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Strength and Conditioning for the Endurance Athlete - Nutritional Considerations

We’ve all been there… staring at the stairs with dread the day after a strength and conditioning session. Perhaps, you’ve even tried a run the next day and found your legs just aren’t what you’d expect. What is causing the muscle soreness that we often experience after S&C? Is it a bad thing? And are there any nutrition strategies we can use to prevent this feeling?

As a triathlete, when we strength train, our body is put under a different stress to what it might usually experience during a typical swim, bike or run session. Our muscles become sore due to the microscopic damage that occurs. But this damage isn’t ‘bad’ - its an important part of the adaptation process, and is ultimately going to make us stronger and fitter.

But, the right nutrition also has a role to play – it can help reduce the soreness, is critical in how our body adapts to the strength training, and ensures we are ready to go for our next swim/bike/run session. From a nutritional perspective, there are 2 key things we should consider:

1. Carbohydrates

You might be surprised to see carbs at the top of this list! But if we think about the exercise pattern of a strength session, it has a lot of similarities to an interval session we might do on the bike or run. OK, there is probably a little more rest in between sets during the strength session, but carbs are still key to fuelling much of this training. As a result, you end the strength session with lower muscle glycogen levels (the carbs stored in our muscle).

Including carbohydrates in your post-workout meal is then key to ensuring you replace the glycogen stores used during these sessions so that you are refuelled and ready for your next session. Choose good quality carbs like rice, pasta, quinoa or porridge oats.

2. Protein

When most people do strength training, they immediately think ‘protein’. And this isn’t a bad thing - protein is key to helping our muscles grow and repair and reduce the muscle soreness we experience after a session. You may have heard of the ‘anabolic window’, or at least the principle, whereby you must consume protein within 30 minutes of your training session. This is probably why protein shakes are so popular, as they offer a quick and convenient way to consume your post-workout protein.

But don’t worry - more recent research has shown that eating protein as part of your post-exercise meal within a couple of hours of finishing the session is just as good. This means you can take a ‘food first’ approach (a key philosophy of Total Endurance Nutrition) – at least if time allows. Protein shakes can of course be used if you’re not going to eat soon after finishing the session, but always look to get your protein through food where possible. This way, you will also consume more micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) which are also important for your overall health. Following the session, you should aim try and eat 20-40g protein (20g for smaller, lighter athletes). Examples of protein rich foods include lean meat and fish, eggs or fat free greek yoghurt.

Total Endurance Nutrition Post S&C Recommendation

Carbs and protein work better together, in that they both help each other in optimising their roles in repairing (protein) and refuelling (carbs) our muscles. We’d recommend a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein.

So a great post workout snack/breakfast option is:

· 200g 0% fat greek yoghurt

· 50g granola

· A handful of berries

· A drizzle of honey


A note on supplements

It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t briefly mention supplements. A quick Google of ‘supplements to support strength training’ and you will be met with hundreds of supplements claiming to support muscle growth and recovery. Despite the ‘food first’ approach of Total Endurance Nutrition, we do acknowledge that supplements can be of benefit to the right person, under the right circumstances. But before you part with your money, we’d always recommend speaking to a sports nutritionist or dietician to check if a supplement is right for you.

‘Fuel, Train, Sustain’

For more information advice and nutrition support, get in touch with either Sam or Jules at Total Endurance Nutrition (admin@totalendurancenutrition.com).

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