Training, Racing & LCHF Fueling For Skating And Endurance Sports
OK, so where were we? Hopefully after reading Part 1 your daily routine already revolves around eating raw whale blubber, sleeping in a cryogenic chamber for 9 hours, tracking your biofeedback metrics each morning, followed by a hard day’s training before finally dunking in an ice bath at the end of the day… rinse and repeat.
So what other nuggets of wisdom have we got in our recovery bag?
If you are fueling and refeeding optimally, the recovery process is set into motion even before training/racing has finished.
Intra-exercise fueling for longer sessions (2hr+) is a notoriously icky subject – I’ve become largely agnostic on individual fueling choices – in race situations you have to do what works, and largely it comes down to personal preference and what your stomach can handle. However, no matter if you fuel on real food or gels, you need to carefully consider your protein intake to minimize your body’s muscle catabolization process. It’s important to mitigate this undesired effect by keep your blood amino acids stable and regularly ingesting a source of protein during the workout (that is why many “endurance” orientated sports drinks will contain a carb & protein mixture, typically in a 4:1 ratio). Proteinated (is that even a word?) sports drinks, whey protein, amino acid supplements, (both full-complex and BCAAs) – can all serve as good intra-exercise protein source.
Post-workout refueling is another contentious subject. While I believe that there is a post-exercise window for optimal fueling, that window is probably more like 2hrs rather than half an hour that the gym meatheads seem to abide by. When considering macro-nutrients, replenishing depleted muscle glycogen and providing your body with an adequate source of quality protein should be the priorities (over fat, which ironically is the least-immediately required macro).
While I firmly believe that being fat-adapted is more glycogen-preserving and less catabolic than high-carb, there is still a cost to the body of prolonged exercise and it doesn’t give you a license to neglect these addressing these areas, so you may as well pay attention and address them well.
How many carbs do you need to replenish depleted glycogen? That very much depends on how well fat-adapted you are, the intensity and duration of your workout – all contributing to your glycogen deficit. If you know all this, you can fairly precisely calculate how much glycogen you have used and how much to refuel with.
As well as intra and post-exercise macronutrients, it’s important to consider micronutrients. This could be an essay in itself, but for now I’ll stick to just a few important ones.
Creatine is one of the most researched and widely used supplements commonly used – especially by strength/power athletes, but is also known to be used amongst some endurance athletes, especially those who aren’t afraid to do their strength work. Studies have been shown creatine to be effective for improved recovery.
Fish Oil has received a lot of attention of nutritionists over the last few years, and it seems “common wisdom” amongst the clued up nutritional fraternity that if you are considering supplementation, fish oil should be very high up on your list. Fish oil is, of course, high in those all-important omega-3s, which as well as being a precursor to anti-inflammatory hormones, are also linked with reduction of perceived effort during exercise (yay!), reduced DOMS (double yay!), and improved brain function.
Another supplement that has received a huge amount of attention in recent years is “vitamin” D – not really a vitamin, but an essential pro-hormone that our bodies use in the manufacture of many hormones and processes than we ever realised. Despite this, studies show that as much as 90% of the general population are deficient in vitamin D (although no one seemingly agrees on what are optimal dosage and blood levels). Vitamin D may be one of the most nutrients we are most deficient in, but it’s also one that is cheap and easy to supplement.
Magnesium is one of the micronutrients that take an especially heavy hit during prolonged exercise. In the first couple of years of his podcast when he was still heavily into IronMan, Ben Greenfield would frequently mention Magnesium supplementation as one of the most important micronutrients to top off. Magnesium has been shown to be linked with many optimal functions for sports performance and general health.
The Bottom line is… Most of the general population is deficient when it comes to micronutrients. That’s shouldn’t be much of a surprise consider the poor quality of the standard western diet. And despite their outward fitness physical fitness, most athletes are even more deficient than the standard population… Yes, they are fit despite their nutrient level, not because of it. Why? Because exercise, especially prolonged endurance exercise, depletes the body of micronutrients. For this reason, even though I do already eat a nutrient dense diet, I also take extra nutritional supplementation. At the very least, every endurance athlete should consider supplementing with a good multi-vitamin and a fish oil.
A proper warm-down should be a no-brainer, but often the simplest tricks are the ones that are most overlooked. Hands up who likes to finish a workout with a final burst of intensity, perhaps simulating the final dash for the finish line in a race, and then an inadequate (or non-existent) recovery? Yup, we’re all culpable. But this is terrible form, and can severely compromise our body’s ability to recover.
Warming and warming down is all about moving blood from the internal organs to the skeletal muscles and vice versa – as much as 80% of our blood will be used by our skeletal muscular system during exercise, and this is a stressor to the body in and of itself, especially if it happens too quickly through an inadequate warm up/warm down routine.
When we perform warm down we allow the heart rate to descend slowly back to nearer our resting level, and for more effective removal of lactic acid from the muscles.
Warm ups and especially warm downs do not need to be activity specific – they are whole body activities, and so long as they engage the major muscle groups and keep your heart rate and blood flow pumping, they are doing the job.
Generally speaking the longer you can make your warm ups and warm downs, the better. I usually find the short cycle home from training provides me with the perfect 15-20 minute warm down routine. 🙂
OK, you may think that I’ve completely jumped in off the deep end, I’m a big believer in the science of earthing, and it’s ability to improve all sort of health biomarkers, including inflammation and blood clotting, and improve sleep. There is more than enough science to back it up, and the amount of anecdotal testimonial is difficult to ignore.
Pro cycling teams have been using Earthing technology as a part of their inter-stage recovery protocol during grands tours for a long time.
Whether or not you believe there is benefit or if you think it’s woo-woo science, no one to my knowledge has ever reported any detrimental effect from earthing, and to buy the required earthing sheets to ensure you are effectively grounded during the majority of your day and night requires a relatively small one-time investment, so why not? In our modern world we can’t hope to control all the sources of EMFs we are exposed to, and I for one am NOT willing to curtail my use of electronic devices, so staying earthed is my way of mitigating the potential deleterious effects.
I’ve recently bought myself an EMS (Electrical Muscular Stimulation) device, and it has been a revelation! EMS works by stimulating involuntary muscular contractions using a pattern of electrical signals from a handheld device – bypassing (and thus sparing) your central nervous system of the work it would usually have to do. Depending on the strength and modulation of the electrical pattern, EMS can be used to enhance muscular performance and increase the training effect, and/or as a means to improve recovery by stimulating rhythmic muscular activity and improving blood flow, helping remove metabolic waste from major muscle groups. Using an EMS device is a bit disconcerting at first, but when you become accustomed to it, it’s a fantastic “underground” recovery technique that you can have working away in the background as you sit at your desk and go about your everyday business.
If you’re thinking about getting a device, make sure it’s a true EMS rather than just a TENS unit. TENS stands for (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) and although the technology is exactly the same, the programmes are specifically targeted at stimulating the nervous system rather than the muscular system to the purpose of pain relief. Many devices function as dual EMS/TENS units, and if you are going to get one then you may as well go for a dual function until.
Compression wear is an easy and effective way to helping sore calves, so invest in some compression socks and make use of them if you haven’t already.
And of course, traditional massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage and trigger point therapy can all do a good job of assisting muscular recovery, if that’s your thing… but you probably knew that already.
Fascia is not well understood by most people, and thus often neglected when it comes to recovery. While most people think of foam-rolling as a form of muscular massage, it’s has greater value as a tool for self myofascial release. Actually, I think that the traditional foam roller is slightly overrated because of its size and cumbersome nature – I just use a small rolling pin which is much easier to handle and allows me to roll all over including smaller areas that just aren’t as workable with a large foam roller.
I’ve already mentioned considering taking Magnesium as a supplement, but it’s usefulness in assisting recovery extends beyond normal supplementation.
Ever wondered what’s that “magical spray” that soccer physios spray onto their players after a heavy tackle? It’s Magnesium Chloride oil. Obviously you shouldn’t use it to mask a nagging injury, but used thoughtfully it has a useful place in the recovery toolbox in helping you to bounce back from a grueling workout.
A more traditional method of ensuring you have an optimal magnesium balance is to take a nice relaxing bath with magnesium-rich salts, such as Epsom salts. Some people doubt that magnesium can be absorbed transdermally, however they are wrong, and studies have shown that salt baths do have an effect i this respect. It’s an ages old tradition, and who are we to deny the wisdom of such rituals?
Nobody trains and recovers in a vacuum. Stress raises cortisol and other catabolic hormones, which delay physical and mental recovery. As I have written before, stress is stress, regardless if it comes from exercise, environment, poor nutrition, or mental pressures – your nervous system doesn’t distinguish between them… so removing as many non-exercise stressors from your everyday life will directly impact how you recovery. This should be a no-brainer.
As nice as it would be to be able to do everything I’ve listed in part 1 & here in part 2, the reality is that not even I will be in a position to tick all of these boxes for every single workout. Life gets in the way, and we don’t always manage to get as much sleep as we’d like, eat as well as we’d like, be able to warm down for 15 minutes or be able to take the time to roll out the knots in our fascia every time.
However, being at least aware of these and being able to do some of them for each workout – and as many of them as possible for each key workout – will ensure that we give our bodies the best chance to recover optimally.
In putting together this article I’ve researched and written down a few techniques that I’m not fully using yet, but having done the reading on them, I fully intend to make use of them over the coming months, and will be eager to write about my n=1 experiences.