Hot Tips on “how to Eat to Compete” from the creator of Herbalife24 Sports Nutrition
As professional cyclists are racing down the coast in the Tour of California this week, I wanted to share these ideas from Dr. John Heiss of Herbalife on how to ‘Eat to Compete – 5 Reasons Why Endurance Athletes Need Fuel 24/7.’
1. Athletes need to fuel up in the morning, since their stored fuel reserves will have dropped during an overnight fast. Training and racing take a toll on the body, and starting the day with a healthy meal balanced with carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals provides a solid nutritional foundation for performance.
2. Hydration is an essential need all people share. Because hydration directly impacts athletic performance, it is even more important for athletes to keep fluid levels topped off – especially during an event as demanding as a multi-day tour when cyclists can lose multiple liters of fluid in a single stage. Hydration is essential, as are electrolytes – important body salts which support proper muscle function and help regulate body temperature. It’s important to hydrate during the event, but also important to sip fluid throughout the day to fully rehydrate before the next stage. Sports drinks provide not only necessary fluid, but also electrolytes that have been lost through perspiration. Sports drinks contribute carbohydrates, too, to help fuel working muscles during the event.
3. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel during exercise and they’re essential to keep the body running. In an endurance race, calories are king and getting enough is essential for performance. Making sure to get plenty of carbohydrates both before and during the race is key, and proper nutrition on the bike also helps shorten recovery time, which is very important in a multi-day event. In addition to carbohydrates, a small amount of protein during exercise can help speed recovery.
4. After a race, the body needs the right ratios of carbohydrates and protein to begin recovering. Recovery is two-fold, and requires carbohydrate for replacing glycogen stores as well as protein for rebuilding damaged muscle.
5. Supplementation in a race is essential, as the nutritional needs of cyclists are so extreme that they can’t be met with food alone. But that being said, it is important to keep in mind that supplementation is just that – a supplement to a regular healthy diet. Every athlete should get the majority of their calories and nutrients from whole foods, primarily healthy sources of healthy carbohydrates – whole grains, fruits and vegetables – and protein from lean meats, poultry, fish, low fat dairy products and plant sources such as soy.
John Heiss, Ph.D., Herbalife Senior Director of Sports and fitness and creator of the Herbalife24™ sports nutrition line, is continually putting his products to the test. He competed in several high altitude endurance cycling and running races in the Alps and Leadville, Colorado, including the Leadville Trail 100 MTB Presented by Herbalife24™.
Even for experienced endurance athletes, like Dr. Heiss, finding the right balance is an ongoing process. Whatever your workout goal, you need to strike a balance and plan for your other requirements in life, like work and rest. This will be different for everyone.
Workout vs. Work Balance
These races require a demanding training regimen. Dr. Heiss realizes that most people aren’t preparing for these intense endurance events, but everyone should try to balance the time to squeeze in an exercise routine every day.
“On weekdays, I’m usually out the door by 6 a.m. to get in a 3-hour workout before work. I’m lucky that the company culture at Herbalife is pretty cool and allows me to adjust my schedule accordingly. Of course, for many people with a rigid 9-5 schedule that’s not possible, but even then you should try to fit in a 30-minute workout in the morning or before dinner.
Anything you do to make it easier for yourself will go a long way. Exercise five times a week even if it’s only a few pull-ups or pushups. You might think you don’t have time to work out, but you’d be amazed that even as little as five minutes every day will go a long way to meeting your fitness goals.”
Workout vs. Rest Balance
Adequate rest is an essential part of leading a healthy, active life. It’s as important as hydration, good nutrition and regular activity. Whether you are trying to lose a few pounds or maintain lean muscle mass, find the combination that works for you.
That may mean some trial and error. Between completing TransAlp, the epic 32-hour, 7-day bike race in the Swiss Alps, and the Leadville Silver Rush MTB50— 50 mile mountain trail bike race through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains—Heiss continued light workouts to keep his legs moving. This included spins and easy runs. He thought it would keep his legs to stay active but still allow recovery.
But it didn’t go as planned.
“Three minutes into the Leadville Silver Rush MTB50, I could tell it was going to be a long day. Power was off, and the sensations were not good. I finished the race off my target time and that prompted me to take a proper rest.”
To summarize, here are three tips that Dr. Heiss recommends to find balance in your exercise routine:
Workout Tip #1. Do what’s attainable. You might think you don’t have time to work out, but you’d be amazed that even as little as five minutes every day will go a long way to meeting your fitness goals.
Workout Tip #2. Eat with a purpose. Ask yourself, why are you eating it and how will you benefit?
Workout Tip #3. Know what you’re working towards. Whether it’s training for a race or a specific weight loss goal, plan your exercise routine and stick with it.
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