Let me start by stating I am NOT a registered dietician; however, I have studied nutrition for many years, including courses taken at University of North Florida. One of the things I have learned is people should eat to train and not train to eat. For endurance athletes, this can be a difficult concept to embrace and even more difficult to execute. Trying to lose weight while training for a long distance endurance event is much harder than it seems.
I have seen athletes increase their training volume and GAIN weight; that is how important nutrition is to the process. For starters, most people do not burn as many calories as they imagine and they consume significantly more calories than they think they do. After biking and running for many miles, it feels like you just deserve pizza, a beer, and some ice cream. But not only are those foods extremely calorie dense, they are weak on nutrients. Those foods are not going to make you feel energized for your next workout. When you are trying to lose weight, you have to eat “clean” so your body knows that weight loss is the goal. When you cheat, your body gets confused and the weight tends to stay the same.
Nutrition can be tricky when training for a big endurance event. There are a few things the body needs before, during and after training. An hour or two before training, your body needs some sort of healthy carbohydrates. Depending on the type and length of training, you may need some healthy protein and fats too. If the training lasts longer than an hour, you will need some carbs and possibly electrolytes during the workout. Of course these are very general statements, we go in to much more details with our athletes, on this topic. Immediately after training you need to replace the glycogen that was lost, I like to have a smoothie with fruits and greens. This is a great option because sometimes it is hard to stomach food immediately after an intense workout. Always make sure you get a good meal with healthy carbs, protein and fat, within an hour of completing your workout.
I have always said eating is one of the toughest things to manage because you have to do it day in and day out. It takes a lot of planning, preparation and discipline; however, once you get it down to a routine you can follow, you will feel better and train harder!