Daily Nutrition vs. Training Nutrition – The Apex Nutrition Philosophy – Nutrition for Athletes
Throughout my career, I’ve developed, fine-tuned, and worked with countless clients to provide an easy, effective programs for the best nutrition for athletes. I’ve helped clients separate their nutrition needs for wellness and fat loss during everyday life, from training nutrition. It’s important. Otherwise, athletes get caught up in the healthy eating practices of lean protein, healthy fats, high-fiber, slow-digestion, balanced meals and whole-foods (which are great for daily eating!) and snub their bodies’ demands for quick fuel immediately before, during, and after training or competing. While eating healthy foods throughout the day is imperative for a healthy body, you will do yourself a disservice by not consuming quicker-acting fuel when you require it. If you’ve never thought about it, or realized there should be a difference, it’s can be confusing.
But indulge me, as once you’ve thought about it and explored the physiological reasons behind it, it will be clear, obvious, and important to you as well.
On the other hand, some athletes believe they need carbohydrates and quick fuel all the time. Often, as they get older or reduce training, they find pounds piling on, recovery slowed, and performance diminishing. Some even deal with chronic health issues such as impaired blood sugar or even diabetes.
It’s for these reasons that you’ve gotta keep them separated: Daily Nutrition & Training Nutrition.
The goal of Daily Nutrition is to provide your body with the best, healthiest foods possible to promote overall wellness, fat loss, and health – from the cells on up. By choosing the right foods, you can help your body reduce inflammation, oxidative stress, and toxins. You can give it the energy it needs to thrive in daily living while providing the proteins and fats that help it repair itself and maintain healthy hormonal balances.
Then, there’s Training Nutrition. In many ways, training nutrition requires foods and drinks that are the opposite of healthy Daily Nutrition foods. Instead of high-fiber, slow foods, you need quick-acting foods for training. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a belly full of slow-digesting foods that won’t reach your blood stream in time or provide an efficient energy source. If you’re only training 60 minutes or less, or are not a “serious” athlete, you don’t likely need more training fuel. For you, often fluids and electrolytes will be enough. However, if you are more serious about performance, or training longer, I recommend giving your body the fuel it can use.
From the onset, this seemed most logical to me. With an understanding of digestion, and how the metabolism of nutrients actually changes during the very time when you’re active vs. inactive (all the way down to the cellular level of the body), it’s always made sense to me that the different “fueling times” should use different types of fuel. Don’t make the mistake of thinking of your body as a simple, stagnant operation – it’s complex! At the cellular level, metabolism changes when you’re sitting vs. when you’re running. These changes occur in the short-term and long-term.
Well then, which foods when?
First, let’s start with Daily Nutrition. We’ll keep it simple here and I’ll give you more details in subsequent chapters of Fuel Right Race Light. Daily Nutrition includes:
- A healthy pattern of consistent meals and, if you’d like, snacks – i.e. breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and dinner. This is much better than a haphazard eating pattern or one in which an athlete eats nothing until 2pm, then overeats all afternoon and evening (believe it or not, I see this all the time!). I also emphasize a pattern with times of eating and times of not eating – your body and hormones respond better to this than a constant influx or grazing. The main keys are to avoid grazing, allow time between meals and snacks, and to eat most of your calories during the day while you’re active, and then keep it “light at night.”
- Adequate daily fluid. Sixty-four ounces per day off fluid is a great starting point for the metabolism of a 2000-calorie per day diet. However, many athletes need upwards of 3000-4000 calories per day, which requires more fluid. Remember, dehydration is cumulative and gets worse day after day if it is not remedied. And, it has a DIRECT detrimental effect on performance.
- Appropriate and adequate daily calories based on your weight/fat goals (maintenance, loss, etc.). This is best determined by a professional, but I also offer my Apex Nutrition Calorie Calculator for all you Do-It-Yourselfers (in most areas of my life, I’m certainly a do-it-myselfer so I can relate!). Any professional calculation should take into account your weight, age, sex, height, body fat percentage, daily activities, weight history, dieting history, training schedule, and clinical judgment .
- Whole food carbohydrates at a level that reflects your weight/fat goals. In my experience, carbohydrate intake (and reductions in it) has a direct effect on fat loss. But, as an athlete, you certainly need carbs as well. Sit tight, you’ll learn exactly how much, which ones, and when.
- Protein at every meal. You have higher protein needs than a sedentary person as you are constantly building and rebuilding cells. Low protein status, among endurance athletes, often correlates to slow recovery, more illnesses, general fatigue, low iron status, and deteriorating performance.
- It’s that important and you need adequate protein in daily nutrition.
- Essential fats, especially omega-3 fats, monounsaturated fats, and medium chain triglycerides. Minimal processed foods and transfats. From an athletic and overall healthy standpoint, healthy fats help reduce overall inflammation in our bodies; cellular inflammation is a key player in chronic disease and unhealthy cells. Fats also promote healthy hormone balance and better insulin sensitivity, which usually equals less fat storage.
- Adequate vitamins and minerals – again, you have higher needs than a sedentary person (which is who the RDAs are based upon). Without individual blood testing, it suffices to say that you should include a good variety of foods with adequate proteins, fats, and carbs in your daily diet. In most cases, I also recommend a food-based multivitamin/multimineral, omega-3s, probiotics, and extra vitamin D and magnesium. Beyond this, different individuals and circumstances warrant different and/or more supplements.
- Superfoods that promote reduced inflammation, oxidative stress, and toxins in your cells. As an athlete, you work your body hard, and use high amounts of oxygen – this can actually increase the oxidative stress in your body. And, we ingest, breathe in, and are inundated with toxins in our environments, foods, and drinks. Give your body some help and eat foods that “clean” your cells.
But, most of these don’t work well when you on the bike, in the middle of a climb, or running an ultra.
Next, you need specific fuel immediately before, during, and after training/competing. This is a great time to determine your goals as an athlete, as your goals should set the course for your training and training nutrition. If you are training in order to lose weight or just improve cardiovascular fitness, you don’t necessarily need extra calories and carbs during your workout and may do fine just using water and electrolytes when needed. If, however, you are training to improve as an athlete, with the goal of pushing yourself to new levels during training in order to get better and better, you should pay close attention to “Training Nutrition.” For you, this is where it can get confusing because the fuel you need for training requires fast digestion and is on the opposite end of the nutrition spectrum from the recommended daily nutrition food choices. For training, you need:
- A good understanding of human digestion: Knowing how and how fast different foods and nutrients are digested is the key to knowing what to eat when for training nutrition (don’t be the guy eating almonds or beef jerky on a 90 minute ride – they’ll still be setting in the stomach long after the ride’s done – no offense almond guy).
- Pre-training fuel: Before most training sessions, it is a good idea to make sure you are hydrated so that you’re not starting in a fluid deficit. I recommend drinking to fullness 1-2 hours beforehand, and then sipping fluids the last hour before training. Also, aim to eat/drink a snack or meal that contains easy to digest carbohydrates; the closer to start-time, the more easy-to-digest they should be. We’ll go into full detail for pre-training and pre-race options in Fuel Right Race Light, with tons of recommendations that are tried and true by professional, highly-successful client athletes.
- During-training fuel – During any session lasting more than 60 minutes at high intensity, or more than 90 minutes even at lesser intensity, you will benefit from giving your body fluid, carbohydrates and electrolytes during the session. These are the big 3: Fluids. Carbs. Lytes. We’ll dial these in. We’ll also discuss lesser, but still very beneficial training nutrients such as amino acids, caffeine, probiotics, and anti-cramp formulas. Then, we’ll talk about the details of longer training (>5 hours), multi-day tours/races, 24 hour race considerations, and more.
- After-training recovery – After all training sessions, I recommend eating/drinking a recovery snack or meal within 30 minutes of finishing the session. Include fluid, carbohydrates, and protein at a minimum; electrolytes, probiotics, and medium chain triglycerides from organic coconut oil are great, too. We’ll also discuss some “secret ingredient” ingredients that I’ve experimented and confirmed with many, many athletes to significantly improve recovery.
All of these nutrition needs can certainly be overwhelming – but don’t worry, I’ll make it easy. Again, you can start with action and easily put all my recommendations into practice by simply following your Apex Nutrition Eating Plan for Daily Nutrition and Training Nutrition Plan for Training Nutrition. Then, when time allows, you can read more and learn why. Each day, work to keep your body healthy with consistent meals and snacks made up of healthy food choices. Then, when training or competing, give your body the fuel it needs to run its best!
If you’re ready for a complete nutrition plan with a “Just Tell Me What to Eating” Meal Plan & Training Nutrition Plan, look no further than Fuel Right Race Light. For only $40, you’ll have complete meal planning & a comprehensive guide to everything sports nutrition. Includes a complete web-interactive ebook with podcasts, videos, recipes, and posts! Click here and Download Today!