Endurance training for marathons, triathlons, and more can certainly be grueling, and what's more, whether you’re just starting a new workout regimen or have been hitting the gym for years, you may not be giving your body the tools it needs to succeed.
1. Prep a superfood endurance training smoothie before your workout.
It’s important to eat before your workout so that your cells have fuel to stay the course. Dr. Axe recommends three foods in particular: berries, beets, and adaptogenic cordyceps mushrooms.
The berries are a great source of glucose, which fuels your cells, as well as antioxidants, which aid in cellular regeneration and muscle recovery.
Beets, meanwhile, are loaded with nitrates, which can help improve the ability of your mitochondria to produce energy in your cells. Dr. Axe points to studies, including a 2011 study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, that have found that beets and beetroot juice can help improve physical performance, reduce oxygen consumption, and increase time to exhaustion in athletes, thus making them an endurance superfood.
Adding superfood mushroom cordyceps to this trio will bring extra energy to the party.
“Cordyceps are considered an ‘energizing adaptogen’ and are believed to help fight fatigue, relieve muscle aches and increase strength and stamina,” he explains. “This is because they contain adenosine, a nucleic acid that’s used to produce ATP, the body’s primary source of energy during exercise. Not only that, but cordyceps are also rich in antioxidants that can help fight free radical damage and aid in muscle recovery.”
Try It: Combine blueberries, beet juice, and organic cordyceps powder into a pre-workout smoothie for improved endurance.
2. Eat for your muscles on days off.
On your non-workout days, endurance doesn’t need to be fueled with fast-acting glucose, but rather primed by caring for your muscles. To that end, Dr. Axe recommends including high-quality fats and proteins in your diet on days off from your endurance training.
“On rest days, your body needs less carbohydrates to break down for fuel, so it’s the perfect opportunity to squeeze some high-quality protein into your diet,” he says. “These foods can provide the amino acids your body needs to support muscle regeneration and recovery to improve performance for your next workout.”
Some of Dr. Axe's favorites include grass-fed beef, bone broth, lentils, wild salmon, and eggs. Combine these high-quality proteins with good fats, like coconut oil, and you'll be well on your way to improved endurance.
“Loading up on the fats right before working out is not always the best idea; it can weigh you down and slow down digestion, making it harder for your body to get the fuel that it needs to power through your workout,” Dr. Axe explains. “Adding some healthy fats into your diet on the rest days, however, can make a big difference in terms of endurance.”
Try It: Cook up some high-quality grass-fed beef (or a lentil dal, if you’re eating a plant-based diet) with flavorful coconut oil.
3. Avoid junk.
It's probably no surprise that junk food won't help any workout regimen, but when it comes to endurance training, this category may include foods you wouldn't expect.
One major no-no for endurance training is dairy – even healthy dairy like grass-fed butter or yogurt.
“Dairy contains sugars that are digested slowly, meaning that chugging a glass of milk or eating a bit of yogurt won’t do much when it comes to providing energy pre-workout,” says Dr. Axe. “Not only that, but dairy is one of the most common culprits of GI upset for many people. Overdo it on the dairy before exercising and you could end up cutting your workout short and heading to the bathroom.”
Speaking of tummy upsets, granola – which is often considered a good pre-workout snack thanks to its protein- and fat-rich nuts and seeds and glucose-rich dried fruits – is also a food to avoid when it comes to endurance training.
“Granola is filled with tons of fiber-rich ingredients that move through the body undigested,” says Dr. Axe. “This can cause symptoms like cramps and diarrhea, which are the last things you want during your workout.”
Try It: Enjoy small amounts of grass-fed dairy on your days off, and swap out your granola snack for berries on training days.
4. Don’t (necessarily) listen to the pros.
Olympic athletes and marathon runners are famous for carb loading with pancakes or pasta before a big race, but this might not be the ideal strategy for you.
Carb loading, Dr. Axe explains, involves eating more carbs than usual for one to six days before an intense workout.
“Carb loading is especially beneficial for endurance events lasting at least 90 minutes, with one study reporting that it could delay fatigue by 20 percent and could improve performance by 2-3 percent,” he says. “Carbohydrates are stored in your liver and muscles in the form of glycogen, which is one of the primary sources of energy when working out.”
However, if you’re working on weight training or just planning on a shorter stint in the gym, this endurance-boosting exercise may do more harm than good, as you may consume more carbs than your body needs or can use for fuel, thus counteracting some of the benefits of your workout.
Try It: Eat moderate amounts of healthful carbs like sweet potatoes or brown rice in the week leading up to an endurance event.
It’s no secret that it’s important to hydrate during a workout, but according to Dr. Axe, it’s just as important to hydrate on your days off.
“One of the best things you can do for your body on rest days is to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to ensure you’re primed and able to start your next workout on the right foot,” he says.
Try It: Never be without a water bottle! We lovethese eco-friendly glass ones, which come in tons of fun colors!
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