By Julie Cornelius, MS
Myth 1. “You don’t weigh as much as me, so you must not need as many calories per hour for an endurance race.”
Everyone is different in how many calories they need to consume in a day. This number is based on a lot of variables, including gender, weight, activity, body composition, and other factors. As for during endurance events, how much you eat depends on the intensity level, the duration of the event, and how much your body can tolerate. During exercise, the blood flow is diverted from the GI tract, so it does not do as well at digesting the food we eat. Because of this, intake should be limited to around 200-300 calories per hour. It is important to make sure to eat enough and taper training in the week leading up to an event to ensure that glycogen levels are topped off. Then, ieating and drinking mostly carbohydrates during an event has been shown to improve performance. Work on spreading out your intake and eating small amounts at a time to improve digestion and prevent stomach issues.
Myth 2. “I have lots of body fat so I don’t need to eat when I ride, I just need to burn my fat!”
I heard this one a lot. Everyone think that doing long slow rides and not eating is the best way to burn fat. While its true that at low intensities, we burn a higher percentage of our calories from fat, but studies show that interval training is actually better at burning fat than lower intensity and longer duration. One of the reasons is that interval training burns more total calories in the same amount of time. Also, the metabolism stays revved longer during the day, meaning you burn more calories after you are done with your ride. And if you want to burn fat best, you need to properly fuel your rides. Your body actually needs carbohydrates in order to best burn fat for energy.
Myth 3. “I heard that not eating before a morning ride will help to burn more fat and make me more efficient at burning fuel.”
This myth is related to Myth #2, but I hear this one over and over. Studies show that not eating before a ride does burn more fat during the ride. But research shows that people who burn more fat during a ride will burn less throughout the day. Also, you are more likely to complete your workout and get the most out of your training by eating before a ride.
Myth 4: “Sports specific foods are made for athletes, so they are the best thing for me to on a ride.
There are tons of sports specific products out on the market. All of them claim to be the best and that they will help you perform better. The problem is, most of these products are full of added sugar and food additives. Not to say that some of these products don’t have a purpose, but I have worked with plenty of athletes who have done great eating real food such as dried fruit and homemade sports drinks.
Myth 5: “My friend started eating a high fat, low carbohydrate diet and says it’s the best thing for endurance athletes.
In the past few years, I have heard this myth more and more. This one scares me because eating a low carbohydrate diet can actually lead to a condition called ketosis. In this condition, the blood becomes acidic and it can actually lead to organ damage. Endurance athletes rely on carbohydrates for energy. Our body stores these carbohydrates as glycogen, which we draw on during exercise. A high fat, low carbohydrate diet is not recommended.
Myth 6: “I need to make sure to stay hydrated and take lots of electrolytes to prevent cramping.”
This has been a long standing myth that very recent research has shown might not be true. The most recent research on cramping shows that it may be caused by neuromuscular fatigue. Also, some people might be more inclined to cramp than others. Usually cramping occurs from higher than average exertion, most often seen in a race. The best way to prevent cramping might just be through training at similar intensities you will experience on race day.
Julie Cornelius, MS is Co-founder of Potential Energy Training & Nutrition. She has an extensive background in nutrition and graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ with both her Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science in Nutrition. She has worked in fitness studios helping clients achieve their nutrition goals, spent two years teaching college nutrition courses, and was the founder of Julie Bar, an energy bar company. Julie is a long time cyclist and mountain biker who loves being outdoors. Julie helps individuals to meet their nutrition goals, whether it is eating to win an endurance mountain bike race, losing weight, or just eating to be healthier. Connect with Julie: firstname.lastname@example.org.