Training for a road race or triathlon is a terrific goal, as is any attempt to get in shape, and only by taking good care of yourself during the training period will you be able to show up at the start line feeling prepared and ready. As the intensity of your training increases, you’ll want to be sure to fuel your body with all the nutrients it needs (take our vitamin quiz) and treat yourself with tender loving care.
1) Hydrate! Sweat is salty, right? When we sweat we lose both water and electrolytes, such as sodium, magnesium, potassium, and chloride. Replacing these losses with plain water is not enough. Through osmosis, our bodies actually absorb and hold onto fluids better if they are combined with the right electrolytes. Read more to learn how to Power Up here…
2) Getting an adequate amount of protein during training is important because it is needed for muscle growth and repair, and helps satiate hunger. But keep in mind, it is only helpful to a point and should be paired with carbs and fats to provide optimal balance. Endurance athletes should eat 2-3 servings of protein, and protein should be 12-15% of calories per day.
3) Don’t neglect your overall health. While getting in shape is great for your overall health, it does not give you permission to forgo routine medical care, such as checkups, screening tests and immunizations. A prescription for good health includes more than exercising.
4) Train your whole body – your legs, core and arms. Many people who train for a race, whether it be a 10K, marathon or triathlon, focus on swimming, biking and running, and tend to neglect weight bearing exercises. Sure, swimming is an effective work out for the upper body and arms, but it’s not a weight bearing activity, which is key for helping to build and maintain strong bones.
5) Build strong bones to avoid stress and compression fractures. Optimal bone health is achieved, in part, with weight bearing exercises (see #4), but it is also necessary to get the right nutrients. We recommend, if possible, get most of your calcium through diet (there are many dairy and nondairy sources), and only take a low dose supplement, if needed. Calcium can only be absorbed by your body if you get adequate doses of vitamin D.
6) Minimize cramping and injury with vitamin D, magnesium and certain B vitamins. The amount needed can vary based on diet, lifestyle and health history, so consider taking a custom vitamin that ensures you get adequate and safe levels based on your own needs. Heavy work out days can require some extra electrolytes to maintain hydration and avoid cramping.
7) Eat early and often. Your body does best with small bursts of energy (calories) throughout the day. Eating a healthy breakfast not only fuels you with energy for the day, it also helps curb your appetite. People who eat a meal containing protein within an hour of waking are more likely to eat healthful meals the rest of the day. Many of our patients have found they feel better and are more satisfied eating 5-6 small meals per day rather than 3 big ones.
8) Maximize your metabolism. The thyroid gland regulates metabolism in your body and functions optimally only if you have adequate intake of iodine. As we eat less processed foods and use less table salt, many of us fall short on iodine intake. Iodine can be part of a custom vitamin regimen or all in one vitamin (take our vitamin quiz here) to help support your thyroid, but consult your physician about the right level for you since too much can cause big problems.
9) Caffeine, a blessing or a curse? Both. Caffeine, when ingested in moderate doses, ideally via a natural source such as chocolate, coffee or green tea, can help boost metabolism and help with calorie burning during a workout. Being fully awake of course never hurts either. However, studies have shown that caffeine consumption must be limited and we suggest satisfying that caffeine fix early in the day so as not to disturb sleep. We do NOT advocate the use of “energy” drinks or supplements containing added caffeine because these have not been proven to be safe and some also contain high levels of sugar.
10) Don’t sacrifice sleep. Exercise is important to our overall health, and of course, when training for a race, you must follow your program and log those miles, but make sure you are not getting up so early that you compromise valuable sleep. Also, exercising late in the day can impair the ability to fall asleep at night. Sleep itself is essential to regulate our metabolism, weight and more. Most people need 7-10 hours to function optimally.
Romy Block specializes in Endocrinology and Metabolism and is mother to three active adolescent boys. Arielle Levitan is a Doctor of Internal Medicine with a special interest in Preventive Medicine and Women’s Health. She is a mother of three teen agers. As professional women with active family lives, they recognize that people often neglect their own health needs and are uncertain about what vitamins to take. Each person is different in her diet, exercise and health history, and will benefit from different nutrients. After years of advising their patients about the proper vitamins to take, Drs. Block and Levitan created Vous Vitamin® to provide people everywhere with quality vitamins that are suited to their individual needs. They are authors of the award winning The Vitamin Solution: Two Doctors Clear Confusion About Vitamins and Your Health (She Writes Press, 2015). Take your vitamin survey now to get exactly the right vitamins for your needs.
The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products offered by Vous Vitamin® are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.