Recently I read an interesting book aimed at endurance athletes called “Racing Weight” by Matt Fitzgerald. It is a complete 6 step plan aimed at being lean enough for peak performance. Below is a summary of my favourite take home points:
- Weight management goals are different for endurance athletes compared to non-athletes. For example a low carbohydrate diet can be effective for non-athletes but be a problem for endurance athletes as carbohydrate is the primary fuel source for muscles.
- A low-carbohydrate diet does increase the muscle’s reliance on fat for energy, but in turn reduces the training capacity. If carbohydrate is not replenished after a session performance in subsequent sessions can decrease.
- Carbohydrate is not like fat and protein it is not the building block of any structure in the body. Small amounts are stored in the liver & muscles as glycogen. A sedentary person requires very little carbohydrate as if it is not used it will be stored as fat. A serious endurance athlete may require 2-3 times this amount.
- Athletes with large amounts of body fat tend to burn less fat and more carbohydrate at sub-maximal intensities. This is not beneficial as performance is often predicted by the point at which an athlete can switch between using primarily fat as a fuel source to using carbohydrate. The higher the intensity at which this happens the greater the endurance performance.
- The more an athlete trains, the more carbohydrate they need to maintain performance. The body can store 800g of carbohydrate but will burn it at a rate of 1g/minute during moderate exercise.
Optimal Performance Weight
- Your optimal performance weight is the weight associated with the highest athletic performance. You may take one training season or several to work this out by trial & error.
- Optimal performance weight needs to be achieved in the right way. For example a diet which greatly under nourishes your body can result in loss of fat and muscle and therefore strength. Your body composition will most likely indicate that you are at a higher percentage body fat compared to the same weight as your previous season.
Fuelling For A Session
- Performance in more intense sessions is enhanced by the consumption of water, carbohydrate and small amounts of protein/amino acids. Limiting the consumption of calories in these sessions often results in athletes over-compensating during meals straight after or later in the day resulting in an overall higher calorie intake.
- 2-4 hours prior to a session consume a meal high in carbohydrates around 100g.
- During a session over 2hrs or high intensity consume carbohydrates such as sport drink, energy gels and water at approx. 30-60g/hour.
- Within 2 hours post session replenish with both carbohydrates and protein & hydrate. Approx. 1.2g/kg of body weight of carbohydrates and 1g protein for every 4g of carbohydrates.
- The consumption of a small amount of protein along with carbohydrate during a longer-duration session delays fatigue. It reduces muscle damage and therefore assists performance in subsequent sessions.
For more information regarding sport nutrition please book an appointment to see our partnered Advanced Sport Dietician Ali Patterson.