"Diet and training are so closely intertwined, they can't be separated," ~Chris Carmichael - Olympic Trainer and Competitive Cyclist
So you’re running or swimming or biking and everything is going pretty well and then suddenly you start to feel really tired. There’s a heaviness in your arms or legs, your breathing quickens and you have a hard time getting it under control, or you have that totally empty feeling in your stomach. Unless you have some other medical condition, you are suffering from my friends and I call the “bonk.” It’s that moment in training where you have nothing left. You’re running on empty and there’s really only one cure. Fuel.
In the last couple of weeks you have probably increased your levels of exercise. You are either working out longer or more often and perhaps you have felt the “bonk.” In recent weeks I have had a lot more opportunities to train with Tri triBE members in several forums. We have done group swims and rides in particular, and I have heard the same refrain over and over. “I really should have eaten something before this.” And occasionally, “I was exhausted for the rest of the day after that session.” In both cases, fueling your training adequately would go a long way toward alleviating that training “bonk.”
Mostly I hear this excuse: “I don’t eat in the morning.” Occasionally I hear, “I got busy and forgot to eat.” No matter your excuse, if you want to avoid the “bonk” during training or complete exhaustion after, you need to eat.
Widespread research teaches us that eating breakfast is a great way to maintain a healthy weight, rev your metabolism, and feel better all day. Workout or not, eating in the morning is just a good idea. In addition, experts suggest that you provide fuel before workouts and after to improve performance during and recovery afterward. As the temperatures rise this will become increasingly important. We will talk about fuel for race day later, but now is a great time to try out various foods and decide what works best for you in terms of before and after training fuel.
Assuming you are planning to exercise 60 minutes or even longer, the suggested routine is that an hour before exercise you eat approximately 150-200 calories of carbohydrates and protein and drink 12-20 ounces of water. This gives the body time to process the fuel and make it ready for use by the muscles. For those of you that run first thing in the morning, this can be pretty hard as you get up, get dressed, and go out for a run. At least drink some water before you go out to stretch and warm up. The sports drinks or gels might be a good choice for you, as they are processed easily. And even if you don’t eat before, that fuel you take in afterwards is vital.
As soon as you are able, and hopefully within 15-30 minutes after you exercise, take in 100-200 more calories depending on how long and intense your workout was. This speeds muscular recovery and helps you maintain energy levels and eliminate post-workout soreness.
I know that some of you were hoping that doing all this exercise would help you lose weight. If it does, then great! But for most folks, training for a triathlon actually makes them really, REALLY hungry. So if you’re trying to lose weight, I think you’re in the wrong program. If you’re in it to improve your strength and cardio fitness and overcome physical and mental challenges, the stick around for this incredible ride.
So what should you eat? Below I list my five favorite training foods. I hope others reading this will use the comment section to list theirs. I feel confident that between us all we can find things you really love to eat.
· Peanut butter and honey on toast or a bagel. (Half a sandwich is about 150 calories)
· Oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts. (A single serving is 200-250 calories)
· Fruit smoothie with yogurt and/or protein power. (200+ calories)
· Protein bars like Clif or Luna bars (150-250 calories. Read the labels)
· Sports drinks (Calories depend on how much you drink. I cut mine 50-50 with water)
· Flavored milk. This is the #1 recommended post training fuel. Seriously! It’s the perfect combination of simple carbohydrates, protein, nutrients, and fluid replacement. NOTHING brings me back faster than chocolate milk after a hard workout.
· Cereal, granola or other bars. (Clif makes a 100 calorie mini that is perfect for me.)
· Banana or apple
· Sports drinks
· Raisins and almonds (I eat trail mix a lot after weight training especially)
Here are a couple of links that you might read to find out more about fueling exercise properly:
Please share your favorites for fueling your training and try something new to see if you feel stronger during your training and recover faster! What are you eating?
Train safely, stretch, sleep, hydrate, EAT WELL!
Safe journey. Wind at your back.