a side of raw veggies and a green salad with vinaigrette.        
  • Snack: Smoothie with egg, leafy greens, and carrots and a side of nuts
  • Dinner: Chicken (skin-on) and broccoli cooked with butter

If you are interested in trying this diet, do so in the post-season NOT in the build phase or race prep of an A race. Bottom line: getting race ready while adequately fueling to support training adaptations, recovery, and health is the priority, not training the body to utilize fat at race intensities – simultaneously.

Be forewarned, in this adaptation period, symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, sleep disturbances, extreme hunger, and low energy levels, referenced as “the Keto Flu,” are all to be expected.

It’s No Laughing Matter

More serious, long term implications include impaired immune system, hypoglycemia, increased injury/illness, hormonal disturbance, dehydration, disordered eating, sleep disturbance, nutrient deficiencies, impaired capacity to utilize and process carbs, and central nervous system fatigue. 

The Last Word

Performance and health benefits are inconsistent and currently, don’t outweigh the serious health risks of the keto diet for athletes as a general consensus. You’ll find exceptions for sure, but we are all different and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. As a Board Certified Sport Dietitian, I’m not a keto advocate. From a professional perspective, it’s not a sustainable lifestyle diet and I never recommend the elimination of a macronutrient from a diet without a medical reason to support said action. The answer to your body composition and performance goals will not, in my opinion, be achieved by eliminating carbs. It’s just not that simple. 

Okay, what should I be eating?

Some of the healthiest and fastest runners in the world consume a carbohydrate rich diet. “Eating carbs is almost a universal practice among the world’s best endurance athletes,” according to Matt Fitzgerald, dietitian, writer and runner. Fitzgerald goes on to say the typical Kenyan diet is 78% carbs while dominating the world in distance running. 

Still, the research and rumors on carbohydrates may seem at a quick glance conflicting, but by prioritizing real, wholesome, nutrient dense carb sources in place of processed, refined, nutrient-poor choices, you, too can experience great performance without sabotaging your health or body composition goals. 

No, all carbs are not created equal. Complex carbohydrates break down into glucose a bit slower than simple sugars and provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Be choosy with your carb choices and strategically adjust around training sessions and the most active parts of the day.

Daily carb recommendations based on volume/intensity 

Low intensity <1hr/day                             3-5g/kg/day*

Moderate intensity 1 hr/day                   5-7g/kg/day*      

Moderate to high intensity 1-3hr/day     6-8g/kg/day*

High intensity 4-5+hr/day                       8-12g/kg/day*

*Remember as training volume and intensity increase so does the need for carbohydrates

1lb = 2.2kg

The post The Keto Diet and Endurance Athletes appeared first on Race Smart.

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Part III of The Female Athlete’s Guide to Fueling & Hydration. In this blog, we discuss the role of recovery, how to optimize and accelerate recovery, and the best options and strategies for female athletes.

Part II covers fueling/hydrating during training and racing.

The post workout/event recovery fuel is designed to speed up the repair of damaged muscle tissue, replace glycogen/energy stores, and promote physical adaptation. Immediately following a training session, muscle cells are open, insulin sensitivity elevated, and the body is primed to absorb simple sugar and protein, so the quicker you refuel, the better.

As a woman, the optimal recovery window to jumpstart the process is short, just 30 minutes! As time ticks on, insulin sensitivity declines, it takes the muscles longer to absorb glucose from the bloodstream, therefore, glycogen storage is less than optimal. This creates a stressful environment for the body.

By consuming a recovery snack within 30 min, you can extend your ability to effectively refill glycogen stores up to eight hours by snacking on carbs every couple of hours. If you skip, well, then 2-2.5 hours post workout, your glycogen stores fall to 50%. That doesn’t bode well for recovery, performing well in tomorrow’s training session or for the tidal wave of cravings that is going to hit you later.

To be clear, it’s not essential to fuel after an easy recovery workout or a walk with the dogs around the neighborhood. Consuming regular, well-balanced meals will suffice on easy or rest days. The recovery fuel is intended for an intense, long, or tough workout where you are left feeling depleted and wrung out or between multiple workouts in one day.

What Female Athletes Should Eat After A Workout

Within 30 min – aim for a 2:1 (CHO/PRO) ratio. Historically the macronutrient recommendation was 3:1 but this is more appropriate for men. Women need a tighter ratio immediately following for an anabolic trigger for muscle growth and repair.  It’s important to include both carbs with protein as they work in tandem to boost glycogen storage, reduce inflammation and immunity. Research shows that athletes who consume a recovery snack with CHO/Pro restock glycogen stores four times faster than those who refue with carbs alone.

Ideally go with 20-30g protein, 40-60g carbs, and sip 16-24oz fluids gradually over time.  Choose carbs that are lower in fiber, and easy to digest so they go into your system quickly.

It’s common to have a decreased appetite following a hard workout, therefore go with a cold liquid that sounds refreshing and goes down easy.

Recovery Options:
  • Smoothie with 20g whey protein (cocoa elite whey)
  • Low-fat chocolate milk with almonds or Greek Yogurt for added protein,
  • Fat-free Greek yogurt with a banana and grapes
  • Bagel with low-fat spread (nut butter). (V)
  • Smoothie with whey protein, frozen banana or mango, fat-free yogurt or sweetened almond milk (V)
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich (V)
  • V=Vegan option
What ALL Athletes Should Avoid Eating After Training

After a hard training session, the body boosts antioxidant capacity to overcome the increase in free radical production. By consuming foods high in antioxidants either from supplements or food, it actually impairs training adaptation and recovery.

Avoid foods high in antioxidants such as (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, plums, kale, spinach, etc) and supplements with Vit E, C, and beta-carotene, (popular antioxidants) for 4-5 hours postexercise. Mentioning fruit, although high in simple sugar, often its from fructose. As discussed in part II, the liver loves fructose and will hoard it at the expense of your muscles. It’s best to avoid fruit in the initial recovery snack. Exceptions are: bananas and grapes which are lower in fructose

In the recovery window, we want carbs and protein to be quickly absorbed. Fat slows gastric emptying and will reduce the absorption rate of the carbs and protein you need for recovery. Choose low-fat or fat-free in the first 30 minutes postexercise.

Getting Your Zzzz’s and Recovery

Prioritizing quality sleep should be on every athlete’s “how to get faster and stronger” list. The overnight sleep period of 8+ hours, if you are lucky, should be considered quality training. It’s when the magic happens. All that hard work in your training breaks you down. It’s during the overnight rest that your body repairs and rejuvenates. To help facilitate that process, enjoy a bedtime snack containing casein, a slow absorbing protein to aid in repairing muscle tissue while you sleep.

Milk products contain both casein and whey but sometimes it’s not readily available, especially when traveling. One of my go to products is Cocoa Elite’s Sleepy Time Recovery. This patented formula is ideal for anyone looking for additional protein to slow muscle catabolism and promote muscle repair and growth. It also contains antioxidants, labeled a super-food for it’s complex nutritional benefits and over 2,000mg of tart cherry extract, naturally rich in melatonin, a hormone responsible for sleepiness.

Cocoa Elite discount at checkout use: Racesmart

The post The Female Athlete’s Guide to Fueling & Hydration for Optimal Performance – Part III: Recovery Fueling appeared first on Race Smart.

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Race Smart by Susan Kitchen - 4M ago

The Race Smart Kit is finally here. It’s been a long time coming but I’m super excited to partner with Base Performance. I’ve tried on each item that’s in the store – and it’s all super comfortable; fits like a glove. And, I’m picky!!

What makes this deal even sweeter is the 40% off discount we are offering you. It’s an affordable price for a great product. And, I hope you like the design as much as I do.

Don’t wait too long – the store is open from now until Monday, April 1st and will not be open again. Get your training and racing gear for the year now.

Below are some bullet points/important information on ordering your custom apparel. Please read ALL instructions carefully before placing your order:

  • The team store is now live at the following link: https://www.baseperformancedesigns.com/collections/racesmart
  • Your passcode to get into the store is: racesmart19
  • Your 40% off discount code to use on RaceSmart products is: racesmart19
  • The team store will close Monday, April 1st
  • Kits will arrive in Boulder 8-10 weeks from the closing of the store and will be distributed to you from the Base warehouse
  • Because this is 100% custom, there will be NO exchanges or returns.  Size Charts are shown in each product online.
  • The store will NOT open again, so please purchase everything you may want in this order! 
  • *Bonus product offer! Base Hydro will be on all Ironman Canada race courses, and our Real Bars will be on all Ironman US & Canada courses! We are extending to you a special 40% discount to use on Hydro & a Real Bar Variety pack so you can see what it’s all about! Your regular RaceSmart code will apply.  

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally at susan@racesmart.com

I look forward to seeing you out on the race course looking amazing in this beautiful, fast, clean looking kit!

The post The Race Smart Kit Store is Open! appeared first on Race Smart.

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Part II of The Female Athlete’s Guide to Fueling & Hydration. Part I covers Pre-Workout Fueling. Here, we address how a female athlete can best fuel and hydrate in a training/race environment to ward off GI distress and perform to their full potential.

There is a lot of confusion around what brands and types of fuel are best–and for a good reason. The market is flooded with a variety of sports nutrition products, and what works for one athlete won’t necessarily work for another. This is all the more reason to test drive the products for yourself. The end goal being that come race day your fuel plan is ironclad.

What a Woman Should Eat During… An Easy Workout (defined as <60 minutes easy run, recovery swim, or aerobic based ride of <90 minutes.)

If this is your only workout of the day and you have eaten regular meals, consume water with electrolytes or just water. This is all dependent on the training phase, how many workouts are in the day and your personal sweat rate. Here are a few suggestions but not limited to:

  • Skratch Sports Hydration — lower carbs, with electrolytes.
  • Nuun Hydration drink mix — lower carbs, with electrolytes.

(Carbs assist electrolytes, namely sodium with absorption)

Moderate to High Intensity Lasting up to 75 Minutes

Go with a small amount of carbs from a sports drink with electrolytes.  (30-40g carbs/hr – estimation)

Endurance, High Intensity Exercise Lasting up to 2.5 Hours

Go with liquid calories over solids and aim for 30-60g carb/hour. If you have a history of GI issues, take note if the sports drink/product contains fructose and maltodextrin.

Tip: Reading sports nutrition labels – namely the ingredient list – comes in handy. Pay close attention to the first two to three ingredients – these are your sugar sources.

Endurance to Ultra-Endurance Exercise Lasting 2.5 Hours or Longer

Because the overall effort is steady state, aerobic-based, heart rate remains lower which allows the GI to process solids, semi-solids, and liquids while on the bike. On the run, heart rate is naturally higher so err on the side of caution and stick to liquids and semi-solids. During training sessions, start with 50+g carbs and 5-10g protein/hr (dependent on body weight) to train the gut to improve gastric emptying and absorption. Semi-solid examples: chews, gummies, Bloks, glucose tabs.

Tip: If your sports nutrition products contain maltodextrin, a polysaccharide made with the building blocks of glucose, it may cause GI distress. Maltodextrin is used in sports fuel because it doesn’t affect the osmolality and is tasteless in flavor, but there is one issue. Because it overloads a key gate in the small intestines, it creates the same high-osmolality environment as fructose. Therefore a worst-case scenario would be the energy boost you had intended is insufficient, hydration could be compromised, and you’ve subjected yourself to an upset tummy. It may not affect every athlete the same way, but it’s important to take note if you have a history of GI distress.

Hydration

Dehydration is the primary cause of early fatigue. Once an athlete reaches a 2% body weight loss, performance will start to decline, and at 4% loss, the athlete is unable to perform.

It’s common for an athlete to think they are bonking, (hitting the wall), when in fact, they are becoming dehydrated. Dehydration results in a decrease in blood plasma volume which reduces thermoregulation, so the body isn’t able to efficiently cool off via sweat, an increase in the rate of perceived exertion (RPE), and HR rises because the heart has to work harder to circulate the thickened blood.

It’s a disaster and an easily avoidable one.

However, drinking only water isn’t an efficient hydration strategy either. Water contains no electrolytes or carbs to promote absorption so it will just slosh around in the stomach not being absorbed fast enough. Far too many athletes have taken the more is better approach and overhydrated with water. The consequences can be life threatening in the form of hyponatremia, dangerously low blood sodium.

Symptoms of hyponatremia: nausea and vomiting, headache, confusion, loss of energy and fatigue, irritability, muscle weakness, spasms or cramps, seizures, coma.

What a Woman Should Drink During a Workout or Race
  • 6% or less concentration solution (14.4g carb per 8 oz.)
  • Sugars from glucose, sucrose
  • Sodium: 180-225mg/8 oz.
  • Potassium: 60-75mg (another fluid co-transporter to help sodium absorption)

Examples: Skratch Labs, Clif Shot electrolyte drink, GU hydration drink, Bonk Breaker Real Hydration, Infinit Nutrition (if Maltodextrin doesn’t upset your gut)–just to name a few.

As a general rule of thumb, a female athlete should aim for 20-32oz of fluid and 500-900mg sodium per hour during endurance or high intensity. While some female athletes sweat more than others, sodium loss is individual and not directly correlated to sweat volume. Rather than estimating sodium loss, it’s wise to invest in a sweat test to optimize performance and maintain adequate hydration while minimizing heat-related illness, low energy, dehydration, cramping, and GI issues.

TIP: Rather than drinking to thirst, remind yourself to sip frequently. Smaller, more frequent sips are easier to absorb as opposed to drinking half the bottle at once to make up for missed consumption.

Don’t miss Part I of this series, Pre-Workout Fueling.

The post The Female Athlete’s Guide to Fueling & Hydration for Optimal Performance – Part II: During The Event or Training appeared first on Race Smart.

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Imagine you are preparing for a long road trip. How often do you pack the car, check for missing essentials, hit the bathroom, and fill the gasoline tank with water before heading out of town? Never, I hope! Why, because cars don’t run on water. Automobiles use gasoline as fuel and depending on the vehicle, they require a specific octane rating for optimal performance. Similarly, an athlete, specifically a female athlete, should take the same approach to her fueling plan. 

It’s important for the female athlete to understand her unique physiology and how to pair nutrition and fitness for optimal performance and health. The longer and more intense the session the more critical fueling becomes to your performance and ability to adapt to the physical and hormonal demands. Establish a fuel/hydration plan in training and follow the “nothing new on race day” approach. The recovery snack post workout is a non-negotiable. The female body experiences hormonal changes throughout the monthly cycle and how that affects performance should be taken into consideration. And finally, the thing we both yearn for and struggle to get enough — sleep. We’ll discuss how this affects our body, hunger, and performance.

Since this is an important topic, full of applicable, detailed information, the article will be in distributed in four parts. Stay tuned for future installments.

Let’s dive in to part I, fueling before the workout.

Topping off the tank – Pre-Workout

Assuming you’re eating a balanced diet most of the time, let’s start with what to eat before a training session/event.

Pre-training fuel guidelines:
  • Choose a carb based, low-fiber, low-fat, with moderate protein, easy to digest carbs.
  • Avoid high fat and high fiber – since it delays gastric emptying and may lead to GI distress.
  • Avoid or limit foods/products high in fructose because it takes the gut longer to digest and may lead to GI distress. (Bananas have ~ 7g fructose- which is okay). More on fructose in part 2.

Fun Fact: females are more prone to GI issues than men due to our hormonal fluctuations. Runners are the most susceptible because of higher heart rates and jostling effect.

First Thing in the Morning

The time-starved athlete who has an early morning 60-120-minute training session often goes into this session fasted – because either they don’t feel hungry that early in the morning or the end goal is to get leaner.

Both of these methods almost always backfire. Why? Because training in a fasted state adds stress to the body, which releases cortisol, which adds insult to injury since cortisol levels are highest in the morning. Elevated cortisol levels stimulate fat storage! To make matters worse, it is physically harder to dig deep and execute high-quality workouts in a fasted state, so you might as well stay in bed.

What a Woman Should Eat Before an Early Morning Workout

Before an easy or low stress early morning workout, I recommend 20-30g easy to digest carbohydrate. For example, any of these:

  • ½ cup applesauce
  • 10 saltine crackers
  • 1 cup grits
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 slice low fiber bread with jam
  • 1 large rice cake with jam
  • a handful of grapes
  • a sports nutrition product such as 2-3 Clif Bloks with water.
Fueling Before a Key (intense and/or long) Workout Training Session or Event
  • 3-4 hours before, a larger meal.  400-800 calories, (3-4g carb/kg bodyweight)
  • 1.5-3 hours before, medium sized meal. 250-400 calories, (1.5-3g carb/kg) 
  • 30-90 min before, small meal or snack. 100-250 calories, (0.5-1.5g carb/kg)

Use these nutrition guidelines as a template to test drive what works for you before a workout or event. Ideally, go with real food when possible.

What and how much to eat all depends on how far in advance the meal is from the start. The further out you are able to eat the more you can consume. Before an event, at least 2-2.5 hours is ideal. Before a workout, eating 2+ hours out is not always possible. In that case, eat a smaller snack and forgo fueling for the first 45 minutes of the workout while keeping intensity low, and sip water to allow adequate time for digestion.

What a Woman Should Eat Before a Key Workout or Event

Good choices are: waffles, oatmeal, grits, gluten-free bagel or toast (because it’s easier to digest) with jam and/or nut butter, English muffin, banana, grapes, oranges, berries, non-fat yogurt.

Use this pre-event meal designed for a 125-pound (57kg) female athlete 2-2.5 hours before an endurance event to give you inspiration.

1 plain bagel* (53g carbs, 9g protein 1g fat, 1g fiber)
1 medium banana (23g carbs, 1.3g protein, 3.1g fiber)
½ cup nonfat vanilla greek yogurt (12g carbs, 18g protein)
1 tbsp peanut butter (3g carbs, 8g fat, 4g protein, 1g fiber)
1 tbsp jam (13g carbs)
Total: 104g carbs, 32g protein, 9g fat, 5.1g fiber

*gluten free option if you are GI sensitive.

Don’t stress if the pre-race jitters have messed with your stomach. The pre-event meal is intended to top off stores and replace what was used overnight. What’s more important is how well you fuel in the 48 hours before the event. Eat as tolerated and stay well hydrated but don’t go overboard and force it.

Next up, Part II of the Female Athlete’s Guide to Fueling & Hydration – During The Event or Training.

The post The Female Athlete’s Guide to Fueling & Hydration for Optimal Performance. Part I: Pre-Workout Fueling appeared first on Race Smart.

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