Basic Nutrition for Endurance Athletes

An athlete recently said “as soon as I get my nutrition dialed in, I’m ready to go”. When I asked him what “dialed in” meant to him, he stuttered and said “well, its where you tell me what to eat, isn’t it?” Well, sort of.

I can not tell anyone what to eat – meal by meal – what you eat day to day is relative to what you like, dislike and your goals for wanting nutrition guidelines. I am not a  Registered Dietitian. I often refer athletes to one who really need it, especially those who constantly struggle with weight loss and gain and low energy.. My advice comes from my education and research and personal experience and knowledge shared by Cindy Calow, PH.D, RD.

Nutrition is super important for training, performance, and recovery. It starts with dialing in your day to day nutrition, then adding in the fueling portion, fueling is what you eat before, during and after training.

Nutrition is so full of myths and misleading ideas and rumors. About your day to day diet, as well as pre/during and post-training needs.

What is Nutrition? Calories you take in for daily life, building blocks for life, macronutrients carbohydrates proteins and fats and micronutrients, vitamins and minerals you get from fruits and veggies, good oils/fats

Nutrition is different than fueling, what you eat during and after training. In training we think about fueling the system, muscles and replenish calories.  Carbohydrate solutions, powders drinks, gels, bars, blocks, the most important to intake calories every 20 minutes fruit, real food, dried fruit 50-100 calories worth, immediately following the workouts, recovery powders, recovery with real food 1-2 hours nutrient dense nutrition, building blocks, carbohydrates with protein, maximize performance and recovery then focus on nutrition

There will also be ongoing debates on how to fuel your training from Keto, High Carb, Whole 30 and at the end of the day, simple whole foods are your best bet and not following any popular “labeled” nutrition plans and specific rules on quantity and substance.

It is important to acquire the knowledge necessary to make healthy food choices yourself. And essentially, I help people learn enough about nutrition so that they have the confidence to plan their own meals and snacks for optimal health and performance. With all the nutrition information out there it’s easy to overlook a solid foundation. I find when I dig deep into an athletes desire for help, they know what they struggle with and how to fix it, they just need some accountability.

Ensuring that you dial in your most basic habits is an essential component to making progress with your own weight loss or gain goals and also in triathlon.

Also, you probably heard that endurance athletes need extras, like iron, protein or other supplements to satisfy their needs. Google nutrition for endurance athletes and you will find tens of thousands of articles and blog posts and advertisements adding nutrition supplements. Amino Acids and creatine to aid in muscle loss. Protein and energy supplementation is popular. Do YOU need it, chances are very high you do NOT!!!!

What is the truth of supplementation? Do you need them, are their differences between men and women. A great resource is I reference is the Book ROAR. I discuss it on a recent podcast, The Triathlon Show

At the end of the day, it is a given to perform your best you need to eat well. Real Whole food is the answer, Varying your diet from day to day with a wide range of lean meats and dairy, colorful fruits and vegetables and whole grains will ensure you get the nutrients without crunching numbers.

If you are a numbers person, refer to Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Athletes require 1.4-4.5 grams of carbs/pound of body weight, .5- .9 gram of protein / per pound of body weight and fat is 25-35% of your total calories for the day

But, if you are not convinced you are getting what you need, discuss with your physician and get blood work and meet with a registered dietitian. Don’t take a supplement in case you know you need one.

Macronutrient (Protein, Carbs, and Fats) How much do you need? Refer to the Guidelines above and aim to eat a balance at each meal.  Many athletes are concerned about protein intake, if you are, keep a detailed nutrition log for 7 days and seek analysis from a Registered Dietitian. Many athletes use myfitnesspal and I find that not to be the most accurate way of analysis your nutrition

There are no negative side effects of eating nutrient-dense diet.

More resources

Recovery Nutrition 101

Fueling Early Morning Workouts

Which Meal is Most Important For Endurance Athletes

Protein and Endurance Athletes

Endurance Hour Podcast Episode 199 and Episode 208

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