The importance of being lean in the world of endurance sports can not be stressed enough. As one great running coach has always said “everyone can lose some weight”. Unfortunately this can lead to some unhealthy food habits within the world of endurance sports. The habit of over restricting is a problem on the never ending quest for weight loss. This can quickly lead to sickness, muscle loss and a decrease in an athlete’s performance.
Endurance athletes are always searching for the way to lose those last couple of pounds before their next race.
When an athlete is training for, let’s say a marathon, they do not only run a LSD each day, they use a few tools in the training arsenal like speed work, hill work and recovery runs. All of these runs have a specific role and eventually end up working together to give the athlete their best chance at improving performance.
We can easily use this same concept when it comes to helping athletes become lean. It’s more than just restricting the calories you consume. It’s more than eating carbohydrates and protein after a training session. It begins with your training schedule but also includes the athlete’s meal plan, meal timing (when they eat carbs versus protein) and nutrient timing.
Meal Planning for Athlete’s
Sitting down once a week to plan meals is one of the most important things an athlete can do for their weight and performance. Once you know if it’s a hard week or recovery week, you can sit down and plan the types of food that will be most beneficial for you and will help keep you in line.
Meal Timing for Athlete’s
Meal timing is dictated by when and how you train. The idea behind meal timing is that you eat your big meal that is loaded with protein, carbs and healthy fats before or after a hard training session. This could mean that your lunch is actually what most American’s eat as dinner. Then the rest of the meals and snacks are more protein based and less carbohydrates (this doesn’t mean go Atkins). However, let’s say you have a big block of training first thing in the morning, you just go ahead and eat a giant bowl of pasta the night before. The basic concept is that you eat the majority of your carbohydrates around your training and limit them during the other meals.
Nutrient Timing for Athlete’s
This is one of the simplest, most neglected and yet talked about aspects to an athlete’s nutrition for recovery and performance. Get the carbohydrates and protein into your system within 20 minutes of a training session. Yes, maybe you can’t get a full meal for another hour or it wasn’t “all that hard”, but you’ve still got to replenish what’s been lost. If you do not, you will end up losing muscles and/or unable to to rebuild your muscles. Whey protein is best for recovery because it’s quick. Casein protein like cottage cheese is best at night as it is slowly absorbed into your muscles.
Taking these three simple concepts and using them correctly, will help all endurance athlete’s like runners, cyclists and triathletes lose those last few pounds while maintaining and possibly building lean muscle mass.