Nutrition for Endurance Athletes

The weather is getting warmer, and it is time to start training for the spring and summer 5k, 10k, marathon! Even if you are not an endurance athlete, you will gain benefits from just getting outside and running! Enjoying the nice weather in this way is a great tool for weight management and for stress relief. You nutritional habits can either make or break your runs, it is very important!

What is an Endurance Athlete?

An endurance athlete is classified as an individual who performs cardiovascular activities for at least 60 minutes on multiple days of the week.


Important Nutrients for Exercise and Sport


Carbohydates are the body’s main energy source for endurance athletes. Those who train at the endurance level should consume 55-60% of their calories from carbs. Focus on pasta, rice, beans, fruits and veggies, cereals.


Athletes require slightly more protein than their sedentary counterparts. Focus on lean protein, fish, soy, eggs and low fat dairy products.


Optimal performance for athletes is observed when they consume 20-25% of calories from fat. Focus on salmon, olive oil, walnuts, almonds and flaxseeds.


Drink a minimum of 64-80 ounces per day increasing accordingly as needed. Increase with activity level, temperature and if drinking coffee or alcohol.


Determining Macronutrient Needs for Endurance Athletes


Carbohydrate intake increases depending on level of endurance training. Energy bars, sports gels, beans and chews are commonly consumed by runners on race day and during a long duration exercise. Most endurance athletes need to consume 2.7-4.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day during training.


Protein foods only provide approximately 5% of our body’s energy expenditure. Endurance athletes probably need more protein than their sedentary counterparts, but it important to balance with carbohydrate intake during training. Protein needs are calculated as .55-.64 grams per pound of body weight per day.


Fat, along with carbohydrates, is used for energy in high endurance athletic training. For the best results, focus on healthy sources of fat not to exceed 25-30% of daily calorie intake.


Race-Day Nutrition


Prior to the Race—Focus on foods that are digested within 1 hour. (Low fat, low fiber carbohydrates with some lean protein). A nutritional shake is always a good option.


During the Race—Your race fuel is primarily stored glycogen (carbohydrates). In addition, 30-60 grams of carbohydrate should be consumed every 60 minutes of intense exercise.


After the Race—It is important to understand what types of fuel and how much your body will need after exercise.


The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends consuming 3-5 cups of fluid per hour of exercise.


Liquid forms of carbohydrate are easier to digest immediately after a workout. Maintaining a balanced diet post exercise will ensure proper refueling of glycogen.


Protein is important for rebuilding muscle. Consume a ratio of carbohydrate grams:protein grams 3:1 or 4:1 after exercise. –Chocolate Milk, Banana and Skim Milk.


If performing intense exercise in high temperatures, sodium is important during the refueling process because of sweat losses. –Vegetable Juice or Tomato Juice 4 ounces.


If you are in need of meal planning and nutritional counseling for your endurance training this summer – be sure to call Fitness Together to set up a FREE Nutritional Consultation with our Registered Dietitian! (330) 702-1311,

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Posted by on April 1, 2013. Filed under Nutrition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry