Eating For Endurance

Old style nutritionists advise athletes “load up” on excessive amounts of carbohydrates before an event to jam-pack muscle and liver cells with stored carbohydrates (glycogen), a strategy that feeds muscles and starves the nervous system. USA Diet Plans nutritional science holds a different perspective because as soon as insulin ushers glucose into muscle and fat cells, it can not escape back into the general circulation. Taking glucose out of the bloodstream is detrimental for the brain and central nervous system, a function which precedes physical movement and athletic ability. Your legs can only move after the nervous system’s command. Basically, you want your brain to burn carbohydrates and muscles to burn fat.
Another reason extreme carbohydrate loading is not recommended is because of the accompanying increase in insulin levels. Insulin triggers muscle cells to burn carbohydrates instead of fat and prevents the release of stored body fat. Fat provides an immediate high octane fuel source for hard working muscles. An important point to realize is that muscles do not store ATP, ATP is produced only as needed. At 9 calories per gram, fat provides an immediate a high octane fuel source for muscle cells the moment it’s needed. Fat is 50% more efficient at producing ATP compared to carbohydrate, and therefore provides a great source of immediate energy. The typical fat reserve contains enough energy to supply 119 hours of running whereas your carbohydrate storage of glycogen could only produce 1.6 hours of running.
Fat is energy dense and light in weight, which makes fat easier for an athlete to carry around when compared to the bulkiness of glycogen (carbohydrate storage). Being bloated and weight gain always accompany a meal that contains a high glycemic load through the actions of insulin. Retaining water weighs you down and holds you back. For every one ounce of carbohydrate that gets stored, the body requires 3 ounces of water.

A forth argument against extreme carbohydrate loading is that elevated insulin instantaneously decreases blood flow by activating certain hormones (eicosanoids) that promote vasoconstriction, decreasing the circumference of the arteries that carry and transfer oxygen to all the cells of the body. Less oxygen equals less endurance. Excess insulin is a constrictor that also tightens your lung passageways, inhibiting oxygen intake.
American marathons runners are often criticized for doing poorly against foreign runners because Americans are brainwashed by the event sponsors. Sport drink companies use advertising propaganda, causing athletes to worry more about electrolytes than blood sugar control. The average sports drink contains 56 grams of carbohydrates and is no different than having Kool-aid with added electrolytes (sodium, potassium and chloride). The types of carbohydrate (sugar) found in sport drinks have an extremely high glycemic index (95), which is almost as high as if someone was to drink pure glucose (100). In addition, there are hundreds of companies who specialize in sports endurance by feeding athletes performance gels and drinks that contain maltodextrine, a carbohydrate with a sky high glycemic index of 105. 

Consuming high glycemic foods and drinks prior to an athletic event causes reduced sports performance as soon as a half an hour into the event. On the other hand, eating low glycemic meals prior to exercising increases stamina, promotes fat burning and causes muscle and liver cells to use up glycogen at a slower pace.

USA Diet Plans® does advocate glycogen loading; however we take the moderate approach. There are other ways to fill your glycogen without the use of extremely high glycemic carbohydrates such as sports drinks, power bars and performance gels.
Instead of eating meals dominated by too many high glycemic carbohydrates, USA Diet Plans® suggests athletes eat larger-than-normal meals leading up to the event as a way to increase glycogen without driving insulin levels through the roof. Each meal should consist of a balanced ratio of protein, carbohydrate and fat to stabilize blood sugar and maximize performance. Your protein should be an easily digestible source such as eggs or fish. Recommending high fiber carbohydrate sources (such as whole grains, oatmeal, fruit) would be a mistake because high fiber foods draw water out of the body and into the intestines. To fuel your body for endurance events, USA Diet Plans® concepts recommend low glycemic, low fiber food with a potentially high glycemic load. Examples include pasta, Uncle Ben’s® converted rice, sourdough bread, English muffin, or Red Bliss (or New) potatoes. This way you can ride a little higher with the insulin response without going over the edge.
Endurance athletes are also advised to increase the amount of monounsaturated fat in their bloodstream prior to an event as a way to increase fat availability. This can be accomplished by eating a handful of nuts between each meal before the race. A 200 calorie snack is also recommended 30-45 minutes to an hour before an athletic event to act as a blood sugar touch up. Again, all meals prior to an athletic event should be balanced (with protein, carbohydrate and fat) to stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels. As soon as insulin levels get too high, they will block the availability of fat. The goal is to burn your fat first and save your glycogen for later. In addition, it is advised to allow at least two days of rest before the event to keep muscle glycogen stores as full as possible.