Base building phase nutrition mistakes

Winter season has traditionally been an off-season for runners accompanied by logging miles, i.e. base building. But as your runs get longer and weekly mileage increases, you should also be paying attention to your recovery and nutrition.
 
Here are the most common mistakes runners make during the off-season.

Trying to lose weight during base building

A common advice in endurance training is to try and lose weight during the base building period while runs are not as intense as in the pre-season. But running high-mileage, even if slower, requires a lot of energy and being in a too deep energy deficit will hinder your training and possibly lead to injuries.
 
It is the ideal time to figure out your race-day nutrition.
 
I noticed that runners lose weight almost automatically as the intensity of their training increases in the pre-season, so having some extra fat to fuel pre-season workouts can be helpful.
 
If you still want to lose weight during high volume stage of the training cycle, aim to lose at a slower rate (about 0.7% body weight/week) while keeping your workouts fueled and rather cutting from your meals that are furthere away from training (for example have a smaller dinner if you exercise in the morning).

Bad fueling during long-runs

You go for a long run, uphill, downhill and you start to notice how it takes more effort to continue with your run. Your heart rate is high and legs are tired. You try to squeeze an energy gel but it does not help. You’ve bonked!
 
Improper fueling during workouts lower your performance, recovery and can also leave you feeling ravenous.
 
Eat something before your long runs and take nutrition with you to maximize your training adaptations and recovery. You don’t need to be hungry to pop a gel during your long-runs.
 
Don’t forget to hydrate! Although the temperatures outside are not as high, a lot of water gets lost through sweating and even more through breathing. So even if you don’t sweat as much, you are losing fluids.
 
Dehydration and exercise performance:
  • 1% dehydration causes HR to increase by 3-5bpm
  • 2% dehydration causes aerobic performance loss
  • 3-5% causes anaerobic performance loss & sport specific technical skills

Waiting too long after workout to refuel

You don’t need to start eating immediately after you have finished running but your muscles are most responsive to uptake glucose for several minute after the exercise.
 
If you typically change your clothes, drive a car home, then cook a meal and eat two hours after your hard workouts/long runs then you are doing your body a disservice. Have at least a banana waiting for you in your car to improve your recovery.
Once again, waiting too long after a run to refuel can lead to overeating later.

 

Relying on your sports nutrition too much

Energy gels, pre-workouts, isotonic drinks are good and handy but they are less important than your normal meals. Focus on eating healthy, minimally processed foods that will supply your body with minerals and vitamins necessary for your body to work properly.

“Earning food” and “burning food calories”

Thinking you have to earn food by exercising or to burn off extra-calories you might have gained over the holidays sets up an unhealthy relationship with food, which seems to be a common problem among endurance athletes. Your body deserves food and nutrition even when you are not running a half-marathon.

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