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Ten Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make – Part 2

Dave Spence - Athletic CoachWelcome to the ‘Ten Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make’ Part 2 – 6 to 10. This article is by – Dave Spence ex-resident coach, Cape Town


This article follows on from – Ten Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make numbers 1 to 5

Part 2 of Ten Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make

Part 2 of Ten Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make

6. Not Taking Supplemental Electrolytes.

An athlete who’s suffered from painful and debilitating cramping usually need only cross that bridge once. While consuming enough kilojoules during workouts is vital, it is equally important to provide the minerals necessary for proper cellular metabolism, cardiac function, and muscle contractions. All too often the endurance athlete finds out too late that these electrolytes have been depleted through bodily fluids and perspiration, the signs of which are muscle weakness, nausea, and cramping.In addition, too many athletes rely on salt tablets, believing them to be the cure for the prevention of cramping and other heat related problems. A balanced blend of calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium (in the form of sodium chloride), and manganese provides protection for the athlete training and competing in hot weather. Remember though, that even when it’s not 30 degrees outside, electrolyte replacement is still vital. You may not need as much as you would in hotter weather, but your body still requires them during workouts, especially ones over two hours in length.

There is no sports drink in existence that provides electrolytes in substantial amounts. Electrolyte needs can vary several hundred percent, depending on heat levels, while kilojoules intake may only fluctuate by 25-50% and fluid intake may only vary 20-30%. This makes sports drinks, with their set amount of electrolytes and kilojoules per serving, incompatible for meeting the unique and individualistic needs of athletes. Effective electrolyte replacement can and should come from a source not tied in with kilojoules.

7. Consuming Too Much Protein During Exercise.

During endurance exercise, approximately 8-15% of the kilojoules required should come from protein, with the remaining 85% from complex carbohydrates. Many Meal Replacement Drinks (MRPs) that are used as endurance fuels during exercise contain too much protein with very little carbohydrates. The human body, while able to handle 20-30 grams of protein in one intake, cannot tolerate that on an hourly basis. Too much protein fills the blood with too many amino acids. These excess amino acids are converted into carbon dioxide, water, and ammonia. This ammonia is toxic to the body and is a primary cause of premature fatigue. While the body is equipped to handle excess ammonia by converting it to urea then filtering it through the kidneys, too much puts a burden on the kidneys.

8. Not Consuming Any Protein During Exercise.

The primary source of muscle energy production is adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Each muscle stores its own supply of glycogen, which is a long-chain carbohydrate having a chemical structure similar to the carbohydrates found in a common potato. When we exercise the body can more easily break down muscle glycogen into ATP than convert either fat or the limited amounts of protein donated from lean muscle mass.

However, after 90 minutes, and becoming more important the longer a workout or race is, the body will begin to utilize protein for fuel as glycogen reserves are reduced. This metabolic process, called gluconeogenesis, allows for the synthesis of glucose from protein (along with the glycerol part of the fat molecule). The body will cannibalize protein from muscle tissue if adequate amounts of protein are not ingested. This process not only deteriorates lean muscle tissue but hampers fat burning capabilities and speeds up the production of ammonia.

To prevent this the endurance athlete should make sure carbohydrate intake is consistent and that some protein is consumed during endurance exercise. In addition, it is believed that soy protein is the preferred choice during exercise as it has less chance of producing ammonia than whey protein.

9. Staying With Your Game Plan When It’s Clearly Not Working.

Endurance athletes tend to be strong willed and uncompromising. Most have a game plan in place for training and racing. This is a good idea and something I strongly recommend. Problems arise when the athlete’s game plan is no longer working, due to any number of unforeseen circumstances, but he or she makes the mistake of thinking that deviating from the game plan will be worse than making a change on the fly.

One of the more common times this happens is after a poor race. Many athletes think the cure for a poor race is to train harder and harder. Instead of recuperating and focusing on optimizing their training, many athletes will train themselves into the ground. The vicious cycle continues as the “cure” for fatigue and lethargy is all too often more training. This only digs a deeper hole for the athlete who needs to recognize the symptoms of over training and spend enough time recovering completely.

The most common symptoms of overtraining are irritability, restless sleep, elevated resting heart rate and inability to reach peak heart rates during training. As an endurance athlete, make sure that time spent recovering is taken as seriously as the time spent training.

Another time it’s not a wise idea to stick to a game plan that isn’t working is during an event. While it is important to maintain a fairly consistent supply of kilojoules to the body, when it’s hot outside the body’s ability to process fuel becomes compromised. It’s important to recognize this and to listen to your body. Continuing to force down X amount of kilojoules an hour (the original game plan) even when your body cannot properly assimilate them puts a burden on your stomach and can cause feelings of bloating and nausea or worse, hindering performance. During the heat it becomes more important to stay hydrated and maintain electrolyte levels. Be willing to cut back on kilojoules consumption when your body tells you to and focus on maintaining hydration and proper electrolyte levels. It is okay to do this and resume regular kilojoules intake when you start feeling better and your stomach has had some time to assimilate the kilojoules it already has.

10. Not Consuming Enough Kilojoules and Nutrients after Workouts.

After a hard workout or race, it’s easy to neglect the proper replenishment of your body. Sometimes all that sounds good is lying down and not moving for several hours. This is a mistake as this is the best time for the athlete to provide the body with the carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals necessary for proper recovery. This is when your body is most receptive to replenishing nutrients because it is going into high gear to recover from and adapt to the stress it has just experienced. Try consuming 50-75 grams of carbohydrates and 15-20 grams of protein within 30-60 minutes.

source: article by the late David Spence

The mistakes endurance athletes make 1 to 5 Ten Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make – Part 1

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  1. jonathan wardley says

    Hi guys/girls my names jon ive been living in thailand nine years now after a bit of a lay off and change of jobs ive struggled to get back to form,Ive run nothing better than 32 mins for 10k in thailand a far cry from my pb in the uk.Could anyone cast some light on how much time i am loosing in the heat of thailand its a real struggle to run fast any ideas would be greatly appricated regards jon.


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