There’s an old axiom that goes, “You need to know the rules before you can break them.” It’s been credited (wrongly) to everyone from Picasso to the Dalai Lama to Han Solo. In truth, I’m fairly sure it originated from an endurance athlete who wanted to work out longer and was referencing the use of performance supplements.
When you reach a point in exercising when a two- or three-hour workout is considered recovery, your physiology changes and so do your dietary needs. Your average caloric intake can hover in the mid-thousands. Hydration needs skyrocket. And salt goes on everything.
Supplementation also becomes crucial when you work out longer. Because you’re continually pushing your body beyond its normal capacity, it becomes difficult to acquire all the nutrients you need from standard food. (Not that you should skimp on that “standard food,” mind you.)
I’ve been seriously cycling for a few years now, refining my supplement requirements the whole time. Over the last several months, I’ve shifted the majority of my supplementation to Beachbody Performance—and not just because I work here. Believe me, there’s no way on earth that I’d blow a race in the name of corporate loyalty.
For most users, I strongly suggest sticking to the recommended serving directions on the Performance labels, but knowing these rules—and having followed them with great results—I’ve been breaking them slightly in an effort to adapt the Performance line to my increasingly freakish endurance-based physiology.
But if you’re an endurance athlete who wants to work out longer, here are some tricks you might consider.
Use Energize To Work Out Longer
The level of caffeine in Energize is intended to push you through 60 to 90 minutes of hard effort but if you plan to work out longer, a bump might not hurt. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that when cyclists were given caffeine during the latter part of a two-hour time trial, they saw an enhancement in performance.
On a similar note, I’ve been known to stop for an espresso or two during any ride longer than 100 miles. I can’t claim any performance gains, but it does make an otherwise painful trudge slightly more civilized.
The subjects of the study only needed a small amount to see a benefit, so the next time you go out for a long one, try mixing a half serving of Energize in with your Hydrate a little before the two-hour point.
Use Energize On Rest Days
The benefit of the caffeine in Energize is acute, meaning when you take it, you’re quickly energized. However, beta-alanine and quercetin have been shown to have both acute and chronic benefits, meaning they positively impact your abilities over the long haul if you take them on a regular basis. One beta-alanine study showed marked improvements after four weeks of continued use.
If you replace one of your morning cups of coffee or tea on your days off with Energize, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Hydrate Later in the Day
I know my training partner, Kevin, is exerting himself during longer races when I look at his back and see his “salt wings,” the white crusted patterns made on his jersey from all the sodium and other minerals he’s losing through perspiration. Hydrate goes a long way toward replenishing those electrolytes, but in situations when you want to work out longer it’s possible to lose more than you can replenish at the time. Also, most of us tend to skip a sip here and there when we’re focused on performance.
To make up for this, it’s a good idea to continue hydrating with Hydrate throughout your day after a hard effort. Of course, good ol’ water works too, but don’t hesitate to switch between the two.
Boost With Power Greens (Almost) All Day
A number of your body’s vital processes are dependent on something called the oxidation-reduction (redox) cycle. Free radicals promote oxidation. Antioxidants promote reduction. When the free radicals in your system overwhelm the antioxidants, it’s called oxidative stress—and the punishment your body takes when you work out excessively can drive that oxidative stress through the roof, causing inflammation, pain, and muscle soreness.
The obvious answer is to dial up the antioxidants, but you need to be clever about it. First off, limited, post-workout, oxidative stress plays an important role in the recovery process; so that’s not a great time to take antioxidants. Also, isolated antioxidants (like vitamin C pills) aren’t as effective as the antioxidant compounds in whole foods, so you’re better off eating them or using a greens powder.
With this in mind, I recommend sprinkling a scoop of Shakeology’s Power Greens Boost into everything your palette can handle—yogurt, smoothies, Shakeology, whatever. Just don’t do it leading up to or immediately following your workout, as so not to inhibit healthy oxidation.
Eat, Supplement, Eat, and Supplement Some More
If you discovered fitness through Beachbody products, you probably have a mindset that less is more when it comes to caloric intake. That, after all, is key to sculpting, carving, and getting ripped, right?
If endurance is your goal, it’s time to leave those rules behind.
The human body was designed to put up with about 90 minutes of punishment, which is why that’s where our programs tend to max out. Beyond that, when you work workoutout longer, things can seriously break down. The most obvious issue will be running out of blood sugar and glycogen, also known as “bonking.” This extra wear also really takes its toll on your muscles, so it’s important to feed them in a way that promotes recovery as quickly as possible.
Let’s put this into perspective. The most you’re probably going to burn during an hour-long, full-tilt workout is about 800 calories. That’s a full day’s exercise for most people. This morning, I went on a 2½-hour recovery ride—meaning I mostly took it easy—and my computer logged me as burning 1,772 calories. My serious training rides can go past 5,000 calories. And I’m no anomaly. According to Nanna Meyer, senior sport dietitian for the U.S. Olympic Committee, Olympic-level endurance athletes burn 3,000-8,000 calories a day. You move a lot, you burn a lot. It’s that simple.
So you need calories—and you need to be strategic about consuming them. Beachbody Performance features a lot of supplements, so it’s tempting to skip a serving here or there if you think it’ll help you lose an extra pound or two. Don’t do that. There are ways for endurance athletes to trim down, but skipping feeds that are specifically targeted to enhance both performance and recovery isn’t one of them. Drink that chocolatey Recover after your workout. Drink that vanilla-y Recharge before you hit the sack. You haven’t just earned it; you need it.
There’s hard science behind the official recommended dosage and timing of Beachbody Performance supplements, but it doesn’t hurt to experiment as long as you know what you’re doing. These tricks have worked for me and for the endurance athletes I train with, so give them a try. If they don’t work, try something else. After all, my suggestions may not be rules—but that doesn’t mean you can’t break them.