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 Austin, TX 78759, USA


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©2017 by Optimal RD: Registered Dietitian Nutritionists


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Nutrition for Endurance Training

June 23, 2017

Endurance athletes need to pay special attention to their diet and lifestyle to be successful and healthy competitors. As a marathon runner myself, it's easy to simply binge on the first food I see after hard training sessions. But a little thought and preplanning can prevent injury, help performance, and prevent fatigue. Here are some nutrition tips to keep the body competition-ready through intense training. 


Eat a Balanced Diet


Balance macronutrient (carbohydrates, fats, and protein) intake with the following ratios.

  • 60-65 % of your calorie intake should be from carbohydrates (or 6-10 g/kg body weight)

  • 10-35% should come from protein

  • Protein - Endurance athletes usually require increased protein intake of more than 0.8g/kg/day

    • Endurance athletes → 1.2/1.4 g/kg/day

    • High volume resistance athletes → 1.2 -1.2 g/kg/day

  • 25-35% should come from fat


Stay Hydrated

  • Decreased performance can be observed with just 1-3% dehydration

  • Collapse occurs at 7% dehydration

  • 3.7 L / day for men, 2.7 L/ day for women → aim for 5-6 glasses a day

  • Some water comes from foods with high water content like cucumber, watermelon, spinach, and apples

  • Extreme water loss can occur with endurance activities

  • Weigh yourself before and after event

    • For every pound loss drink 20-24 ounces of water

  • During the event, aim for ½ cup of water every 15 minutes


3 Days Before the race


Carbohydrate Loading

  • Increase glycogen stores to increase energy reserves

  • Only carb load for activities or events that will be longer than 90 minutes

  • Increase carbohydrate intake to 65-70% of your calorie intake

  • Choose easily absorbed forms of carbs, such as rice, pasta, pancakes, tortillas

    • Avoid high fiber intake

  • Do not overeat or stuff yourself, especially the night before the race. Keep your total calorie intake the same as usual, just increase the percentage from carbs.

Race Day

  • If you’re a coffee drinker, don’t forget your morning cup.

  • Choose a small balanced breakfast 2-3 hours before your event: include easy-to-digest carbs and foods that will not upset your stomach. Avoid eating to fullness. Here are some easy options

    • ½ bagel with peanut butter and a banana

    • 1 piece of toast with jam, 1 fried egg

    • A bowl of oatmeal with almonds and blueberries

    • 1 energy bar and a piece of fruit

  • Events lasting more than an hour, drink solutions with 6-8% carbs to balance glucose and fluid replacement in moderate amounts every 20 minutes or so

  • After more than 90 minutes in the event, it becomes important to eat easily digestible sources of carbs (0.7g / kg body weight)

    • Choose a sports drink, gel, or easily-digested fruit such as a banana


Post Race

  • First replenish your fluid loss. Drink the recommended amount of 20-24 ounces of water for every pound lost

  • You will need to replenish your glycogen stores by eating a meal fairly soon after your event. Many runners are nauseous and can’t eat immediately after their event. But once the nausea subsides, enjoy a carb and protein heavy meal. Use the 4:1 ratio to determine what to eat (4 parts carbohydrates to 1 part protein). 

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