Diet and lifestyle in conjunction with training are the most important factors in case of lifelong high performance. Diet including hydration of course. These are all correlated and have an impact on each other, back and forth. You neglect one factor and it will affect another.
For instance if you slept less than 6 hours, you would be in a very sugar sensitive state, where taking in carbs would mean a very high sugar high and a sudden drop to a deep sugar low. That also would greatly impact endurance for instance. You might want to mitigate that with a low sugar dietary approach of eating high fat for instance, but as your mind and body is upset, you’ll have hunger cravings despite a great meal of roasted fish and avocados. If you wanted to go out for a run, you would need fuel to feel great, even if it was a short one, what might impact further training sessions and your fat burning and endurance abilities. Then as you did not eat carbs, but fats, you will be also shading water, so cramping can become an issue. Then the cycle turns. Because during this day, you did not eat carbs, you might have mis regulated serotonin and melatonin production, so your next sleep will be probably also compromised. Now you brain is tired, you start making bad choices in case food and hydration and as you still want to follow your training schedule, you might engage in a too long run or a too high intensity workout, to your current state and boom, you are trapped. This is why we always have to keep our attention on all aspects of life and training and we must apply discipline to control the most controllable factors.
Understanding science and our own body and adjusting everything to these minuscul changes are one of the keys to success. For instance knowing that if we ate a low carb breakfast or no breakfast and followed up a with a low carb day, we should be salting more our food and taking in electrolytes to avoid cellular water shading and low level dehydration. We could be taking in more essential aminos and creatine during the day, to stimulate hormonal functioning and our brain for quality decisions. Instead of charging through the day pointlessly just to arrive home and go to bed, we could be actually having multiple micro naps, even up to 4 or more sessions of 8 to 15 minutes of power naps. For some it might sound like 90minutes lost during the day, but actually, after each nap, the quality of life experienced and the quality of work put out will be 10 folded. Also this is the time to add low quality carbs to our food or supplements. Science shows that Vitargo a very cheap high quality European origine non GMO sugar source is a fantastic way to impact very rapidly our glycogen stores ! Also, guess what, when our glycogen stores are topped up, our fat burning ability is increased and our cervo functions way better ! Maxed out glycogen stores also aid sleep, including the speed of falling asleep and the depth of the night too !
Long term personal experimentations and findings
This has been something, that I have been using for well over a decade. This is something that is one of the best tools for deep and extremely rapid recovery. It is unquestionably also the cheapest -> free actions that you can take for post race recovery, cellular clean up and metabolic reset.
I practice it at least twice a week in general. It is simple, I wake up, drink a litre of water with Quinton and I might drink one coffee, a tea or a herbal infusion, with no anything added to it. That is however not always the case. Water with quinton is enough. I am better off with adding minerals to my first water of the day. Even if I did not have quinton, I would use a pinch of salt and half a spoon of bicarb of soda.
My last bite of the day is often between 7 and 9pm and the next time I eat is around 14h30 to 15h30.
After I had race, what could have been an ultra or after multiple days of hard and long training where supplement and sugar intake was higher than natural, I might practice it for a week straight, every single day.
The key to hunger cravings as I mentioned is sleep. Sleep to the MAX. In this manner, there is absolutely zero difficulty to keep to my habit. No self discipline, nor deep thoughts needed. I don’t think about refusing to eat or about bombing the fridge.
My first meal is often 3 to 5 slices of meat with 4 to 6 eggs, 1 avocado, green veggies, very little carbs and something fermented. Interestingly, I eat way more volume than normal, but have zero stomach upset or digestive issues, ever.
At the evening I eat more like a carby meal. Rice, veggies, olives, quarter of an avocado, sweet potatoes and cooking bananas. Last night I ate a little bowl of salad, followed by 2 big slices of apple pie. I used an organic flour made fermented base and simply processed together 10 dates, 3 apples and 50g of 90% dark chocolate. That is it.
Guess what, if you learnt how to eat, what to eat, what food combinations to use, intermittent fasting doesn’t mean caloric restriction. It means simply a different type of caloric distribution. If you needed 3000 kcals a day, you can still get it during your 8h time left. We don’t at all talk about binge and purge habits, but constantly practicable personal controllable choices !
High carb, high caloric breakfast
To contradict, the previous paragraph, this also something very important for long term high volume training. I simplified and dialled this in. When want to chain together lactate threshold workouts, or do a day of a morning long run, an afternoon bike ride and evening hill intervals, your body must be fuelled and topped up. This not only ensures perfect workout execution, but whatever you eat in advance also impacts what happening during and afterwards. Yes, intra workout and post workout recovery.
In the first paragraph, I mentioned how every single decision works in a cycle and impacts one another. If you did not fuel properly and ate enough calories for the high physiological impact days, you won’t be able to intermittent fast for deep recovery, afterwards, as you would be very very hungry.
For me it is very simple. I soak 100g of oats the night before. I cook it in water till ready with a pinch of salt. I add in 50g of chopped dates and 3 big spoons of jam. I sprinkle a bunch of cinnamon on top. I also often start my day in this case with 5dl to 8dl of water already with 50g of Vitargo, UCAN or Cyclic Dextrin. I do this intuitively now and do not measure anything anymore, however I know that I consume around 800 to 1000kcals for breakfast, in these special cases. (I am 80kg for my 198cm frame)
I have been doing this for like 15 years. It works before any sort of long and low to medium intensity training or slow ultra racing. If I had something more punchy, the focus would be more likely on the meal the night before.
I definitely eat a breakfast like this before long bike rides.
Yes, I buy my organic oats in bulk in 10 or 20kg packs.
On the contrary, when racing and needed speed for a race start, like a 50km ultra marathon, the point would be on the 2 days prior to the race. I apply a low fibre, low veggie, low fruit, high carb approach. Porridge for breakfast, maize and rice flour pasta for lunch, rice in the afternoon and boiled potatoes in the evening. I like variety, but honestly, I can eat quality boiled potatoes for all of my meals. I add a couple of olives, salt and pepper, some salad leaves, that is it.
Breakfast itself is important before this kind of a race, but last time I ate a banana and 2 pockets of apple sauce and drank a Maurten 160. No energy issues ever was found.
Hydration, water and mineral loading
I am a big drinker. I don’t need to think too much about this. I have my 4L+ of water every day. The kidneys must be watered for proper functioning. When intermittent fasting, I use 1 extra effervescent salt pastille in one bottle of water. Otherwise as I take creatine, I use quality carbs and salt properly, I have good water retention and correct elimination. I go to pea 10 to 15 times a day. There are people who go to pee only 4 to 6 times. Sporty or not sporty, that is very unhealthy ! Wintertime you use water to keep your lungs and everything moist and to heat you up, summer time for transpiration and to cool you down. Guess what, those are what taking up most of your water consumption, but they are not the most important functions. Brain, digestion and all organ function, cellular functionning and so on are the most important. Kipchoge drinks 3L of water for his 52kg weight and he trains only 15 to 20h a week. Others hitting 35 hours on average with long periods of 40+ hours and peaking at 60 to 70 hours in some phases, should be drinking like an elephant. 6 – 8L a day.
High Fat Diet
As I mentioned, there are times and periods for everything. When I wanted to have a recovery week for instance, but turn it on a way, that I still want to keep mileage high, I would use this approach. I would maybe run single days, like 20 to 25km, in the morning on empty stomach. Then I would have an egg and fish breakfast, a meaty lunch and a more likely veggie based carb back loading dinner. This way, my day would be fat fuelled, but in the evenings my glycogen stores would be topped up.
In this case, during the entire week, the intensity would be very low, like MAF – 10 to MAF – 20, keeping the MAF pace for race specific runs. For instance in case of a trail running race, during this week, I would run a MAF or MAF+5 effort on that hilly, rocky trail terrain. Otherwise would stick to the flats and would keep to the low HR.
This is simply to keep running quite fast with efficient biomechanics, despite the low glycogen use and low HR.
High Carb Diet
When hitting a gigantesque training block, where intensity is pushed in the meantime as the volume, I would be definitely keep my glycogen stores topped up, all the time. Porridge for breakfast, pasta for lunch, rice and sweet potatoes of afternoon and dinner. Also, I would surely use a sugar based drink before, during and after all my efforts.
This could mean 3 double threshold days in a week, what are 6 hardish workouts. 2 hill sprint sessions and a long run or a double long run. While consuming that much of sugar is fatiguing for the body and the insulemic system is greatly taxed, if you tried another type of dietary approach, you would not be able to push the intensity that often and in that high volumes in such a condensed timeframe.
This is why, actually, switching between dietary approaches can have tremendous benefits to performance, metabolism and recovery. Also the implications to health can be very important. The worst thing that an athlete or human can do for his or her health is bad food combining. Eating high fat and high carb in the meantime, is the straight way to diabetes. Soaking your pasta in olive oil, ice cream, eating rice and fried fish, chips, english porridge made with butter and milk, a pizza, croissants and sandwiches, cappuccino and so on. Sugar slash carbs with fats, grease, creams and oils in the same meal or even same day.
Gluten, diary and cured meats
This is something that many athletes tried and tested. I don’t think that there is any problem neither with gluten nor with milk. However, just like anything else in nutrition, if abused, it can be detrimental. I am Hungarian and eating bread as the main food for breakfast and as a side dish by lunch and dinner is normal. In conjunction with butter, cured and smoked meats and cheese. Actually from the age of 5 to 35, we eat already bread like 32872 times. 3 times a day every day.
If you had bakery for breakfast, pizza for lunch and pasta for dinner, a variation or the modulation of any of these every day, then yes, you should be experimenting with the total extinction of gluten from your life and it will greatly increase your recovery and performance.
However, if you honestly eat pasta once a week and a pizza every second week, then probably eliminating 2 glutenous meals in two weeks will have zero effect on your health and sport.
I eat gluten around 3 times a week, often – if not only – organic. I bake apple tarts at least once a week. Summertime, I might eat it with vanilla ice cream, with cinnamon sprinkled and honey frozen on top. Loving it. I eat a pizza every second month. I consume some bulgur, cous cous, alcohol free beer, pasta, I eat some bakery too. I consume gluten around 3 times a week, I eat cheese and cured meats only if I am up in the mountains and visit a cave or a mountain hut.
I don’t think I am overdoing it and that it has an impact neither on my training nor on my racing. STILL, I cut out all gluten and all diary for 2 weeks prior to any race. If I chained together multiple races like the 10k and XC season, I might not eat any gluten for 2 months in a row. I am not addicted to any foods, nor do have cravings for anything. I like a good bean soup made with vegetables and potatoes. I like vegan sushi, avocados, meat, eggs, fish and everything that is natural and edible. I eat tons of raw stuff, including a heap loads of cabbage and broccoli, tomatoes and cucumbers, celery. I like nuts and seeds too. Basically likes and dislikes are all in the head.
Knowledge can change everything. In the last 2 decades I talked to many athletes and coaches. Most of them don’t have a clue about nutrition. They don’t know what a carb is, what a protein and fat is. For instance the other time one girl was eating a croissant, and a coach told her that : that much of sugar will make you fat. A 272kcal croissant actually has 14g of fat and 31g of carbs, where the fat provides 126kcals of energy and the carbs 124kcals. So actually, that is a half sugar half fat, equalling the worst combination to your health. It is neither the sugar, nor the fat, that is making you unhealthy, but the combination in equal portions of both, that actually doesn’t exist in nature nowhere. It is either high fat and high protein, like meat and nuts, or low fat, low protein and high carb, like starches, cereals, fruits. Normally we are omnivores, but still should not eat high volume combinations of both groups.
Than there is also a group of people who kind of understand the concept of protein, fat and carbs, but cannot point on foods, to establish which group they should fall in.
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