BY STEVE BORN
You can take many different steps to improve your athletic performance, but if you make these five easy changes now, you will see rapid improvements in your endurance!
1) Stay hydrated all day long - Approximately 60% of your body is comprised of water, so it's vitally important to stay well hydrated all day long. Unfortunately many people live in a state of perpetual dehydration. And that hurts athletic performance and overall health. Starting now, gradually increase your fluid intake - primarily pure, clean water - so that the total number of ounces you're drinking daily is equal to half your weight in pounds (e.g., a 180-pound athlete should consume 90 ounces of fluids daily, in addition to the amount consumed during exercise). During exercise, drink 18-25 ounces per hour, and up to 28 ounces per hour during hot weather.
2) Fuel lean - Your caloric goal during exercise should be the least amount necessary to maintain desired energy levels, hour after hour. For the majority of athletes, that's 120-180 calories per hour. If you find that's not quite enough, that's an easy fix - simply consume a few more.
3) Ditch the sugar - Some fuels are comprised of a combination of simple sugars (glucose, sucrose, fructose etc.), formulated under the premise that your body will be able to produce more energy on a per-minute basis using multiple carbohydrate sources. Keep in mind that the subjects in those "multi-carb" studies were exercising at such low intensities - a recovery pace, at best - that they probably could consume anything. Choose complex carbohydrates (maltodextrin), such as in Hammer Nutrition's Hammer Gel, HEED, or Perpetuem, instead. Unlike simple sugars, complex carbs provide steady, long-lasting energy and cause no stomach issues even at high intensity efforts.
Hot weather fueling tip: Hammer's HEED, Perpetuem and Sustained Energy long-distance fuels contain no preservatives. Once mixed, they should be used within about 3 hours. To avoid spoilage during extended, hot-weather events, use separate multi-hour bottles. Either mix the bottles the night before the race and freeze them so that they stay cool as they thaw during the race. Or, mix and freeze just one bottle, and put only powder (no water) in the other. When your finish your first multi-hour bottle, you'll need to stop briefly to add cold water to the second multi-hour bottle. Another long-distance fueling option is Perpetuem Solids, which stay fresh and tasty even in the heat.
4) Don't eat for 3 hours before exercise - By refraining from eating in the 3-hour period before your workouts and races, you put your body in the ideal physiological state to use its finite stores of muscle glycogen most efficiently, while also utilizing its calories from body fat stores more effectively. Adopt this practice in all your workouts - even the early morning ones - and you'll extend your endurance like never before.
5) "Refill the tank" ASAP after every workout - Your body wants to reward you for the efforts you made in training, strengthening the immune system, rebuilding muscle tissue stronger, and storing more minutes of readily available fuel in muscles. All you have to do to enjoy all of these endurance-enhancing benefits is supply your body with the materials it needs right away - ideally within the first 30 minutes after exercise - meaning complex carbohydrates and high-quality protein such as found in Recoverite. HN