Monday, September 27, 2010

One Week Out For the Endurance Athlete

Well its one week out from the big event!

The last week is really what can make or break a performance. Your mental state should be at peak states. You should also have a solid nutritional game plan that you will not diviate from no matter what!

In this short introduction to Peak Week, I will discuss what is the best approach for an endurance athlete to get ready for the big race

Trial Run

What is most important to understand before putting your last weeks game plan together is that most of the information that is out there may not work for your body. Our bodies can be quite sensitive to the foods that are digested, so what may work for one athlete may not quite work for others. This is why its not a good idea to take too much advice from your athletic friends. It could end up hurting you in the end.

What is best to do is have a "Last Week Trail Period" where you do a mock last week preparation to see what your body can handle and what it cant. This should be done when your close to peak physical state. Anywhere from 3-6 weeks out from a major event. This way you have a better understanding of what may or may not work for your body.

Carbohydrate Loading Explained

Carbohydrate Loading is the process of loading more "energy supplies" (Called Glycogen) into the muscles by eating more carbohydrates then normal.

Unfortunately most endurance athletes take a wrong approach to Carbohydrate Loading and gain no appreciable results by trying this approach.

For many endurance athletes they will devour huge amounts of carbohydrates the night or day before the big race thinking that this will allow them to have a better race the next day.

The body does not work this way. It actually takes a full three to four full days for all your glycogen stores to fill up.

"Glycogen" is two or more glucose atoms binded together. Glucose is the bodies simplest form of energy to use and we get it from eating any type of carbohydrate not including vegetables.

Also another problem that most endurance athletes run into is that they eat plenty of carbohydrates already (55% or more in the diet) which means their glycogen stores are already maxed out or pretty close to full.

This means that the carbohydrate loading process will be wasted. Therefore doing any type of carbohydrate load this way will lead to a sluggish performance. There will be too much glycogen in the muscles already and any extra glycogen may be stored in the adipose or fat tissue. Also by eating pasta the night before you risk actually feeling bloated and holding water, which will decrease performance times.

The best way to actually do a correct Carbohydrate load is to actually do a small carbohydrate depletion for three to four days followed by the final carbohydrate load three to four days from the event.

You need to keep in mind that this can be very trial and error, which means that you need to do at least one mock trial run before your event. In addition you actually need to be TRAINING through the carbohydrate depletion stage for the effect to actually work. So lets break this down starting on the last long run before the event. (You long run at this point should be closer to 12-15 km for a marathon and 8-10 km for the half)

Long Run
Carbohydrate Intake - Drop to Half of normal intake. (no lower then 100 grams)
Increase protein intake, 1gram per lb of bodyweight
Lots water, intake of vegetables high

Day Off -
Drop Carb Intake to 50 grams total
Keep Protein Intake High
Drop down vegetable intake slightly
Lots of water

No more then 5km run or 30 minutes of cardio, stretching
Carb Intake - O grams

Tuesday -
30 minutes of light cardio (No running) go to a gym and bike or use a elliptical
Carb Intake 0 grams

At this point you should feel not that great. Grumpy and tired is normal. You really should feel lethargic. This is perfect, you have primed your body correctly.

Carbohydrate Load (Dirty Load first)
At this point you want to take advantage of the delicate enviornment that you have created in your body.

The blood sugars and glycogen should be low and your body should be craving all sorts of carbs. Start off the day with simple carbs, anything that will push your blood sugar level up quickly. Start off your day with simple sugars, then 30 minutes later go for your first meal. Oatmeal is a great choice, and mix it with honey or some simple sugars.

Stay with eating simple sugars till halfway though the day and then switch out to healthier carbohydrates. For example small amounts of potatoes, yams, beads, go light on the pasta. Try to mix each small snack with a small amount of protein. (Yogurt and cottage cheese, or rice and chicken.)

In the morning you need to be eating simple carbohydrates at least every hour and then in the afternoon switch your meal frequency to every two hours.

Carb Intake should be approx 150-175 grams
Reduce or limit vegetables at this point




Keep feeding the body healthy carbohydrates. You can still mix in simple sugars, but keep it only to the mornings. Eat every two hours. If you can, try to find something that is fast and easy to eat and you can eat over and over again.

Eliminate all vegetables from diet!


The day before the event is the best day of all! You have made it. My advice is to take the day off of work and kick back and relax, apart from doing a small amount of cardio in the morning (30 minutes max) spin the legs out, and do A LOT OF STRETCHING. (You should be doing stretching all along the training program, but at this point its important to stretch for at least a good 30 minutes.)

Carbohydrate intake should be past normal and you should be eating carbohydrates every two hours. No vegetables or fibrous carbohydrates. You want to make sure that you do not have "loose bowels" when you race. Keep up the carbohydrate and water intake until 6pm, then slowly taper off the carbohydrates. Do not have any carbohydrates after 6pm. Let your body relax at this point. Do some visualization and relaxation techniques. Stretch if you need to, and don't forget to smile when you think of all those athletes who are eating pasta to "trick" their bodies to fill up the night before!

What should you feel at this point in your body??? Your legs should be loose and not feeling heavy. You should have loads of energy and the body should be running like a machine! Hopefully from all the training you have completed you are feeling relaxed and confident. Trust in yourself, your training and your correct carbohydrate loading techniques and enjoy the race!

In True Fitness,

Trevor Folgering

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