There’s a lot about lockdowns we don’t love but one thing they seem to do is give communities around the world an excuse to run. Gyms are closed, PTs are off limits, and our need to get outside and move our bodies for our minds is at an all-time high.
This year, another thing lockdown gave us was a new date for the Auckland Marathon. Instead of coming at the end of October, the coveted event that sees runners from all over the country bound through the City of Sails (and over the Harbour Bridge), will take place in January. So, for those already signed up - you have more time to train and for those who laced up their shoes more often since August, you have time to enter!
To find out how to get the most out of this three-month extension, we spoke to BePure’s Lead Researcher Lisa Grey on how to train effectively and efficiently and in doing so, we found out why women and men can’t train or prepare in the same way and the reasons are wild.
Let’s talk testosterone
We won’t spend too much time here because it’s a lot more straightforward than the rest of this piece but, basically, testosterone gives those with an abundance of it, the ability to get up and go. Quite lucky right? Essentially, this is a hormone that promotes the build and repair of muscle and bone mass. The more muscles you have, the more testosterone you have and exercise boosts the production of it. It’s a tidy loop.
Since testosterone is more abundant in men - and those assigned the male gender at birth - they can follow a pretty basic formula when it comes to working out or training for endurance events.
With the right fuel, recovery time, and a balance of macronutrients, those with high levels of testosterone can, at a basic level, follow the formula of fuel, workout, rest, repeat. And expect an increase in fitness, muscle mass, and, if desired, weight loss.
It’s not as simple if testosterone is not your dominant hormone.
All about oestrogen
This is where it gets juicy. The first thing to note is that, for people with periods, not all training days are equal.
Did you know that the menstrual cycle is incredibly nuanced? As a rule of thumb, for the first half of the menstrual cycle (days 1-14), we are incredibly resilient and can deal quite well with whatever comes our way. This includes training. If we’re under-fuelled or under-trained, it’s not going to impact us too much.
For the second half of the cycle, we are much less able to bounce back. While that might sound like we only need to focus on that second half, and take it easy with the first, that’s not quite the case. We need to be nourishing all month long and ensure we are still getting the right number of calories and a decent amount of rest.
For the Love of Protein
Did you know that people with periods have a post-workout window in which we need to ingest protein in order to receive the benefits of it for our muscle growth? It’s between 30-40 minutes post training and this is essential to keep our bodies at homeostasis. Protein is the building block of life - even our DNA is made of amino acids - so in order to repair anything, muscles included, we need amino acids and protein.
A simple equation to work out how much protein we need on any given day is to have 1.4g of protein per kg of bodyweight. This doesn’t mean you need a huge steak! You can incorporate things like cottage cheese legumes, nuts & seeds, yoghurt, eggs, and fish into each meal and you’ll more than likely be hitting that goal.
1.4 x [bodyweight in kgs] = number of grams of protein per day
What about Carb-loading?
One thing every runner looks forward to is big bowls of pasta and piles of garlic bread before a big race, am I right? Well there’s some good news and some bad news.
If someone is in the first half of their cycle, this is a good idea! This is because at this time, carbs can be stored as fuel which is what we need the night before a big race. But, in the second half of the cycle, the body’s ability to do this is diminished. So, a better option in this case is to have a decent breakfast and carry a packet of wine gums for bursts of energy throughout the race.
Why Hydration is so Important
Hydration is always essential for training and events but events in peak summer months, it becomes even more important. When we workout and sweat, we lose a lot of potassium and sodium and need to replenish those pre- and during the event. True dehydration cannot be remedied with a large glass of water. In fact, it can exist and persist for a number of weeks.
To hydrate before an event, we need to start hydrating weeks in advance and keep it up. Because alcohol and dehydration go hand-in-hand, in the weeks leading up to a race, we need to, ideally, cut it from our diet entirely. With a race day in January, Lisa recommends that enjoying some alcohol on Christmas Day would be manageable but beyond that, it will start to impact results and hydration.
0.333 x [bodyweight in kgs] = ideal number of litres of water a day
Coffee, another big dehydrator, is a bit more complex! There’s no recommendation to cut it entirely as it can actually help with training and performance. About 125 mg of coffee (one shot) is enough to get you going for training. But, the exception to this is if you are jittery already or find the coffee makes you more jittery or nauseous then it won’t help. If you have some coffee and feel either of these sensations then that’s a sign you have enough stress hormones to run and don’t need coffee as a stimulant!
So, before January, what can we do to improve performance?
- Keep your fuel up: a good mix of protein at every meal and some complex carbohydrates
- Hydrate consistently week-round
- Follow a programme to ensure safe training. Be sure to stretch and rest. Gains are made on rest days!