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15 Simple Ways To Improve Your Athletic Performance Right Now, Part 2

Thu, Nov  9, 2006 - By Steve Born

Fueling Guidelines That Are Easy to Follow and Incorporate

Part 1 discussed basic hydration, caloric intake, and the problem with simple sugars. In this article, the discussion continues with the topics of protein and electrolytes during training.

4. Exercise over two hours requires protein, too.

Carbs alone won’t satisfy all of your energy requirements once you exceed two hours or so. Protein will have to satisfy roughly 10% of your energy requirements. You have two choices: (1) Use a fuel (such as Sustained Energy or Perpetuem) that contains both complex carbohydrates and soy protein, or (2) Allow your body to literally feed upon itself (that is, digest your own muscle tissue) to make fuel. Did you pick #1? Good call!

5. Use soy, not whey, during exercise.

Whey protein is a superb protein when it’s used at the right time: after exercise. Do not use it before or during because the added glutamine quickly degrades to produce ammonia. Ammonia build-up is a primary culprit in muscle fatigue, and you’re already producing ammonia when you exercise. Don’t make it worse. Soy or rice gives you the protein you need with minimal extra ammonia production. After exercise, when ammonia production is not an issue, glutamine-enhanced whey protein is great for immune system boosting, muscle tissue rebuilding, and enhanced glycogen synthesis.

6. Use liquid fuels as your main energy source, even during prolonged training and races.

There’s nothing wrong with consuming a little solid food on occasion during prolonged exercise as a pleasant diversion from the monotony of liquid fuel consumption, but you must:

a) Make wise choices. Choose foods that have little or no refined sugar and saturated fats. Don’t think, “I’m a calorie burning machine so I can eat anything that I want.” What you put in your body greatly determines what you get out of it. Remember: garbage in, garbage out!

b) Make solid food consumption the exception, not the rule.

Solid food is harder to digest than liquid, and it requires more time, water, and electrolytes. Relying too heavily on solid foods can leave you feeling lethargic, bloated, and nauseated. Liquid fuels digest and absorb readily, so you avoid those unwanted maladies. Most of all, avoid all junk foods, which contain lots of saturated fats and refined sugars, at all times. Believe me, when the latter stages of the race are upon you, you’ll be thanking yourself that you took a pass on that sugar & fat laden pastry earlier in the race.

7. Remember to replenish electrolytes during exercise.

You can get your energy fuels (“gasoline”) dialed in right, but if you neglect the electrolytes (“oil”), the dash light comes on—except your body doesn’t have a dash light. Instead, you get cramps, spasms, muscle revolt, irregular and rapid heartbeat, and major bonk. Don’t wait for the light to come on; those are the final symptoms of increasing impairment. If you don’t respond well before your body’s oil light comes on, you can pretty much kiss optimal performance, and probably the whole race, goodbye.

8. Don’t rely on salt tablets to fulfill electrolyte requirements.

People think sweat = major salt loss, but that’s very misleading where it counts—in your replenishment program. Salt is just one of several electrolytes you need to replenish during exercise. Calcium, magnesium, and potassium also play key roles in fulfilling electrolyte requirements.

Here’s the bad news with salt, which is all too easy to overload on: excess salt consumption causes edema and impairs your normal body mechanisms for handling electrolytes. That’s why throwing down salt tablets is a bad idea; you should avoid them altogether.

How much salt is enough? Electrolyte depletion is widely variable—you can’t rely on a “one-size fits all” bottled drink or drink mix. You need to experiment and find your own range for any given weather condition and duration of exercise. That being said, 200-400mg NaCl/hr, as part of a full spectrum electrolyte replenishment product (like Endurolytes), is a good starting point for most athletes under most conditions.

Part 3 discusses pre-race, race, and post-race fueling.