Being an endurance athlete requires not only rigorous training but also a smart nutritional strategy. Particularly, the meals before a long endurance event plays a crucial role in accessing performance. Here, we take a look at some insights into the fundamental nutritional aspects before running, cycling, or ski touring.
The Importance of Carbohydrates before Endurance Activities:
Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for endurance performances. Numerous studies confirm that sufficient carbohydrate intake before the event increases glycogen stores in muscles and the liver, extending endurance. It is advisable to focus on carbohydrate-rich food 2-3 days before the event to fill these stores. Complex carbohydrate sources, beneficial for digestion and balanced nutrition, can also be included. However, overdoing it should be avoided as the storage capacity is limited. On the day of the event, easily digestible carbohydrates should be consumed. For shorter, intense events, complete digestion before the start is crucial, while for longer, more leisurely activities, later food intake is possible. Nonetheless, testing this in training is essential to understand individual needs.
Proteins before the Endurance Event: An Underestimated Role
While carbohydrates take the forefront, proteins should not be neglected. Studies show that a moderate amount of protein before the endurance event supports muscle synthesis and prevents muscle breakdown. Animal proteins are a good source, but plant proteins, such as from legumes or tofu, also have their advantages. The choice can be made based on personal preferences and tolerance. Plant proteins may also contain more micronutrients and fiber, essential for a balanced diet.
Fats as an Energy Source: A Balanced Perspective
While carbohydrates are the main energy source, moderate amounts of healthy fats can support energy supply during prolonged endurance activities. Avocado, nuts, or olive oil provide good options. However, a too fatty meal should be avoided as it could affect digestion.
Hydration before the Event: The Key Role of Fluid Intake
Optimal hydration before an endurance event is crucial for your performance. Studies emphasize the importance of adequate fluid intake, as well as avoiding excessive drinking. A good rule of thumb is to drink about 500 ml of water 1-2 hours before the start and then regularly and sufficiently during the event. Ideally, incorporating electrolytes, not just water, is recommended.
These insights provide a solid foundation for shaping your pre-fueling nutritional strategy. In our next article, we will delve into individual differences, the digestibility of foods, and the optimal timing of meals to ensure that you have more joy in your next endurance event. #HappyFueling