Most endurance athletes train year round, during which their training cycles pass through different phases such as preparation, pre-race, race, and recovery. A nutritional plan for endurance athletes should follow the same pattern or match the goals of their training program. For example, during race phase, the main nutritional goal is to provide the endurance athlete with enough energy to complete not only their daily activities but also their training sessions. At the same time, the nutrition plan must be focused on replacing glycogen stores and repairing lean muscle mass. In addition, emphasis is placed on eating frequently and timing of meals (pre, during and post)
Given that energy requirements for endurance athletes tend to be high, carbohydrates are the primary source of fuel.It is important to consume the proper amount of carbohydrates in order to replenish muscle glycogen used during training. Basic carbohydrate recommendations:
• For moderate duration, low intensity training: carbohydrate consumption should range from 5-7 g/kgof body weight
• For moderate-heavy training: carbohydrate consumption should range from 7-12 g/kgof body weight.
While protein provides a small amount of the energy needed for long training sessions, it is essential in supporting muscle development and recovery.Obtaining an adequate amount of protein each day is important, but athletes should not under value the importance of the timing of protein intake throughout the day, especially after exercise.
Basic protein recommendations for endurance athletes : should range from 1.2 to 1.4 g/kg of body weight.
Fat is an essential part of an endurance athlete’s diet because it is a primary energy source during periods of rest and low-intensity activity. Fat, in conjunction with carbohydrates, are also used as a source of energy during moderate intensity exercise. Fat also plays an important role in proper immune function.
Basic Fat recommendations: 25-30% of daily calories should be consumed from fat. Emphasis should be on choosing sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like vegetable oils, fatty fish and avocados and while minimizing intake of saturated fat sources such as butter and bacon and avoid trans fats.
Additional Nutritional tips for Endurance Athletes:
• CARBLOADING (CL): Carb-loading refers to the consumption of carbohydrates in days leading up to an event or race. Studies indicate carbo-loading helps maintain speed during later stages of a race. Studies also show that exercise performance is enhanced, in both how long and fast one can go.
It is difficult for an endurance athletes to eat all the energy needed during an event, thus carbo-loading helps optimize reserves in order to enhance race day performance.
• SUPPLEMENT PROTEIN: Eating protein during a race helps reduce significantly the onset of post-race soreness. It also helps prevent muscle damage important in multi-stage races. Studies have revealed that consuming BCAA (Branched chain amino acids) provides an added benefit. It has been showed that athletes consuming BCAA can reach higher levels of exertion.
• EAT SOLIDS: A good tip for endurance athletes is to practice consuming solids during an endurance event. Solids are more calorie dense foods thus providing more energy. Eating solids also allows for fluids to be easily processed. However, one must learn how to eat solids during training or an endurance event in order to avoid gastrointestinal problems. Recommendation, eat at moderate levels of intensity and not during high intensity.
• HYDRATION: Water is one of the most important nutrients for endurance athletes. Two-thirds of the human body weight is water. It plays an essential role in every major organ and system, therefore should not be overlooked. The best advice for an endurance athlete is to pay attention to hydration the week leading up to an event.
Tip for determining daily water requirements:
Divide your body weight in pounds (lbs. = kg * 2.2) by half. That is amount of water in ounces you should be consuming daily without exercise. Add another 8 to 16 ounces for every 60 minutes of exercise.