Spring is upon us and many of us will be slipping into our running shoes and enjoying the beautiful outdoors. If you participate in endurance sports like running and cycling check out Sean Lewis’ Healthy Living Blog! Today he shares a few nutrition tips to help you minimize injury and maximize your performance.
Running and cycling, like all sports, need to be accompanied by proper nutrition. The primary objectives of sports nutrition are to reduce muscle protein breakdown and increase muscle protein synthesis (growth). Endurance sports participants are particularly at risk due to their lack of adherence to a proper muscle sparing nutrition plan. They typically eat a diet high in carbohydrates because they have been told that it is the primary essential element to enhance energy while performing. Though there is some truth to this, there is also a huge missing component.
One of the arguments for eating a diet high in carbs is to help restore glucose (sugar) storage in the muscles to help reduce early onset fatigue. If you respect the research into nutrient timing, you would understand that the key time to ingest high glycemic (sugary/starchy) carbohydrates is within 1 hour after participating in moderate to intense exercise. It is at this moment that muscles are very sensitive to the absorption of glucose. Following that hour, even if the muscles did not fully replenish the stores of glucose, they become far less sensitive to receive and store carbohydrates. Continuously consuming high glycemic carbohydrates after this period of sensitivity will actually increase storage to fat. It goes without saying that we all prefer sugar to be stored in our muscles and not around our waists line.
Increasing protein intake especially in a liquid format in and around your exercise will help reduce muscle breakdown and even reduce the depletion of glucose stored in your working muscles. Runners and cyclists need to think a bit more like strength athletes in that protein shakes should become a part of their regular nutritional practice. Protein in a liquid format allows for fast delivery of nutrients during or after exercise which helps to really take advantage of that small window of opportunity.
In place of all the carbohydrates, endurance athletes should make protein, healthy fat, and greens, the bulk of their diet. Certainly carb loading in the post workout phase within one hour after exercise makes perfect sense. The rest of your daily nutrition should have an abundance of protein, fats, and vegetables. In short, all that carb loading you are hoping will enhance performance is most likely adding too many empty calories to your diet and may even be contributing to insulin resistance.
Sean Lewis aka “Humble Healthy Guru”