Nutrition Tips for the Endurance Athlete from Aria Spa & Club

Regardless of continuing snowstorms, spring is approaching, and that means the beginning of endurance racing season.  Whether you run, ride, or swim, here are six last-minute nutrition tips for enhancing endurance from Taylor Hagan, Registered Dietitan and Personal Trainer at Aria Fitness Club.

1. Carbo load, don't fat load.

Carbohydrate-rich foods include cereals, fruits, juices, breads, rice, plain baked potatoes and pasta with tomato sauce.  Lower carbohydrate choices include donuts, cookies, buttery potatoes, ice cream, cheesy lasagna and pepperoni pizza.  These fat-laden foods may taste great and fill your stomach, but fat does not get stored as muscle fuel.

2. No last-minute hard training.

By resting your muscles and doing very little exercise this pre-event week, your muscles will have the time they need to store the carbohydrates and become fully saturated with glycogen (carbohydrate).  You can only fully carbo-load if you stop exercising hard!  You can tell if your muscles are well-carbo-loaded if you have gained 2 to 4 pounds pre-event.

3. Drink extra fluids.

You can tell if you are drinking enough fluids by monitoring your urine.  You should be urinating frequently (every two to four hours); the urine should be clear-colored and significant in volume.  Juices are a good fluid choice because they provide not only water and carbohydrates but also nutritional value.  Save the sports drinks for during the event.

4. Eat tried-and-true foods.

If you drastically change your food choices, you may end up with intestinal distress.  Simply eat a comfortable portion of the tried-and-true carbohydrates you've enjoyed during training.  You need not stuff yourself!  If you will be traveling to a far-away event, plan ahead so you can maintain a familiar eating schedule despite a crazy travel schedule.

5. Eat the morning of the endurance event.

You'll need this fuel to maintain a normal blood sugar level.  Although your muscles are well-stocked from the foods you've eaten the past few days, your brain gets fuel only from the limited amount of sugar in your blood.  When you nervously toss and turn the night before the event, you can deplete your blood sugar and, unless you eat carbs, you will start the event with low blood sugar. Your performance will go downhill from there, so eat a light to moderate greakfast as tolerated to help you avoid hitting the wall. Stick with tried-and-ture pre-exercise foods; cereal, bagels, toast, fruit, energy bars and/or juice.  These carb-based foods invest in fueling the brain, as well as staving off hunger.  If a pre-event breakfast will likely upset your system, eat extra food the night before.  

6. Consume carbs during the event.

During endurance exercise, you'll have greater stamina if you consume not only water, but also some carbohydrates, such as sports drinks, gels, bananas or dried fruit. You should target about 100 to 250 calories/hour after the first hour to avoid hitting the wall. (For example, that's 16 to 32 ounces of sports drink/hour.)  Some athletes boost their energy intake by sucking on hard candies or eating chunks of energy bar, animal crackers and other easily chewed and digested foods along the way.  Your muscles welcome this food; it gets digested and used for fuel during the event.

Vail Valley's largest health and wellness center, the award-winning Aria Spa & Club at Vail Cascade Resort & Spa is renowned for its precision approach to personal fitness and all-encompassing wellness.

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