Training for runners: With these tips from Thea Heim to a new personal best!
With the right nutrition to running success
How to make training for runners more efficient? This blog will help you out!
Thea Heim is one of Germany’s top runners and has been part of the MoN team for two years. Not only is she a professional runner, but she also works full time, so she bravely juggles two responsibilities simultaneously.
In order to meet this challenge, Thea and her team have acquired a lot of knowledge over the past years in order to optimize training efforts and to be able to deliver a powerful performance in competition. In all this, the right diet plays a very central role.
Thea reveals insider tips about training for runners and nutrition in this article!
Training for runners: physiological basics
Let’s start at the beginning, with the physiological basics. Logically, these look different for each runner. some physiological data is required to accurately determine individual energy requirements at a selected running speed. This includes the following:
- Anaerobic/aerobic threshold
We explain the individual parameters and their meaning in THIS article in more detail.
This data can then be used to create a so-called metabolic profile. A metabolic profile helps to determine the amount of carbohydrates and fats that are required to be able to train at a particular intensity.
The following is an example of an athlete with an average lactate formation rate and an oxygen uptake of 70ml/minute per kg body weight.
Here you can see the carbohydrate consumption on the y-axis on the left and the speed on the x-axis. The athlete uses about 20g of carbohydrates/hour even at a speed of only 5 km/h (which is equivalent to a walk). At a speed of almost 16km/h, the athlete even uses about 170g of carbohydrates per hour.
The image also shows the fat expenditure (blue curve, right on the y-axis). Here, the Fatmax can be clearly seen at a speed of approx. 12km/h. This is the training zone with the highes fat expenditure. This area of training is currently the subject of much discussion, as a well-trained fat metabolism is important for endurance capacity.
Especially for athletes who have little time to train, it is a great advantage to know where the Fatmax is located, as this area can be used very efficiently.
A prerequisite for the optimal use of any area is, of course, the right nutrition. There are a few basic rules to follow here:
Basic rules for optimal training and competition fuel
- Every running workout should involve some form of energy supply, even the easy runs! The exception here are the easy, regenerative runs. All other training sessions require an adequate amount of energy intake.
- Intensive training sessions can be utilized to “train the gut”. These workouts can be used to find out how many carbohydrates per hour are tolerated by the gastrointestinal tract. The higher the stress/load, the lower the tolerance of the energy supplied. Tip: Slowly approach the carbohydrate intake that you want to supply during the competition.
- Use the “Open Window” after training to reap the rewards of training! Carbohydrates and proteins should be supplied in the first half an hour after a running workout to take advantage of the increased absorption capacity of the supplied nutrients during this time. This simple trick can significantly improve regeneration.
- Make your basic diet high in carbohydrates to improve tolerance during sports: Experience shows that athletes who design their basic nutrition to be high in carbohydrates have less difficulty tolerating the high amount of carbohydrates in competition meals.
- It is important to consider individual tolerance and personal preferences. No one knows your preferences better than you do. If you pay attention to your diet, you will notice by yourself which foods you tolerate well and which less. It makes no sense to force yourself to eat certain foods just because others recommend it.
- Avoid nutrient deficiencies by eating a diet that includes all food groups. If you make sure that all food groups find a place in your daily diet, you automatically avoid a deficit of individual nutrients. If you avoid certain food groups instead (e.g. vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free diet), it is especially important to pay attention to critical nutrients. You can read more HERE.
- No adaptation in the range of Vo2max without sufficient energy supply. True to the motto: “work smarter not harder”, you should always remember that without sufficient energy intake, no adaptation in the Vo2max range can take place. So nourish your running training properly to get the best out of it!
This is why carbohydrate intake in training for runners improves your performance & recovery
The first, and for many probably the most important reason, is the improved training performance. Your body always needs a certain amount of carbohydrates to provide energy during physical exertion. If these are continuously supplied during exercise, it can deliver the performance required for the respective training stimulus. If not enough carbohydrates are available, it is difficult to achieve the desired performance. Thus, the right carbohydrate intake also significantly influences performance.
Also, a lower production of stress hormones is a positive side effect. If fewer stress hormones are released, then training is also better tolerated overall. This leads to the possibility of a higher training volume. And more (quality) training ultimately leads to better performance.
If you consume carbohydrates during your running workout, you also minimize the risk of a complete depletion of the glycogen stores. It is true that every now and then a training session with unfilled glycogen stores can be incorporated in the course of fat metabolism. But as a rule, it is necessary to avoid emptying the reservoirs! This optimizes the recovery time and thus the quality of the subsequent training.
Another advantage of a good supply during training is the fact that no proteins are used as energy sources. This is very important especially for injury prevention, but also for the preservation of muscle mass.
Moreover, at the end of a training session the energy demand will be lower. Of course, even with proper nutrition during exercise, it is important to provide plenty of energy after physical exertion. Nevertheless, this way you avoid having to take in huge amounts of food to replenish your stores.
So it’s clear to see that with all these benefit combined it brings a very big advantage to the overall training process.
Example: The right fuel to optimize carbohydrate metabolism
The following example refers to the athlete discussed earlier. His training plan includes a 75 minute run at a steady pace, with 3×5 minutes in the Vo2max range.
This is what his rations might look like:
It is crucial to properly prepare for running training. Since the goal is to train the carbohydrate metabolism, one should start training with well-filled carbohydrate stores. For this purpose, it is important to supply easily digestible carbohydrates before training.
Large amounts of protein and/or fat should rather be avoided.
A specific example for a pre-workout lunch might look like this:
100g basmati rice with steamed carrots, 40g parmesan or 100g steamed fish (Gives you: 90g CHO, 24g protein, 10-15g fat).
This could be accompanied by some spritzer. The fruit spritzer provides you with fructose and thus prepares your intestines for the fructose supplied during training.
When calculating the energy requirement of our example athlete based on his metabolic profile, the result indicates an energy metabolism of approx. 1000-1100 kcal for this training session.
Carbohydrate turnover is also high due to the high intensity of the workout, so this workout would be good for testing competition nutrition. For this purpose one could test the combination of FAST CARB and GEL 40. Both products provide fast energy and are well tolerated due to the natural ingredients.
Thus, they are perfect for the provision of nutrients during an intense workout or competition.
The goal for this workout should be to consume 100g of carbohydrates (80g/h). This can be achieved by using 1l of FAST CARB (with 6% concentration – that is 60g carbohydrates) and a GEL 40 (contains 40g of carbohydrates).
As already mentioned, it is essential to use the “open window” to supply carbohydrates and proteins. This can be achieved, for example, through our RECOVERY SHAKE because it contains everything your body needs for fast regeneration.
Besides delicious organic cocoa, you’ll find carbohydrates, proteins and amino acids from natural sources in the shake. You can eat a banana or five dates with it for extra carbohydrates.
For particularly high muscular demands, you can rely on our R8 protein drink. It contains all eight essential amino acids necessary for the growth, development and maintenance of healthy muscle cells. In addition, the R8 contains the natural regeneration accelerator MANGO.
Example: The right fuel for optimizing fat metabolism
Our example athlete’s training plan includes a 90 minute run with 30 minutes in the FATmax zone. It is therefore important to plan the food intake in a way that optimizes the fat metabolism.
Once again it is important to prepare for running training. The macronutrient profile looks similar in preparation as it does for intense training. Again, care should be taken to ensure that nutrients are easily digested and large amounts of fat, protein and/or fiber should be avoided.
So a breakfast might look like this, for example:
100g fine oatmeal, almond milk, fruit (apple, blueberries), and almonds. You can drink either water or some green tea with it. This will give you 90g of carbs, 20g of protein, 10-15g of fat, and some caffeine if you drink green tea with it.
The amount of carbohydrate used during running training is somewhat lower here than during more intensive training. However, the overall energy metabolism is still higher because the athlete is on the move longer and burns more fat. It is 1200-1300 kcal.
To improve the efficiency of the fat metabolism, slow-release drinks can be used in the first half of the workout. Later (from ½ to ⅔ of the total exercise time), this can be combined with a GEL 40. The goal should be to consume about 90g of carbs (60g/hr), using SLOW CARB and a GEL 40.
SLOW CARB as the name suggests, slowly releases carbohydrates into your blood, providing you with long-lasting energy. This supports the fat metabolism and saves muscle glycogen.
As mentioned, you can also rely on our RECOVERY SHAKE and combine it with additional fruits like bananas or dates.
The use of the “Open Window” is especially important for athletes who train every day or even twice a day.
Tips and tricks: This is how Thea Heim fuels her body in training
Especially in running, it’s not always easy to keep yourself hydrated, while cyclists can carry a bottle with relative ease. All the more practical are our GELs, as Thea also agrees, “I put the GELs into my sports bra, and it works perfectly,” the marathon runner tells us.
For longer runs without company, Thea resorts to hydro-flasks to keep herself hydrated. These are also relatively easy to tuck behind sportswear, or even hold in your hand (or drinking vest / waist belt).
Thea completes long, intensive sessions with a bicycle escort. This is not only a mental support, but also essential for nutritional care. Together with her coach Norman Feiler, Thea uses these sessions to try out her ideal nutritional energy intake during competition.
The advantage of this is that she knows what her body tolerates well and how many carbohydrates she can ingest. It further benefits her as she also practices taking hold of the bottle at high running speeds.
Our POWER CARB is excellent for this type of session and of course also for competition. The supplied carbohydrates from the POWER CARB quickly enter the blood and are thus available to the organism after a short time. Furthermore, due to POWER CARB‘s very good tolerance, up to 80g of carbohydrates can be absorbed per hour.
However, it is not only the nutritional intake during training that poses a challenge for working athletes. Even in everyday working life, it can be difficult from time to time to supply the required energy to cover the energy expenditure of training and job.
Thea also knows this problem and has made it her goal to organize her everyday life in a way that she doesn’t have to spend a lof ot time in the kitchen in the evenings after a long day of work and training. For an energetic snack in between meals, she also likes to resort to our PORRIDGE BARs.
The bars combine complex carbohydrates with vegetable proteins and provide long-term energy.
You can find out more about how to supply plenty of energy for your everyday life by reading this article HERE.
This is how Thea fuels her body in competition
10km race: Shortly before the start, Thea takes a MATCHA GEL to get an additional energy kick from the 100 mg of caffeine in addition to the carbohydrates. During the 10 km race, she then won’t take anything else.
Half marathon: At the starting line, Thea makes use of the MANGO GEL. She saves the MATCHA GEL for when she reaches 11km to benefit from the caffeine infused energy kick. This way she’s able to run the last 10km with an extra spurt of energy. Her hydration needs will be catered for with water provided by aid stations along the way.
Marathon: At the marathon distance, the gels are no longer sufficient, so Thea relies on POWER CARB HEAT, which provides her with 80g of fast carbohydrates per hour and additional minerals. She only uses gels in the marathon if something goes wrong with her energy intake, for example because she can’t grip the bottle properly. It is sometimes possible to position your own (liquid) fuel at the aid stations. An alternative is to carry the fuel with you – for example by using hydro flasks in a running vest.
Thea Heim and her trainer Norman Feiler about their experiences
Like many athletes, Thea hardly thought about the right fuel for a long time. However, after some time she noticed that she had too little energy for long load blocks. After consulting with her trainer, she turned to a nutritionist, who explained to her that the high energy consumption must also be compensated for.
As a result, Thea began fueling all of her workouts and immediately noticed the tremendous impact on her performance. But Thea has also been much more energetic and productive in her daily life since then. Last but not least, adequate energy supply also affects the immune system. For example, the runner reports significantly fewer sickness absences since she has been eating properly during training.
We report about this effect HERE in more detail.
The changes after two years of optimal fueling
After more than two years of consistent fueling, Thea speaks of tremendous improvements, although it took some time for them to become noticeable. So it pays to keep going. Changes are not visible from one day to the next.
For example, she can now run her former top times in the half marathon discipline in almost every half marathon. On the marathon distance she is even three minutes faster this year than three years ago.
Coach Norman Feiler is convinced of the improvement in performance. The first thing he noticed was the faster and better recovery due to good fueling. We share more about how big the effects are in this area and what else you can do to optimize your regeneration in this article HERE.
Norman is also very impressed by the effect of the SLOW CARB products, which are ideal for long and easy runs. He especially speaks of a significant improvement on the so-called “long runs”, which is predominantly a result of using the right fuel.
It is also remarkable that Thea can now start directly into the next training block after a competition. In the past, she had to recover from a competition for a few days before she could start training again. The optimal competition fuel has changed that.
In conclusion, Thea and her coach Norman urge all runners, and especially all female runners, not to be afraid of large amounts of carbohydrates. Eating the right foods with adequate amounts of energy is a real game-changer.