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Sports Nutrition: How to fuel your endurance events

If your focus is to complete a half marathon or a marathon, you need to fuel your body differently than if your focus is to sprint or complete shorter, more intense workouts. While long distance runners rely on stored muscle glycogen and fatty acids from fat cells and muscle cells, sprinters rely on glucose as their primary energy source. So if you want to excel in an endurance run, or a long bike ride, you need to fuel your body properly. Here are some tips to help you thrive during your long distance training.

Food is fuel

If your race day is a few weeks away, you need to focus on consuming carbohydrates because they are stored in the muscles as glycogen. On race day, these stores will become your body’s fuel. Studies show that if you don’t have enough glycogen, you will be fatigued, be more prone to injury, and not be able to perform as well. In the week leading up to your race day, you should eat 10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight per day. Try to focus on grain products like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, cereal, pasta, fruits, and vegetables. Two days before your long race, you need to start drinking more fluids. Think about including protein in your diet as well, as this will help your muscles repair and it will prevent muscle breakdown.

Pre-race day eating

You should aim to eat three to four hours before your race to optimize your digestion and your energy supply. Because your muscle glycogen levels need to be topped off, this pre-race meal is essential. We recommend a meal that provides 500 to 1,000 calories. It has to be high in carbohydrates and low in fat.

Race eating

During your race, you need to eat between 30 to 75 grams of carbohydrates per hour. If you don’t, your ability to fully exert yourself diminishes and your performance will weaken. We recommend sports gels or sports bars that provide your muscles with fast, easily absorbed carbohydrates. Remember that for long races dehydration is also an issue. As a result of sweating, which is your body regulating its internal temperature, you will need more water. Sweat is composed of both water and electrolytes, so you need to replace them effectively. You should consume 600 mL to 1200mL of fluid (water or sports drink) per hour.

Post race eating

Once you’re done with your race, you still need to fuel your body for it to recover. We recommend consuming protein and carbohydrates within two hours after finishing your race. This will ensure that you restock your glycogen levels. A good ratio to follow for your post race meal is to consume four grams of carbohydrates for every one gram of protein.
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