When your exercise workload starts to increase, it is important that you recognise the demands that this will place on your body.
Your training increase may be in preparation for an event or race or could be just because you want to push yourself to new levels.
At this point, it is important that you become increasingly aware of what you are eating and ensure that you provide your body with the right nutrients to optimise your performance. Below are some top tips on what you need to consider when your training becomes more demanding.
Adapting your diet
As your workload increases, you will need to make changes to your everyday diet to ensure you are properly fuelled and ready for your sessions. Firstly, you will need to increase your carbohydrate intake and taper it relative to training intensity and duration each day. Below are the recommendations for carbohydrate intake based on the amount of exercise you are doing each day:
- 1 hour per day: 5-7 g/kg BM/day
- 1-3 hours per day: 7-10g/kg BM/day
On training days where you have a longer, more intense session, aim to eat a portion of carbohydrate with every meal alongside some carbohydrate based snacks. Some good examples would be rice, wholegrain bread, sweet potato, rice cakes, bananas and energy bars (such as the Etixx Energy Bar).
Moreover, with an increase in training load, you will place heavy demands on the muscles resulting in increased muscle damage. Therefore you will have a higher requirement for protein to allow for proper recovery and training adaptation, and the current recommendation for endurance athletes is 1.2-1.6g/kg BM/day.
Try to eat a portion of high quality protein, such as chicken tuna or eggs with every meal. Not only that, but you should also pay close attention to your fat intake. Although not needed in huge amounts, fats are essential nutrients for many physiological functions and are also a good fuel source.
Aim for 2-3 portions of healthy fats per day (i.e. avocados, nuts, olive oil). Finally, it is well known that exercise places huge stresses on the body’s immune system and has frequently been found to cause immunosuppression.
This is particularly true during periods of increased training load and therefore you must ensure that you are eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. Fill your meals with vegetables, especially low calorie ones, and aim for around 2-3 portions of fruit per day. This will provide you with loads of essential vitamins and minerals needed to optimise performance.
Practice Fuelling Strategies
As your sessions get longer, you will need to make sure you have a fuelling strategy in place to allow you to enhance performance. Remember that for exercise lasting longer than 90 minutes, you will need to take on some sort of fuel in order to avoid fatigue.
This can be done in the form of real food such as bananas, dates or a jam sandwich, however it is common for food to cause GI problems in athletes during exercise and therefore energy products should be considered. These are specifically designed to provide you with the exact nutrients that you will need in an easily digestible form.
You should be aiming for around 60g of carbohydrate per hour (this can increase to 90g/h for sessions lasting longer than 3 hours). If using a product such as the Etixx Triple Action Energy Gel, which contains 24g of carbohydrate, you should be consuming ~3 per hour in order to sustain activity.
Remember that fuelling strategies can include drinks as well! Get to know the carbohydrate content of the food or products you are using and plan for your increased workload. To help with this, keep a good supply of energy products with your exercise gear. This will ensure that when you are rushed for time or doing a session straight from work, you will have enough fuel at hand to complete your training.
Importance of Recovery
When you’re training load increases, the recovery from each session becomes even more important. This is especially true for days when you have multiple sessions in one day as the recovery will be vital for optimal performance in both. When you finish a recovery session, try to get some form of nutrients in as quickly as you can.
A great way to do this is in the form of recovery drinks such as the Etixx Recovery Shake which contains both carbohydrates for muscle glycogen replenishment and protein to stimulate the muscle growth and repair process.
These are easy to carry around, quick to make and should be consumed over a 15-30 minute period. However the recovery should not stop there and you should make sure you properly refuel and recover in a meal around a couple of hours after the end of your session.
This should again contain carbohydrates and protein and a good example would be a jacket potato with grilled chicken breast and some leafy green vegetables. After particularly long sessions or races, you should pay close attention to your recovery over a 24 hour period, ensuring you are taking on enough protein and carbohydrate to fully restore what you have depleted. Plan your recovery meals ahead of time to ensure you are not left underprepared for subsequent sessions.
During periods of increased training demand you are placing huge stresses on your body and therefore supplementation can be a great way to help keep you healthy. Some supplements you might want to consider are:
1) Magnesium: Magnesium plays an important role in muscle contraction and energy production and a large deficiency of magnesium causes structural damage to muscle cells. Take a magnesium supplement, such as the Etixx Magnesium Absorption + to help reduce fatigue and regulate muscle contraction (it can also help to reduce muscle twitches following intense sessions!).
The Etixx Magnesium Absorption + also contains Vitamin C for an added boost to the immune system.
2) Iron: Iron plays an important role in oxygen transportation, energy production, neural function and the immune system. Deficiencies in iron can leave you feeling extremely tired and are most common in women, vegetarians and those who do a lot of endurance exercise. An iron supplement such as the Etixx Iron Absorption+ can be used to improve iron status and optimise endurance performance.
3) Glucosamine sulphate & Chondroitin: when training workload increases, especially with endurance running, you will place huge demands on your joints and soft tissue. Glucosamine sulphate and chondroitin have both been found to restore cartilage cells and prevent cartilage breakdown.
They can both be found in the Etixx Impact Support which also contains added Lactoferrin, vitamin C and manganese which all further contribute to the normal generation of connective tissue and cartilage cells.
Listen to your body
The most important thing to remember when you’re training load increases is to make changes relative to how you are feeling. For example, if you’re constantly feeling like you have no energy on sessions try increasing your carbohydrate intake, or if you’re starting all your sessions feeling bloated and heavy, try decreasing your carbohydrate intake.
Also, if you find yourself experiencing GI problems during exercise, try decreasing your fibre intake in the meals before your session as this can slow digestion. GI problems can also be caused by caffeine so consider limiting coffee as well. Remember that all nutrition and fuelling strategies are individual. Make necessary changes alongside your training schedule to ensure you find what works for you.
Charlotte Kennedy is a sports nutritionist at Etixx. For more information on Etixx sports nutrition, please visit: www.etixxsports.com
Photos: Brake Through Media