To maximize performance you should aim to be fueling your body every two to four hours with small meals and snacks. Ideally you want to combine protein with carbohydrate and fat. Examples would be an apple with nuts, a turkey sandwich, or a sprouted grain bread with peanut butter. This approach provides variety in your diet and keeps your blood sugar levels even so you avoid the blood sugar rollercoaster experienced by most people throughout the day.
Nutrition & Hydration when racing or training
- Finish pre event meals prior to 3 hours before start in events longer than 3 hours
- Restrict calorie intake to 280 cal/hr or less during exercise depending on weight.
- Keep fluid intake to between 16-28oz/hr during exercise
- Eat complex carbs rather than simple sugars
- Replenish your body with complex carbs and lean protein as soon as possible after training or event.
Tips for peaking
Plan Your Start Date
When is your race or event? You will need to ensure you’re giving yourself plenty of time to train so that you reach your peak as close to the event as possible. This all depends on your current fitness level and shape. Do you need to diet, maintain or bulk up?
Determine caloric intake
This is dependent on your event and whether you need to get lean, maintain or bulk up for your event. It depends on your sport and whether it will enhance your performance. It’s important that you are sufficiently fueling your body to maximize energy.
Increase Aerobic Exercise
Increase the intensity and duration of your aerobic exercise. This will stimulate the activity of lipase which is a fat burning enzyme that breaks down stored fat and moves it into circulation to be burned for energy. Aerobic exercise also increases VO2 max which increases your bodies capability to process oxygen and transport it to body tissues. Fat is burned most efficiently when enough oxygen is available. The better trained you are aerobically and the leaner you are, the better your body can burn fat for energy.
Eat More Protein
If you’re trying to get lean, you should be eating at least 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight a day. This will help you maintain muscle mass. Increasing your protein intake during a time of calorie reduction helps protein against muscle loss plus the extra protein can be used as a backup energy source if your body needs it.
Time Your Meals and Exercise
You can train harder and burn more calories when you are well fueled throughout the day. You should be consuming carbohydrates before, during and shortly after exercise to allow your body to burn them for energy and help build muscle. After your workout you should consume protein and carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen stores and create the right hormonal environment that is conducive to building muscle.
Plan Your Diet To Go From Heavy To Light
Eat your largest meal first thing in the morning at breakfast. There is strong evidence that this can boost your metabolism and skipping breakfast lowers it. The thermic effect of food (how many calories are used to digest your food) is higher in the morning and tapers off slightly throughout the day.
Don’t Neglect Carbohydrate
Don’t limit carbs otherwise you will feel low energy and struggle to train at the level required to maximize your gains. A lack of carbs will negatively affect your mood and energy levels. Good complex carb sources are veggies, whole grains, beans and low fat dairy.
Watch Water Intake
Drink at least 8 cups (2 L) of water or more daily to prevent water retention. With enough fluid your body automatically flushes itself of extra water and not drinking enough water can make your body hold on to as much fluid as it can, and you’ll end up bloated. Dehydration can drain your energy, and you won’t be able to work out as intensely.
Focus on High Performance Fat
If you’re trying to build lean muscle mass then it’s important to consume the right types of dietary fat however if you’re trying to peak in a fat-loss or cutting diet, there isn’t any room for the wrong kinds of fat. Fat is critical to your success and should be eaten in the right proportions with protein and the right types of carbohydrates. Consume healthy monounsaturated fat, including fat from vegetable oils, olives, nuts, and avocados. Continue to get your omega-3 polyunsaturated fat from fatty fish and a little flaxseed meal. You can also supplement with omega-3 (DHA and EPA) supplements.
Space Your Meals
Eating small meals throughout the day allows your body to better use it’s calories for energy, and especially protein for building. Most bodybuilders and strength athletes eat five, six or more meals a day. Spacing meals in this way keeps you fueled throughout the day and may help you control your appetite better. Every time you eat your metabolism increases so consuming 20-30 grams of protein spaced throughout the day may provide better results and keep your metabolism in overdrive.
Include Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Exercise can increase free radical production and inflammation in the body. However you can manage these processes by choosing anti-inflammatory foods and immune boosting foods loaded with antioxidants. Choose bright, colorful vegetables and fruits from green spinach to sweet oranges. You can also get many of these healing nutrients from dairy products, eggs and fish. Fish is especially high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have very effective anti-inflammatory properties.
If you are dieting in the run up to your competition or event then it’s important to supplement with an antioxidant vitamin and mineral formula that contains at least 100 percent of the daily recommended intake for all essential nutrients. This will ensure that you are covering all your bases and don’t suffer any deficiencies.
Training to improve Aerobic Power
Evidence suggests that short-term, high intensity exercise is superior to long term, low intensity exercise in improving VO2 max. Training intensity is more important than duration when it comes to improving VO2 max. Interval training is the key to greatest improvements in this area. The length and intensity of the work interval is dependent on what energy system you want to improve. For example, a longer work interval requires a greater involvement of aerobic energy production, while a shorter, more intense interval provides greater participation of anaerobic metabolism.
Interval training to improve VO2 max should use intervals longer than 60 seconds to maximize the involvement of aerobic ATP production. There is evidence to support high intensity intervals being more effective in improving aerobic power, and possibly lactate threshold than lower intensity intervals however due to the intensity of training at this effort it should only be done 1-2 times per week max.
The rest of your training should be between 55-70% VO2 max with most of the training at the lower end of this scale and considerably below your lactate threshold. Each athlete may respond differently to similar training approaches due to different proportions of muscle fiber types. It is important to measure your progress every 3 months to determine whether your training program is successful.
If you’re serious about improving your performance then I recommend getting your heart rate and blood lactate response to different workloads measured and compare them to baseline values to monitor changes or improvements which allows you to tweak your training to compensate for this and maximize progress and performance.
There is also evidence to support training way below your lactate threshold (55-70% VO2) to get faster based on the work of Jan Olbrecht’s who coached several world class triathletes including Luc Van Lierde, holder of the fastest time at Kona and the fastest Ironman time for 14 years. He has also advised many other world class athletes in swimming, running, rowing and motocross.
If you are currently training at high intensities but are not noticing improvements you should try slowing down most of your workouts but keep a small percentage of high intensity intervals.
Your heart rate should drop to approximately 120 bpm near the end of the recovery interval.
Explosive type weight training should be added to an endurance training program to improve running economy Millet et al (2002).
Elite athletes can run at race pace between 75-85% VO2 max during a marathon, 90-100% VO2 max during a 10k and very close to VO2 max during a 5k. Bassett & Howley (2000).
Example Training Program
|Suggested Activities for the different phases of a year round training program|
Participation in other sports
The New Power Eating. Susan M. Kleiner (2019).
Limiting factors for maximum oxygen uptake and determinants of endurance performance. Bassett & Howley (2000).
Effects of concurrent endurance and strength training on running economy and V̇O2 kinetics. Millet et al (2002)