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Ten Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make

Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make

Too many times endurance athletes fall for the “if a little is good, a lot is better” myth. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to hydration. All it takes is one race where you’ve had to DNF due to cramping and you start thinking, “hmm, maybe I didn’t drink enough”. Next thing you know, you’re drinking so much fluid that, while your thirst is quenched, your belly is full beyond the point of comfort; and you’re still cramping.

What are the most common mistakes athletes make in endurance running?

1. First, over hydrating .

Let me repeat the opening – Too many times endurance athletes fall for the “if a little is good, a lot is better” myth. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to hydration. All it takes is one race where you’ve had to DNF due to cramping and you start thinking, “hmm, maybe I didn’t drink enough”. Next thing you know, you’re drinking so much fluid that, while your thirst is quenched, your belly is full beyond the point of comfort; and you’re still cramping. What’s happening is that over hydrating causes what is known as “dilutional hyponatremia”, or a state of over-diluted blood serum sodium. This is almost as bad as under hydrating. The results are similar: cramping with the added disadvantages of stomach discomfort, bloating, and extra urine output. It is now believed that about 450-600ml of fluids per hour is the most your body can absorb. If you feel it is necessary to consume more, remember that you will need to consume even more electrolytes to offset what is being flushed out of your system prematurely.

2. Consuming Too Much Simple Sugar.

For general health purposes simple, refined sugars should be avoided because of a direct link with a myriad of diseases and health ailments. Simple sugar, not immediately required for energy, is stored as glycogen in the muscles or liver. If these two storage areas are full and there is no need by the body for more energy, then excess glucose is converted by the liver into triglycerides.

Triglycerides make up most of the fat that you eat and most of the fat that circulates in your bloodstream. They’re essential for good health and your tissues rely on triglycerides for energy. But as with that other essential molecule, cholesterol, high triglycerides may also be linked to heart disease. Sugar in the diet has a proportionate relationship to elevating triglyceride levels in the blood stream. Triglycerides comprise the largest proportion of fats (lipids) in the diet, in the adipose tissue, and in the blood. Eating excess sugar loads the body with excess kilojoules that will eventually turn to fat

Simple sugar absorption into the bloodstream causes an excess burst of insulin. Athletes are concerned with the quick insulin “spike”. We’ve all experienced this quick burst of energy followed by the ensuing “crash” characterized by fatigue, lethargy, and mood swings — i.e. bonking!

Simple sugars, unlike complex carbohydrates, take longer and require more fluid to empty from the stomach and GI tract. Because a drink mixture containing simple sugar does not match the same osmolality of regular body fluid (unless it is limited to a 3-5% concentration by weight) it will remain in the stomach until sufficiently diluted. This may cause stomach distress that is detrimental to performance.

Further, a 3-5% solution will provide no more than 420 kilojoules per serving, far too little on an hourly basis to sustain energy levels. The solution is to use complex carbohydrates instead of simple or refined sugars in your diet and for your fuel during exercise. Energy drinks with complex carbohydrates and solid foods are all better fuel options than candy bars and other sugar filled energy bars and sports drinks.

3. Eating Too Much Solid Food During Exercise .

Liquid nutrition is the easiest and most convenient way to get kilojoules and nutrient dense fuel. Solid food for the most part cannot match the nutrition of the best liquid food supplements. In addition, too much solid food consumption will divert blood from working muscles for the digestive process. This and the amount of digestive enzymes and fluids required in breaking down the constituents of solid food taxes the body and can result in a feeling of bloating and/or nausea. Some solid food intake is okay during endurance exercise, particularly during ultras, but for a more rapid utilization of nutrients with less chance of stomach distress, a liquid energy source is preferred.

4. Training on Too Few Kilojoules.

You may be training your muscles to do what you want them to do (running 25 km for example) but are you also training your stomach? If you want to be able to comfortably ingest X kilojoules per hour during a 3-4 hour (or longer) event, you need to be practicing that in training. Exercising at a maximum intensity level and assimilating a lot of kilojoules hour after hour are not things that the body would normally prefer to do simultaneously. Just like running far and fast, eating is a learned skill that requires the same amount of practice and attention to detail. If you plan on consuming 1260 kilojoules an hour (for example) during your race you need to practice consuming 1260 kilojoules an hour in your training. Don’t skimp on kJ during training!

All it takes is getting left behind by someone on a tough hill during training and it’s easy to start thinking that “maybe if I just lost a couple of kg!” There is a problem with trying to diet whilst training is that the lack of kilojoules (and the accompanying nutrients) wreaks havoc on your muscles and immune system. For example, a 75 kg athlete in training requires in the neighborhood of 2100 kj from protein alone. The same athlete may need 8820 kj from carbohydrates if training an average of 90 min-2 hours a day. Consuming far fewer kilojoules than what the body requires may result in the body cannibalizing its own tissues, resulting in a weakened muscular and immune system. Training, building muscle and following a sound diet are the best way to lose weight because it comes off slowly. The endurance athlete’s diet should contain 12-20% of total kj from protein, 50-60% from carbohydrates, and 20% from fat.

5. Not Taking In Enough Kilojoules during Competition.

In the heat of the battle it sometimes becomes hard to maintain the discipline of kj intake. Endurance athletes can get so wound up with trying to keep up the pace that they sometimes forget to “fuel the engine” or don’t give it enough fuel. Consistent intake of kj, allowing for adaptations due to weather conditions, provide consistent fueling of the body, prolonging endurance, and protecting the muscle tissue from being cannibalized. If you want to be strong in the latter stages of a race, you must have consumed sufficient kj in the earlier stages of the race. Kilojoules intake in the range of 850-1500 an hour, (perhaps up to 1700 on occasion), is necessary to prevent energy levels from dropping. Again, as mentioned earlier, you will be able to determine what your kj needs are only by practicing fuel consumption during training.

Conversely, taking in too many kilojoules during competition can present a real problem. The belief that “if a little is good, a lot must be better”, creates this problem. The body can only process a given amount of kilojoules an hour and to force additional food down, in the hopes of “getting ahead of” kilojoules needs, will usually backfire. Instead of having more kilojoules available for fuel, they will sit in your stomach causing at least bloating and perhaps nausea and vomiting. Few things will slow you down faster or cause you to have to sarticles than taking in more kilojoules than your body can handle. Listen to your body and don’t get caught up in the idea that mega-kilojoules intake is ideal. Going slower as a result of lower kilojoules intake is far better than getting sick and having to sarticles.

The mistakes endurance athletes make 6 to 10 continued – Ten Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make – Part 2 – 6 to 10

‘Ten Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make’. This article is by – the late Dave Spence ex-resident coach, Cape Town

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