Fueling Your Strength Training Workouts

Training & Health

01/20/2006| 0 comments
by Ryan Kohler

Fueling Your Strength Training Workouts

Endurance athletes have special needs when it comes to fueling strength training workouts.

Endurance athletes have special needs when it comes to fueling for those long bike rides or runs, but what about strength training workouts? Many of you may be in your off-season or pre-season right now and incorporating strength training into your routine with hopes of improving your performance next season. So what is the best way to fuel your body for these workouts?

Carbohydrates have long been a staple in the endurance athlete?s diet and should not be overlooked during strength training workouts. Protein is a necessary nutrient for any athlete, but high-protein diets are not necessary during strength training workouts. Moderate intake of protein seems adequate for endurance athletes. Fat has many beneficial properties and should be consumed with care. Make sure to limit your intake of saturated and trans fats, and focus on consuming unsaturated fats (found in nuts, legumes, avocados, etc.)

Protein intake varies for different types of athletes and for different stages of training. As a general rule of thumb, endurance athletes fall into a range of approximately 1.1-1.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (1.1-1.9 g/kg). For a 160-pound (or 72 kg) individual, this would equate to a total of 79-137 grams of protein per day.

Carbohydrate intake is typically high for endurance athletes, averaging around 60-70% of total calories. Endurance athletes engaging in relatively intense exercise for less than one hour per day would need approximately six grams of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight to fuel their workouts. (*Note: ?intense exercise? is defined as being greater than 82% of maximum heart rate.) For the 160-pound athlete, this would require taking in about 430 grams of carbohydrate each day, or 1720 calories in the form of carbohydrate.  In terms of percentage of total calories, this would be about 68% of total calories from carbohydrates.

Fat intake, as mentioned above, is very important, and should account for the remainder of calories. In the example above, this 160-pound athlete would get the remainder of his calories, about 14-20%, from fat. Saturated fat is a necessary component of any diet, but should be consumed sparingly. Most of these calories from fat should be in the form of mono- and poly-unsaturated fat found in foods such as nuts, legumes, fish, and various oils such as canola and olive oil.

Regardless of the length of time you engage in strength training, you?ll need to ensure that your body is properly fueled up for each session. If you?re a morning person, your energy levels will need to be topped off with a satisfying but light meal to allow your body to make it through the session. If you are training in the afternoon or evening, you may just need a quick snack to top off energy stores before going to the gym. Make sure these pre-workout meals are lower in fat and protein and higher in carbohydrates so you can quickly digest the nutrients before starting your routine.

During the strength training session, you may not need anything besides water or your favorite sports drink. Most strength training sessions for endurance athletes will not last more than one hour, so water is usually adequate during this time.

After strength training, your body will be in a state of both muscle protein breakdown (MPB) and synthesis (MPS). MPB can last up to 24 hours, but usually returns to normal levels by 48 hours. MPS can remain elevated for up to 48 hours or more, so providing your body with high-quality sources of protein on a regular basis following strength training workouts will help your body recover more fully from workout to workout.  

Like any training session, you should follow your workout with a high-carbohydrate meal that includes moderate amounts of protein and some fat as well. This combination of nutrients will provide the body with the necessary calories and fuel sources to keep you going in future workouts and to help the body recover as much as possible during training.

1.  Swain et al (1994). "Target HR for the development of CV fitness." Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 26(1), 112-116.

Ryan is an Expert Coach with Carmichael Training Systems, Inc. (CTS). He holds a B.S in Exercise Science and an M.S. in Exercise Science & Sports Medicine. Ryan's primary interests lie in the multisport world of triathlons and adventure races. To find out what CTS can do for you, please visit www.trainright.com.

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