Minimize Loss, Maximize Gains
BY LOREN MASON-GERE
If you're doing workouts or events over two and a half hours long, you are cannibalizing muscle mass. On average, 10% of your hourly caloric burn during prolonged endurance exercise is fueled by protein. It's a hard fact of sport, and one that can wreak havoc over the course of a season if not properly addressed.
To put this equation into perspective, you could imagine an average-sized athlete burning 700 calories per hour through the duration of an ironman. At 10% caloric burn coming from protein, that's 70 calories per hour for what we will imagine took a respectable ten hours. This equates to an estimated 700 calories from protein. Given that there are 4 calories per gram of protein, we see that the athlete would have burned up 175 grams of protein! This could equate to over a third of a pound of muscle mass during that single event.
Not an iron man, and have no interest in such craziness? The equation still matters to you. With 1 or 2 sessions over 3 hours each week, your cumulative muscle breakdown still adds up.
While you should never (ever, ever, not in a million years) try to match calories burned with calories consumed, properly fueling and recovering from long sessions will minimize muscle loss and maximize your output. If you want to go long and stay strong, follow these tips:
Make sure your fuel includes high quality protein
Our first sports drink turned the world on its head. Sustained Energy was so unlike any other fuel out there; some folks didn't know what to make of it. But those that tried it became fans for life. It was set apart not only by the use of complex carbohydrates rather than sugar, but also its protein content. With a ratio of 8:1 carb-to-protein, it helped to fill some of the body's needs, thus minimizing muscle loss. The unflavored nature of the drink put some folks off, so some years later a second and now more popular offering hit the market - Perpetuem.
Like Sustained Energy, Perpetuem offers high quality protein, along with some additional bells and whistles to buffer acidity and maximize performance. While the protein content is slightly lower (7:1) it also includes a small amount of high quality fat to help balance blood sugar levels and trigger your body's natural fat-burning abilities. With four delicious flavors to choose from, it's an easy and delicious way to fuel, and the preferred avenue for most athletes.
If you've yet to try one of these long-duration fuels, start with Perpetuem. Keep caloric intake on the low side, as the complexity and density of the fuel source means you won't need much. We recommend starting with 120-150 calories per hour and moving up to 180 only if needed. Remember, the less work your body has to do to digest your fuel, the better it can perform.
Augment protein intake with BCAAs
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are among the most important amino acids for muscle building and protection. They also stimulate energy production, delay fatigue, reduce perceived level of exertion, and support recovery. These features combined make them an ideal supplement to add to your fueling program during long rides.
Our Endurance BCAA+ supplement includes the BCAAs, plus glutathione and alanine. While glutathione goes to work supporting the immune system, alanine can be converted directly into glycogen, thus adding a bit of fuel to the fire. Take 1-4 capsules per hour of exercise, and be prepared to be impressed.
Mop up ammonia
When protein is broken down, one of the byproducts is ammonia. As it builds in your muscle tissues, you feel tired, your limbs may get heavy, and you feel like you're moving through half-formed cement. Your liver and kidneys will naturally remove it from your body, but it's hard work and takes time. Plus, athletes' livers work hard enough already (that's why we make LSA Caps, but that's another story for another day).
Anti-Fatigue Caps are designed specifically for this purpose. A potent blend of ammonia scavengers work together to assist your body's purification processes, decreasing ammonia build-up and the fatigue it causes.
Couple Anti-Fatigue Caps with Endurance BCAA+ to maximize the benefit. While your protein-fortified fuel and BCAAs work to minimize muscle breakdown in the first place, Anti-Fatigue Caps comes in like a clean-up crew, minimizing damages from that which occurs. (Combining both with your hourly doses of Endurolytes is a simple and easy way to remember to take them.) Not only will you feel better and go faster, but you'll recover better, having given your body a jump-start on the process before you even get home.
We've said it before and we'll say it again. Recovery matters. And the longer and harder you go, the more important it becomes. Within 30 minutes of finishing a session - especially if it's long and hard - you simply must refill the tank. Give your body some high-quality protein and complex carbohydrates to jump-start the process. With the perfect 3:1 ratio and now a NEW vegan option, Recoverite is the winning ticket. Then continue to consume high-quality protein sources throughout the day to support your body's natural abilities to rebuild the protein it's torn down (or eaten up) during activity.
Do it right and thrive
If you're like most of us, you want to make the most of your time. You love getting after it outside and this is the time of year for going all day. By following these tips, you'll make sure that your workouts, events, and adventures get longer, stronger, and more fun as you progress. If you need help dialing in your program, don't hesitate to give us a call. We're here waiting to help.