Not all athletes are the same. Fueling needs for a gymnast will be different from that of a triathlete. Endurance sports have different energy and nutrient needs than power sports. Training for endurance sports can be physically and mentally challenging. Focusing on proper fueling is an integral part of these sports. Without the right fuel, you won’t perform your best. Who wants to barely have enough energy to cross the finish line? Not me, that’s for sure! I am going to walk you through the macronutrients and micronutrients needed to fuel your body during an endurance performance.
Where to begin?
Macronutrients: Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat
Carbohydrates: Most of your diet should be carbohydrates, anywhere from 50-65% of your calories needs. You will need a mix of complex and simple carbohydrates. Meals should consist of complex carbohydrates. Fueling before, during and after training and events with simple carbohydrates.
Complex Carbohydrates: Whole grains, brown rice, sweet potatoes, squash, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, corn, and oats.
Simple Carbohydrates: Gels, gummies, Gatorade, Powerade or similar liquids; Crackers; Bars (look for ones that are lower in protein and fat); Dates; Rice balls (see internet for recipes): Simple sandwiches (light PB & j, honey, jam); Baby Potatoes boiled in bouillon.
Protein: Each meal should contain protein. You will also need a source of protein after training for recovery (along with a source of carbohydrate) to stop breaking down muscle and start the repair process. Lean proteins, seafood, legumes, dairy, nuts and seeds are all great options.
Fat: Eating “good fats” make up about 30% of your calorie needs. Sometimes more depending on your overall goals. Less than 10% should come from saturated sources. Limit or eliminate foods and products that contain trans fat. Oils, nuts, seeds, olives, avocado are all rich in fat that will leave your body feeling repaired and refueled.
Sodium: A higher sweat rate increases sodium loss. It is important that this mineral is closely paid attention to. Most endurance athletes need more sodium in their diet that the recreational athlete. Table salt, seaweed, soy sauce, packaged foods are all very high in sodium. Be sure to check the label.
Iron: Important for all endurance athletes because of the aerobic metabolism and high red blood cell turnover from foot strike hemolysis. Females are at higher risk for iron deficiency anemia because of menstruation. Red meats, tofu, seafood, lentils, navy beans, spinach, fortified cereals and organ meats are all rich in iron.
Calcium and Vitamin D: Low intake or deficiencies can increase risk of stress fractures. Be sure to have dairy products, oysters, broccoli, cabbage, okra, soy beans, fortified orange juice, fortified soy products to decrease the risk and leave your bones feeling strong.
Vitamin D: Dairy products, fatty fish, fortified cereals, fortified orange juice and soy milk, organ meats egg yolks and sunshine.
How do you know how much of eat?
Working with a sports dietitian can help you figure out a diet that works for you. Often, athletes look to other athletes, internet and coaches who may be giving them well-intended information that may not work for them.
If you are interested in taking your athletic performance to the next level, download our “Sports Nutrition Workbook” or schedule a consultation with us.
by Alene Baronian
Learn how to fuel your body for strenuous activity with the Sports Nutrition Workbook: