11 Ways to Improve Endurance

 

So you wanna be a superhero? Me too. Let’s start with endurance.  I’ve got the research, now all you have to do is put in the effort. Here’s my 11 tips:

1. Train

Think you have to keel over to improve your endurance? Think again. According to the ACE Personal Trainer Manual 5th edition, studies have shown that endurance improvement favored those who had performed more zone 1 training.

80% of training should be done at intensities where speech is comfortable (zone 1) and only about 10% of training should be performed at intensities above VT2 (zone 3, where blood lactate increases significantly).

It would make sense that this 80% zone 1 training should, for the most part, be performed relatively high in zone 1.  So, if you are just getting into endurance activities like running, just getting started will improve your endurance.  However, to really get your speed up and improve, get a little uncomfortable with the “talk test.” Can you sing comfortably while you are running? If you can, then you can definitely try to go a little faster. Get on those hills, and laugh fearlessly at your struggles!

2. Hydrate

Did you know that muscles are 70-75% water? That’s right! According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, muscle is only 15-20% protein, 5-7% fat, glycogen, and minerals.

Why is hydration important?

  • Temperature regulation
  • Blood volume + blood pressure
  • Keep organs, kidneys, cells, working optimally
  • Prevent dehydration

Things to consider:

  • Weather
  • Clothing
  • Your personal sweaty-ness

According to the American Counsel on Exercise (ACE):

  • ~4 hours before the event, drink 3-4 cups of water + weigh yourself
  • > during the event: definitely varies, but drink about ½ cup water every 20 minute
  • after event drink about 2 cups of water for every pound that you lost during the event

IMPORTANT: Prevent depletion in electrolytes like sodium and potassium as those are necessary for muscle contraction and blood pressure regulation which, if low can cause cramping, twitching and even heart issues. These electrolytes may be excreted with sweat

In general, water alone should be fine to rehydrate, but if it is extra humid or you lose 3% or more body weight during the event I recommend a natural electrolyte beverage like coconut water and / or datorade.

Dateorade:

  • 2 cups water
  • ½ lime or lemon, juiced
  • 2-3 dates
  • maybe a pinch of Himalayan salt or dulse flakes

Blend for about 1 minute. This provides natural sources of electrolytes, antioxidants and nutrients without the added colors, flavors, or refined sugars and is a great go-to beverage before, during, and after an event.

3. Carb Load Correctly

FACT: Activity that lasts longer than several hours depletes glycogen stores. Carbohydrates consumed during exercise helps endurance athletes maintain a fast pace; fat is used more efficiently for fuel as exercise continues. Protein is a very minor fuel source during endurance exercise.

PROTEIN: it is important for repairing tissues, making enzymes + hormones, transporting nutrients, making muscles contract, regulating water balance. However, if you don’t consume enough carbs for your high energy demands, the body will use protein for energy instead which is EXTREMELY COUNTERPRODUCTIVE TO YOUR PHYSICAL GOALS! Although protein may supply energy, extra amounts are not your best fuel. While carbs are stored in the muscle and liver as glycogen to be used for quick energy, excess protein is stored as fat, and not used for energy if you already consume enough calories. In general, protein should supply 10-35% of overall calorie intake which is met easily without powders or supplements in a balanced whole foods plant based diet. Since athletes usually eat more with a good appetite, they easily get the protein and nutrients they need. Protein requires more fluid in order to be metabolized because we need to excrete the toxic nitrogenous waste as urea so can lead to kidney issues, dehydration, cramping, and fatigue.

Energy need for endurance sports depends on body size, duration of activity, and overall effort. An elite athlete may need 4000-6000 calories daily, chosen from a high carbohydrate diet. Don’t worry about calculating your protein because if you are eating a balanced diet of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits, and are eating enough calories, the protein in these foods will add up to be enough protein.

7 days before the event:

  • Days 1-3 Moderate-CHO diet of around 55% of calories, in general, recommendations are 45-65% of calories should come from carbohydrates
  • Days 4-6 Increase to high carbohydrate diet of about 80% of calories
  • Dinner before the event: >80% calories from carbohydrates

4. Four Hours Out:

Simple balanced meal should be fine. Try to keep it around 500 calories and under to prevent fatigue and slow gastric emptying. If you are nervous it is ok to eat less and eat more simple carbs like fruit or fruit juice 1-2 hours before the event

5. Pre Workout

While what you eat pre-workout is very important, it is essential that the previous workout was properly recovered from and that we eat a healthy balanced diet with adequate calories and nutrients on a daily basis.

Day of the event: If in the morning, I recommend staying light with datorade or fruit juice beverage. Within 1-2 hours of event, The food eaten should be around 200-300 calories, high in carbohydrate to maximize blood glucose availability, and low in fat and fiber to minimize GI distress and facilitate gastric emptying, it should be moderate to low in protein, and known to be well tolerated by you. A go to for before, during, and after workouts.

6. During Event

During extended training sessions, lasting longer than 1 hour, and especially in extreme heat, cold or high altitude, exercisers should consume 30-60g CHO / hr of training to maintain blood glucose levels.

30-60 grams of carbs looks like:

  • 1 large ripe banana
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 5-6 dates.

7. Post Workout

Eat in abundance! It is counterproductive for endurance athletes to restrict. The best meals post workout include an abundance of carbohydrates accompanied by some protein. ACE recommends about 2.2 grams of carbs for each pound of body weight to be eaten within the first 30 minutes after exercise and then every 2 hours for 4-6 hours. A diet of whole plant foods consisting of vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fruit that is sufficient in calories should provide adequate post-workout carbohydrates and protein.

8. Prevent Pain

Prevent oxidative stress and reduce cell damage and muscle pain with: Antioxidants

  • Antioxidant power aka the power to protect our cells from damage was significantly increased with banana beverage versus plain carbohydrate beverage
  • Cherry juice was shown to decrease perceived pain significantly in runners versus placebo cherry flavored drink
  • There are lots of studies out there on various plant foods, when choosing fuel to prevent pain, recover quickly I recommend whole plant foods

9. Improve Oxygen Utilization

Yes, Nitrates are components in plant foods like beets, spinach, celery, and arugula that can cause athletes to perform intensely with less oxygen needed. Crazy!

In a study with cyclists, beet juice compared to current juice improved oxygen utilization by a whopping 20% which is quite significant. Drinking beet juice is so powerful that it can bring someones high blood pressure down within 3 hours. Also, pharmaceutical companies use this concept for patients with chest pain to help with blood flow. These drugs are called nitroglycerines. You know another nitrate drug? It’s called Viagra and it certainly improves blood flow but you might as well just eat your vegetables.

How do nitrates work? Bacteria in our saliva convert it to nitric oxide. HOWEVER be sure to not use antibacterial mouth wash because this has been shown to deplete healthy mouth bacteria and therefore inhibit the conversion of nitrate to nitric oxide to allow us to oxygenate our blood.

10. Build Blood

Think you don’t need to eat your greens? Ever been to a smoothie joint that sold wheatgrass shots? One thing that wheatgrass juice is dense in is that dark green pigment called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll has been shown to increase hemoglobin in anemic rabbits. Hemoglobin is the component of blood that carries oxygen and as you can see is very similar to chlorophyll in dark leafy green vegetables. I recommend eating about 5 cups of leafy greens daily.

11. Adequate REST

Symptoms can be both physiological and emotional and are highly individualized.

Signs/ symptoms of overtraining:

  • decline in performance with continued training
  • sleep disturbances
  • weight loss
  • multiple colds / frequent sickness
  • irritability, restlessness, anxiousness
  • loss of motivation / vigor
  • lack of mental concentration / focus
  • lack of appreciation for things that are normally enjoyable

Best way to prevent overtraining is with periodization: alternate easy, moderate, and hard periods of training. Generally, one or two days of intense training should be followed by an equal number of easy training days. A week or two of hard training should be followed by a week or two of easier effort.

Today you learned

about hydration, the talk test, carbohydrate loading, what to eat pre, during, and post workout, how to prevent muscle soreness, how to increase oxygen utilization and how to build blood and prevent overtraining. Get out there and awaken your inner athlete! Give this video a thumbs up, leave your comments below, and remember. Deep down, you truly are a morning person. Wake up and live, Reines and shine!

Dr. Michael Greger’s “Doping with Beet Juice” : http://nutritionfacts.org/video/doping-with-beet-juice/

Dr. Michael Greger’s “Enhanced Athletic Recovery Without Undermining Adaptation” : http://nutritionfacts.org/video/enhanced-athletic-recovery-without-undermining-adaptation/

Cherry Juice Study: G. Howatson, M. P. McHugh, J. A. Hill, J. Brouner, A. P. Jewell, K. A. van Someren, R. E. Shave, S. A. Howatson. Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 20(6):843 – 852.

Beet Juice Study: Bailey SJ, Winyard P, Vanhatalo A, et al. Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans. Journal of Applied Physiology. August 6, 2009. 107: 1144-1155.

Antibacterial Mouthwash and Nitric Oxide: Goconi M, Janasson E, Weitzberg E, et al. The increase in plasma nitrite after a dietary nitrate load is markedly attenuated by an antibacterial mouthwash. Elsevier. 2008. 2: 171-177.

Anemic Rabbits Study: Hughes JH, Latner AL. Chlorophyll and Hemoglobin Regeneration after Hemorrhage. Journal of Physiology. 1936. 612 (119) :338-395

Chlorophyll and Hemoglobin: Hughes JH, Latner AL. Chlorophyll and Hemoglobin Regeneration after Hemorrhage. Journal of Physiology. 1936. 612 (119) :338-395

RL Duyff. American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2006. Print.

American Council on Exercise: https://www.acefitness.org/

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