Shake Up Your Protein Routine

What? Protein immediately brings the image of a big steak to mind, but I argue plant proteins are a better choice for endurance athletes. While animal proteins tend to come packaged with saturated fats, plant proteins usually provide carbohydrates, fiber, healthy fats, and other vitamins and minerals that will benefit health and performance. Grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and even veggies will give you as much protein as you need.
How much? Endurance athletes need roughly 0.5 grams protein/lb body weight. You may need a bit more (0.7 g/lb) if you’re vegetarian, restricting calories to lose weight, or strength training in the off-season (yes, you should do that!). This may seem low compared to what you typically see from websites and magazines, but, trust me, it’s plenty.
When? After a training session, a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein within an hour helps promote recovery. Carbohydrates are critical here: repairing muscle requires energy and if it’s not supplied from carbohydrates, protein will be converted to energy instead of being used for its intended purpose. Don’t bother exceeding 30 g (at any meal) because the body can’t use that much at once.
How? Store bought protein shakes can be convenient and effective, but often lack carbohydrates and can be expensive. I’m a ‘real food first’ fan and suggest trying homemade: blend water or your favorite milk, fruit, nuts/nut butters, seeds such as chia, flax, or, my favorite, raw pumpkin seeds (aka: pepitas), and perhaps some tart cherry juice.

Off Season Training

Many residents of Northwest Ohio hunker down and hibernate while packing on a few pounds during the long winter months. There are many great excuses to not train through the winter.

  1. Treadmills and bike trainers can be almost as boring as waiting in line at the DMV.
  2. The ice and snow are serious safety hazards…not to leave out the wind chill.
  3. A single thought of going from cold air to cold water to cold air again can be enough to miss open swim time.
  4. When is the first race of the season?

Although those 4 excuses may seem like valid reasons to skip out on winter workouts, training in the off season is very rewarding and can be enjoyable! The winter is a great time to focus on areas of training that may get put to wayside in the heart of racing season.

  1. Strength training.  Strength training for endurance athletes has been found to be very beneficial in reducing risk for injury and improving performance; however, during racing season, it is challenging to work in 1-2 strength training sessions per week. In the off season, 3-4 days per week is recommended and much easier to fit into a schedule. If you have not started a strength training regimen, the winter is the perfect time to get to a gym and build a routine.
  2. Speed work.  You can perform more speed workouts while your weekly mileage is down in the off season. Working in faster paced intervals break the monotony of running on the treadmill or biking on a trainer.
  3. Hills. There are not many hills in Northwest Ohio and fewer that you want to brave with ice and snow. The treadmill, yes, has downfalls; however, it is easy to manipulate and monitor incline, pace, and time in order to easily perform hill repeats. Hill training can improve several factors such as anaerobic endurance, muscular endurance and power depending on the grade, speed and duration of the hill intervals.
  4. Technique. Good swimming, biking and running mechanics help with efficiency. In other words, you can go faster requiring less energy! While following a specific training protocol leading up to a race, you are fairly continuously ramping up mileage and/or pace. During that time, it is more challenging to alter swim, bike, and run mechanics because it is important to gradually introduce the new techniques in order to minimize injury risk. The off season is a great time to hone your skills!

If you have been working on strength training, speed work, hills and refining your technique during the off season you will be well prepared for specific race training. You will not feel the need to accelerate your training to be ready for race day reducing your risk for injury.