It’s Taco Tuesday, friends!! Or, as it’s sometimes better known as: Coach Tip Tuesday!!
If the intro wasn’t a good enough clue, today we’re going to talk about something that I love a whole lot: Food. But what I want to talk to you all about today is viewing food as fuel. This is actually a really big, broad topic, but I’m going to narrow my discussion to one of the most misunderstood pieces of endurance fueling.
All humans need to eat (duh), but in order for endurance athletes to effectively meet their goals, they need to consume the right types of food to fuel their body’s to perform in the way that they are asking them to. Glycolysis is the process by which the body converts the macronutrients found in food (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) to usable energy (in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)). The body has enough fuel storage on board itself to fuel glycolysis well for 90-120 minutes, but beyond that, it becomes necessary to replenish those stores. What does this mean?? It means that you need to consume a balance of these macronutrients regularly (both before, during, and after workouts) in order to make sure that you’re properly stoking your “fire” of glycolysis. Since the body has a virtually unlimited means to store fat (for real), but only about 3,500 calories worth of carbohydrate storage (in the form of glycogen), it means that during workouts it’s important to consume carbohydrates to enable the body to continue working efficiently beyond that 90-120 minute window.
Consuming fuel during workouts that contains both glucose and fructose (both forms of carbohydrates...yes SUGAR!!) enables the body to absorb considerably more carbs than if just one form is consumed since they utilize different molecular transporters. This means that your body gets what it needs faster. It comes as a surprise to many that I encourage the consumption of sugar in training, but for endurance athletes, it’s necessary.
All of this does mean that operating at a severe caloric deficit (consuming less calories than you burn through your daily activities) will not help you with your endurance goals and that cutting out entire food groups or macronutrients will not benefit you. Less is not better; better is better. As is often said: life is about balance. In the endurance sports world, it’s important that one’s diet (meaning a way of thinking about fuel and food, not a fad/crash diet to lose weight) needs to be balanced as well. Think about a fire: you wouldn’t expect it to burn unless it had some sort of fuel (wood, kindling, etc.). The same can be said of your body; you can not expect it to function well without proper fuel.
This means that you can consume that cupcake without feeling guilty (though I might suggest using that as a post-workout treat ;) ). It also means that consuming proper amounts of bagels, pasta, legumes, nut butters, etc. will help keep your body in balance and ready to go for your next workout or race, and that consuming sports drinks and performance foods during your workouts will keep you going stronger for longer. You ask your body to do a lot when you ask it to perform for you in a workout; honor that request and treat your body well by thinking of food as fuel, and by fueling your workouts (and lifestyle) properly with the right foods. :)
Questions, comments, concerns about how YOU can find the right fueling formula for your goals?? You all know where you can find me. :)