Jan 29, 2015
Nutrition for High Intensity Training

By Deb Iovoli, MS, RD, CSSD, CDN

If you have athlete’s who are competitive runners you probably try to help them get the most out of their runs. They run frequently, do speed work, tempo and long runs, and may even do some weight training for strength. These are all the things that make someone a faster, stronger runner… so they say.

This is what you’ve read in Runner’s World, seen in training plans, or information found on the internet. As a runner for over 30 years, this is what I’ve typically done, until recently. I also have some education in this area too (Master of Science in Exercise Science) so I thought I was pretty educated on running and training.

Well, things have changed for me in the past two years. I’ve changed my whole thought process about what is “challenging” and “effective” to become a better runner. I’ve discovered CrossFit. The CrossFit prescription is “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement.” It is a sport in itself, “the sport of fitness” which optimizes human performance. In essence, these high-intensity (anaerobic) functional movements are more effective in eliciting improved fitness results.

Many studies have recently come out reporting that high intensity training results in improved aerobic capacity (ability to run longer) more so than moderate intensity training. It is cutting-edge science and I believe one of the best (and fun) ways to train. I believe in it so much I am now trained in CrossFit Endurance as well as CrossFit level 1 Certified.

A large population of my Moms In Motion group, their spouses, and friends are now benefitting from CrossFit training. I’ve seen their muscles develop, run times drop, podium wins, along with cyclists excel in their sport. Now here’s the real kicker: They are doing CrossFit with the benefits of less muscle soreness after running and less miles running! It’s beneficial to anyone wanting to improve their fitness level, running times, or gain strength/lean muscle mass- all ages and abilities. All workouts are challenging and fun and can be scaled to your ability.

If your arthletes are already doing some type of high-intensity training (HIT) or considering CrossFit, make sure your nutrition plan matches your training to gain the most benefit. If you are not properly fueled, hydrated, or have a nutrition recovery plan, strength and muscle growth will not occur. I recommend the following tips to optimize HIT:

Hydrate. Drink fluids as soon as you get up, before a workout session, all day long, and as part of your post workout recovery. Dehydration can interfere with your ability to train effectively or even cause dizziness when exerting yourself. Muscles are 75% water and it’s important to replenish lost fluids from sweat.

Fuel with Carbohydrates. High intensity workouts can zap your glycogen (storage of carbohydrates) in just a few minutes! Be sure to eat prior to HIT so you have the energy to complete a workout and do it to your best ability to maximize results. Consume a sandwich, bagel, pasta, yogurt, or dried fruit before your workout. Your entire meal plan should consist of approximately 50-60% carbohydrates including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products.

Plan Recovery Foods. CrossFit training can leave you shaking when you’ve completed a workout. If you know you will not be going directly home to eat, be sure you have a snack to get you started in the recovery process. Your muscles are most receptive in replenishing glycogen 15-30 minutes after you have completed a workout. Eat a portable snack like pretzels, trail mix, cereal bars, dried fruit, or even a bottle of Boost or Ensure supplement if you won’t be eating for awhile. Stop on your way home at a convenience store for some chocolate milk or a smoothie if you forget to pack something.

Again, you’ve depleted your glycogen stores so maximize your recovery by consuming carbohydrate-rich foods. Some protein is needed to repair muscle tissue also but not as quickly. You may be able to wait until your next meal if it’s within an hour away. Don’t forget the fluid replacement, especially if you have lost a lot in sweating.

Consume a Healthy Diet. As with all training, the best workouts will not be effective if proper nutrition is lacking. Start out the day with a healthy breakfast and enjoy the remaining meals and snacks full of fruit, whole grains, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, healthy fats, and lean meat. Limit your intake of fried foods, sugar, and excess calories.

If you are interested in CrossFit training or just learning more about it, introductory classes are ongoing or check out the website, www.CrossFitGordon.com for more information.

Deb Iovoli, is a board certified specialist in Sports Dietetics, adjunct at Monroe Community College, and a Rochester (N.Y.) Moms in Motion Team Leader. She enjoys helping athletes become successful with food choices, body weight and composition, for optimal health and performance. Contact her at: [email protected].

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