Endurance Athletes

Are you looking for help and advise on the following?

Improved results from your training
Seeking a personal best performance time
Looking to get more out of your training time
Struggling to complete training sessions due to fatigue
Trying to reduce gastro-intestinal problems
Recovering from injury
Suffering from repeated infections

Then a combination of research-based sports nutrition knowledge and clinical nutritional therapy experience could help you to optimise both your performance and your health.

Within sports nutrition consultations take two areas: Performance nutrition which looks at fuel, recovery and hydration and then functional nutrition which looks at overall health, immune support and injury prevention.
Nutrition plays a critical role in helping you to get the most out of your training, maximise your recovery .

For those that are recreational athletes, for example just a few runs per week, a normal healthy balanced diet should suffice, a good strong  base of nutrition and exercise will help though to perform well, at even this level a diet of junk food or a severe reduction in calories will effect your performance.  To aid performance a nutritional consult can look at your base diet will help and correct any possible deficiencies before they start to have an effect on your health.  Good health  and consistent training equals better results.

Once you start training regularly and hard, trying to improve times and performance you move on to performance nutrition, performance nutrition differs from the standard diet there will be times when you need increased simple carbohydrates and time when the  whole food diet may be detrimental, a high fibre diet before a long race is not advised. Supplements are only required as a top up and not as an alternative to food.

Your training should be based on a variety of training sessions:-

Long Slow Distance – This will help build up your aerobic base, improved cardiovascular function, increased fat oxidisation, increase aerobic volume. If you are training to run marathons plus 80-90% of your training will be Long Slow Distance.

Lactate Threshold Sessions – Lactate Threshold training training involves continuous training at, or around, the speed/power output at which the lactate threshold occurs. believed to be particularly effective at increasing the %VO2 max at which the lactate threshold occurs i.e. allowing you race at a greater percentage of your maximum capacity

Intervals  Lactate tolerance training will help you to recover more quickly from successive bursts of speed and power. It will increase your tolerance to lactic acid and allow you maintain a high work rate for longer.

If you train mainly for distances up to 5k , 80-90% of your training should be thresholds or intervals.

Most endurance athletes look at ergonic aids as a technique or substance to improve or enhance their performance,  there are legal and illegal versions, Coffee is a common choice for endurance athletes. These may help:-

Reduce lactate accumulation

Improve fat oxidation rate – Green tea is one example

Increase VO2 Max

The best way to increase performance however is consistent training, with suitable recovery times, recovery is just as important as training.

To train well you need to:-

  1.  Eat enough calories – calories are your fuel, and when training and racing your body needs to access theses fuels fast.  Insufficient calories can result in:-
  • Poor recovery between training sessions
  • Poor quality training sessions
  • Low motivation for training
  • Poor attitude to training
  • Immune suppression
  • Fatigue/ over training syndrome
  • Increased risk of injury

Running needs approximately 115 calories of fuel  per mile irrespective of pace.  Therefore if you run 50 miles a week you need an extra 800 calories per day.

2.  Eat enough carbohydrate – this goes against most fashionable diet advise these days but if you are training hard and going long distance you need an easy to access fuel – carbohydrates.

How much do you need per day?

Light training 3-5g per KG of body weight

Moderate training – 1 hour  exercise per day – 5-7g per KG of body weight

High Endurance  1-3 hours exercise per day – 6-10g per KG of body weight

Very High Endurance 4-5 hours exercise per day – 8-12g/ KG of body weight

Glycogen is the main fuel used for energy production during endurance exercise, therefore your endurance activity is limited by Glycogen availability.  Regular training stimulates greater glycogen storages long as sufficient carbohydrates are consumed.  Eating carbohydrates before and during exercise can share muscle/ liver glycogen  and prevent a drop in blood glucose concentration, and help maintain the high rate of carbohydrate oxidation necessary to sustain exercise intensity.

The wrong diet and/or too much exercise  can effect the immune system.

Training = stress

Stress = elevated cortisol levels

Cortisol = immune system

Many endurance athletes suffer an upper respiratory infection after a race, due to all the training.  Therefore looking after our immune system is important since time off training will result in detraining.  The positive effects of a high carbohydrate diet in endurance training and the immune system, found that those will a high carbohydrate diet were less susceptible to upper respiratory infections.

3. Eat enough protein

Endurance athletes tend to focus on carbohydrate intake and pay little, if any, attention to protein. As a result, protein deficiency appears often among endurance athletes, with its inevitable negative effects on performance and health. Serious endurance athletes do need considerable amounts of protein, far above the normal adult RDA, because maintenance, repair, and growth of lean muscle mass all depend on it, as well as optimum immune system function. Low dietary protein lengthens recovery time, causes muscle weakness, and suppresses the immune system. Chronic protein deficiency will cancel the beneficial effects of your workouts; instead, you will become susceptible to fatigue, lethargy, anemia, and possibly even more severe disorders. Athletes with over training syndrome usually have protein deficiency.

Estimate of protein needed (g/kg/per day) – MALES

Sedentary  – 0.8 -1.0

Recreational Exerciser’s- 0.8 -1.0

Serious Resistance Training – Early Phase – 1.5 – 1.7

Serious Resistance Training – Maintenance – 1.00 – 1.2

Serious Endurance Training – 1.2- 1.6

Adolescent Athletes – 1.5-2.0

Female athletes 15% less than males

Other dietary requirements

Probiotics – Endurance athletes are more prone to upper respiratory infections than  a normal average person.  Research has found that probiotics extend the time between infections to around 3.4 months compared to those who took a placebo who were having infections every 2.3 months. So over the course of a year that could men one less attack per year given you more time to train.

Vitamin D – Vitamin D is important for bone health and respiratory heath. Deficiency is found in many individuals especially those in northern Europe due to lack of sun levels and this will be increased in individuals who train indoors for the majority of their training. A Dutch study  found 70% of athletes were deficient and they required 3 months of supplementation to bring their levels up to 80% of normal.  Athletes don’t require any more vitamin D than the general population,  but athletes just as the general population are likely to have sub-optimal levels.