Endurance sports are not natural.
There, that should ruffle some feathers.
Before I end up having my head knocked off by an angry marathoner weilding a laced together pair of Inov8 nunchucks, let me explain further.
Our caveman ancestors would ever have run as hard as they could for hours on end. It would use up massive amounts of energy, breakdown muscle and cause major catabolic stress. Being so depleted of energy could quite literally endanger his life. If a sabretooth tiger jumps out and is keen on eating him, do you think he'd have much chance of getting away if he'd spent most of the day on a hard 42km slog??
Physical exertion in those days would have been either long but slow, or short and sharp; as in persistance hunting, and the final kill or a battle or escape from a predator.
Obviously we don't have these issues anymore. And thus exercise had to be developed in order to allow our genetically identical bodies to continue to express themselves the way our ancestors did.
Long, HARD exercise falls outside the realm of what we are designed to do naturally. But I fully understand why people do it. Man loves to compete and push himself. And once Phillipides staggered into Athens with a message from Marathon, our passion for endurance sport was sealed. But the guy dropped dead straight afterwards remember?
So with all our modern scientific knowledge, is there a better way to compete in endurance sport?
If you look at any research on endurance, or open any running/cycling/triathlon mag, they appear to all have the same answer. Carbohydrate. Namely pure glucose in the form of guus, gels, bars and drinks.
If you are going to go long AND fast, you need to supplement with carbohydrate, there is no question. And before I hear about all the zero carb, Paleo purists that have done an ultra on nothing but pemmican, we're not talking about simply completing, we're taking about competing, and competing means operating on glucose as well as fat.
So if endurance sport is your thing, and you want to chase a podium finish, yet you want to avoid excessive carbohydrate intake in order to maintain a healthy body free of the ravages of hyperinsulinemia, you have yourself a bit of a dilemma.
My theory is this. Train low, race high.
No I'm not talking about altitude training (besides that would be the other way round - train high, race low). I'm talking carbs.
Yeah sugary drinks don’t occur in nature. There is no such thing as a Guu tree. But remember, we are doing something outside the realm of what is natural physical activity, so if there was ever a time to rely on sport science, this is it!
If you’re going to spend 2 or more hours doing hard cardiovascular exercise, burning thorugh a ton of glucose, then absolutely, positively reach for the processed, sugary carbs and refill those glycogen stores ASAP! If you don’t, you wont get the performance you need. Sugar is POISON for normal day-to-day primal life. But if you just depleted all your glycogen, then EMBRACE those manufactured, high GI foods for a post event carb-up.
- I'd still recommend avoiding foods containing high amounts of gluten
- ONLY use sugary carbs on race days, and race practice. Stick to natural carbs, and a lower overall amount when training. Then on race day, the extra carbs will act like rocked fuel - remember carbs are actually an ergogen, a performance enhancer. You don't need fancy unproven performance supplements, just pop some gels on race day!