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Nutrition Game Plan: Endurance Athletes

Nutrition Game Plan: Endurance Athletes

Endurance athletes like distance runners, cyclists, rowers and swimmers have specific nutrition needs to accommodate their energy demands. While all of the six classes of essential nutrients are important, carbohydrate and fluid needs are particularly high.

Nutritional Needs of the Endurance Athlete

In addition to specific calorie needs (see Section 2), approximate daily nutrient needs of  endurance athletes are as follows:

  • Carbohydrate: 5 to 7 grams per kilogram of body weight
  • Protein: 1.2-1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight
  • Fat: 1 gram per kilogram of body weight

Carbohydrate intake should fall somewhere in the range of 60-65% of total calories Nutrients such as calcium, iron, and zinc may also be of particular importance to endurance athletes. See Table 10.1 for examples of dietary sources of these nutrients.

Food Sources of Important Nutrients

  • Calcium: Dairy, leafy green vegetables, fortified juices, and cereals
  • Iron: Meat, poultry, beans, spinach, fortified cereals
  • Zinc: Meat, poultry, milk, nuts, cheese, fortified cereals

Fluid and electrolyte balance is also incredibly important for endurance athletes. Since dehydration can negatively affect performance, it is recommended that athletes attempt to prevent weight loss of more than 1 to 2% of body weight during activity. Continuous, moderate amounts of water and sports drinks are encouraged. The more athletes lose from sweat, the more fluid they should replace.

Eating for Performance

In addition to easily digestible carbohydrates before and during activity and a combination of protein and carbs after, endurance athletes may benefit from a carbohydrate loading protocol to prepare for an upcoming distance event.

Carbohydrate Loading

The goal of carbohydrate loading is to increase muscle and liver glycogen stores. Carbohydrate intake should increase to closer to 8 to 10 grams per kilogram in the days leading up to a competition. As carbohydrate intake increases, training should decrease. Figure 10.1 demonstrates an example of a typical 7-day carbohydrate loading regimen.

Day

Training (70% VO2 max)

Carbohydrate Intake (g/kg)

1

90 min

5

2

40 min

5

3

40 min

5

4

20 min

10

5

20 min

10

6

Rest

10

7

Competition

Carbohydrate loading may not be practical or necessary for all athletes and the needs and goals of the individual athlete should always be considered. Again, the above Figure is just an example.

Strategies For Game Day

Athletes should follow these tips for game day success.

  • Eat a meal 3 to 4 hours before activity
  • Stay hydrated
  • Come prepared – have snacks, water, and sports drinks packed
  • Consider carbohydrate loading where appropriate
  • Do not try new foods or beverages on game day to avoid the risk of stomach upset

The NESTA Sports Nutrition Specialist course is designed for personal fitness trainers, strength coaches and nutrition experts who want to learn cutting-edge techniques for increasing sports performance, reducing recovery time, and enhancing the overall well-being of your clients and athletes.

Learn more about becoming a Sports Nutrition Specialist by clicking the link below!

>>> https://www.nestacertified.com/sports-nutrition-training-course/

Learn more in the Fitness Nutrition Coach program, and the Sports Nutrition Specialist program.

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