How can you optimize your nutrition strategy to go faster, longer?
The straightforward truth: Avoid drops in your glucose levels.
How do you actually avoid those drops?
There are 5 simple things to do so glucose doesn’t limit your performance:
- Fuel during your workout
- Ensure your glucose is high enough for your workout
- Refuel appropriately after your workout
- Limit steep glucose rushes during your recovery
Glucose should never be the reason for a bad training session or bad race.
Let’s break it down further:
You spend so many hours, weeks, even months doing everything in your power to prepare for race day. Don’t compromise this because of poor priming or under some misguided belief that you should be training without any fuel. For information on the best time to eat pre-workout see this article.
Fuel during your workout
You may not have experienced the impact of poor fueling while using Supersapiens, but we regularly hear stories from users that have made the mistake of underfueling, then have corresponding performance impairments.
It may also be why 42% of our users say their single biggest change since starting their Supersapiens journey is improving their workout fueling.
Make sure your glucose is high enough
Your glucose shouldn't always be high, but it also shouldn’t be low when you are trying to train at a high intensity. Limiting glucose availability at these times will limit your ability to perform and feel good, so it’s crucial that you are fueling appropriately during training sessions.
Recover and refuel appropriately
Making sure that you are recovering well between workouts is crucial for performance: This ultimately drives your training adaptations. A huge component of this is refueling. Remember: Refueling from your previous workout is also the start of pre-fueling (or priming) for your next workout.
Limit glucose rushes during recovery
These rushes can be both inflammatory and drive glucose instability which is associated with hunger and fluctuant energy levels. Keeping a nice stable supply of glucose without significant rushes during the recovery period is a key goal you should have as an athlete. Note this is less relevant during the acute window post workout.
A great example of underfueling for the work upcoming is seen below:
The intention of this session was to complete four hills of 10 to 25 minutes duration at zone 4 intensity. This sort of training has a high glucose requirement given it is above anaerobic threshold (aka VT2 or second threshold).
As you can see, this was not achieved. After the first two hills, the athlete felt empty and had to abandon the fourth hill. This is despite the use of a gel at the 45min mark of the session. You can see at the onset of the third hill, there is a drop in glucose that is quite significant with a corresponding inability to push the power for the third hill.
You can’t out-fuel poor priming, these are both crucial parts to your performance. Without priming properly, your glycogen stores will be low and any available glucose will be used as quickly as possible. This is probably why the gel is not really visible in the glucose trace seen above.
Despite what sounds like fairly good priming preceding this effort, along with some rice, vegetables and meat in the early afternoon, and then a smoothie and a sandwich as an afternoon snack, there was still a lack of available fuel for the work upcoming. This may be more long term or something shorter term like in adequate carbohydrate intake at breakfast or after a morning training session.
This illustrates an important point, especially when it comes to those who are looking to limit carbohydrates or use a ‘train low’ approach at times. This is not optimal. And it will likely impair high intensity efforts. So you should always fuel for the work required.
Five Key Actions to Avoid Glucose from Limiting your Performance:
- Prime: Eat enough carbohydrates in the day prior and particularly the meal prior to your key training session or race.
- Fuel during your workout: If you are training with any intensity or for longer than an hour, there is a role for fuel during training.
- Refuel appropriately: Make sure you use the post-workout refueling window to replenish your fuel stores appropriately to help your next hard training session.
- Choose your carbohydrate limiting windows wisely: The time for limiting fuel or carbohydrate exposure, if you choose to do so, is away from key training sessions.
- Keep glucose high enough for your workout: Ensure your glucose is where you need it to be for the work you need to do, and avoid periods of low glucose to avoid feelings like our athlete above had.
- Internal data on file
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- Wyatt, P., Berry, S.E., Finlayson, G. et al. Postprandial glycaemic dips predict appetite and energy intake in healthy individuals. Nat Metab 3, 523–529 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s42255-021-00383-x
- Page KA, Seo D, Belfort-DeAguiar R, Lacadie C, Dzuira J, Naik S, Amarnath S, Constable RT, Sherwin RS, Sinha R. Circulating glucose levels modulate neural control of desire for high-calorie foods in humans. J Clin Invest. 2011 Oct;121(10):4161-9. doi: 10.1172/JCI57873. Epub 2011 Sep 19. PMID: 21926468; PMCID: PMC3195474.
- Impey SG, Hearris MA, Hammond KM, Bartlett JD, Louis J, Close GL, Morton JP. Fuel for the Work Required: A Theoretical Framework for Carbohydrate Periodization and the Glycogen Threshold Hypothesis. Sports Med. 2018 May;48(5):1031-1048. doi: 10.1007/s40279-018-0867-7. PMID: 29453741; PMCID: PMC5889771.