Fueling Your Engine

about 3 years ago

Have you ever experienced a highly intense, crazy powerful workout of superhero proportions and wondered what you did different for this work out than for others that were just mediocre? There are many factors that influence a work out including, but not limited to body weight, hydration status, diet, sleep, disease states, past injuries, and previous training. It may seem like common sense, but keeping a journal which tracks the factors mentioned previously can help you figure out the perfect formula to yield your best work outs.  It sounds crazy, but in my past experience working with endurance athletes, the athlete didn't realize mistakes they were making in their training habits until they saw them on paper.  They would have major "ahh ha!!" moments such as, "I noticed when I ate oatmeal an hour and a half before my run and I replaced my electrolytes an hour into my run I was able to run longer."  Then there was the occasional "duh moments" my clients would have that go a little something like this, "So I noticed when I ate a half gallon of ice cream, went on a drinking binge until the bar closed at 2 am and forgot to eat or drink water, I felt like I was running against a brick wall for my jog the next day." Hey, no judgement here, these are the moments that make us human. The important things are that you learn from these experiences and are completely honest with yourself. If your training isn't going as you had envisioned it would when you first set your goal,  take a closer look at your lifestyle behaviors. My "ahh ha!" moment occurred after I had cut out artificial sweeteners from my diet. Prior to that I would cramp up so bad on my runs that it felt like an animal had escaped into my stomach and intestines and was doing flips. I went to the extent of going to the doctor and even having a colonoscopy. The results came back normal and it wasn't until I noticed in my food log that I was having an artificial sugar containing beverage and sugar-free gum prior to the runs where it felt like I may indeed have "the runs." I cut out all artificial sweeteners and the problem was solved! Now just because that worked for me, doesn't mean it will work for you but my point is this; take note of what benefits your running/exercising and what inhibits you from your fullest performance potential. Because my passion is nutrition and marathon training, I will give some tips for success in these areas. As previously stated, keeping a log can be beneficial. You can log whatever you want but think of areas that you could improve upon as your main focus. Common areas of focus are sleep, food intake, water intake, and work out routines. Don't be afraid to switch things up. If you noticed a breakfast of oatmeal and almonds gave you cramps during your run, then try an egg and a piece of toast the next day instead. In addition to switching around what you are eating, you may try moving the times around that you eat. Ideally, you would be able to have a meal an hour and a half before a run and a post work out snack within 45 minutes after your run. After a run, think of snack ideas that will give your muscles quick fuel. Think along the lines of milk or yogurt post work out (if lactose intolerant go for something more like almond milk). Try to drink a minimum of 64 fluid ounces of water a day, more if training and losing excess water through perspiration. Consider replacing electrolytes if running for more than an hour and a half. Get a full nights rest the night before a run, preferably at least 6-8 hours. Eat 5-6 small meals and snacks a day to keep energy up. Track calories to make sure you are getting the right amount per day. When training, I use the simple equation of whatever your baseline calorie needs are plus 100 calories per mile ran (consult a dietitian or resting metabolic rate equations online). If you are trying to lose weight, you can reduce that number by 250-500 calories. Remember, when training for a race, you shouldn't be aiming for that 1200 calories per day to lose weight! I really don't recommend falling too far below 1600 calories per day for anyone that is active. Food equates to energy, and your body will reward you with quicker and more efficient runs when you are using the proper foods as your fuel. Think of eating the colors of the rainbow everyday, not from skittles but from fruits and vegetables. It's simple advice, but remember simple changes can go a long way!