Nutrition is always a hot topic, and new fad diets and gimmicks continue to draw attention and peak interest. There is always some new wonder diet or product that is supposed to make you feel better, stronger, faster, leaner and yes, happier. Fads tend to hover on the extreme, but I prefer the middle in when it comes to nutrition.
The following are some basic nutrition tips that I've come to trust over many years of working with endurance athletes. What is most interesting is they haven't changed all that much.
Yes, there may be special diets that will enhance and sustain better performances and the heavy workloads of training, but there are still some basic principles that every endurance athlete should follow.
1. Eat breakfast every day, especially before early-morning workouts.
Missing breakfast is an enormous mistake because, simply put, it reduces the number of calories you will have available for energy. Low blood sugar saps mental and physical energy by causing the body to rely heavily on proteins and fats as the chief fuel source.
Additionally, if you're trying to lose weight, any calories you "saved" by skipping breakfast are often gained back by bingeing or overindulging later in the day, especially in the evening.
If you cannot stomach a lot of food early in the morning before workouts, try eating a banana and some yogurt or have a sports drink so you take in 200 to 400 calories.
2. Drink a lot of water throughout the day.
A good rule of thumb is to drink one liter for each hour of exercise, or about every 1,000 calories expended. You're drinking enough if you have the urge to urinate every two or three hours.
Be careful not to over-drink, especially during training and racing. There is a limit to the amount of gastric absorption and resulting clearing of fluids and that is about a liter an hour. Conversely, under-drinking while training and racing, and its effects on performance, can be significant. With only a 1 percent loss of fluids there a few signs of any thirst, but there is a marked reduction in VO2max.
3. Consume foods and nutrients that your body can digest easily.
Find a combination of foods in training that works for you before a competition and stick to it. Doing otherwise can create havoc in the upper and lower gastrointestinal tracts (bloating, cramps, gas and diarrhea).
It can also be good to eat and drink what the race organizers will provide for long-distance events. Most of the products are similar in energy content but vary in taste.
More: The Fourth Discipline