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Is your fueling plan ready? Why it's time for endurance athletes to start thinking nutrition

For most endurance athletes the winter time is a somewhat dormant or off-season period of training. Some may focus on building a base while others take a few weeks completely off to enjoy winter sports or activities – hopefully without injuries on the slopes.

It’s also a time to start planning the next season: lining up races, figuring out training plans or schedules, and checking out all the new gear. And wouldn’t it be a great time to pull a nutrition plan together, too (hint, hint). But somehow, just like you find yourself doing last minute shopping on Christmas Eve despite the best intentions, the nutrition plan is put on the backburner until the last minute.

In truth, there is no time like the present to get your fueling in order. In fact, doing so can help you:

1)     Research options. Not only are there an abundance of sports foods on the market, there are now countless recipes for making homemade versions of bars, gels, and drinks. Start researching now to decide which ones you would like to try. Also look into which products will be available on the race course of your scheduled races –decide if you want to use theirs or rely on your own.

2)     Experiment. Race day is the last day you want to try a new fueling plan. Even a couple weeks out may not be enough time to really determine if a food or drink works for you. Start experimenting early in the season in all conditions – hot, cold, rain, on the bike, on the run. That’s right, something may work well during one discipline but not another. It also might be worth experimenting with race course products no matter what as a “just in case” – who hasn’t dropped a water bottle off a bike or lost gels out of their shorts on the run.

3)     Flex intake. If you understand the reasoning behind certain fueling recommendations you can flex your plan moving forward, no matter what your volume or intensity. This can make the transition from in-season fueling to off-season fueling a bit smoother as well.

4)     Avoid gastrointestinal problems. GI problems are one of the biggest race day bummers. They can completely sideline a racer and leave a mountain of “if only’s” behind. Plus no one wants to spend half the race in a porta-potty.

5)     Reduce stress. Don’t spend the whole season thinking you really need to get this done – get it done before training takes over your schedule. Having a plan will make race day and the training leading up to it run much smoother.

6)     Maximize training. Sometimes we get too caught up in race day nutrition, but the reality is the real benefits come from how you’re fueling during the training season. It seems such a waste to put hours and hours into workouts but not maximize the results by fueling well. Plus, inadequate fueling during heavy training periods can contribute to fatigue and a reduced immune system response.

So, as you get ready to get back in the pool or on the road, add “nutrition plan” to your list of pre-season to-do’s – you’ll be grateful when you cross the finish line feeling and performing better than ever.

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