If you’re an endurance athlete, you are going to have a much different set of demands for your physical performance than other strength based athletes would. While those athletes are focused on generating as much force as possible over a very short period of time, endurance athletes must be able to work for lengthy periods of time, often in the face of fatigue.
This can mean that your body is going to require a much different mix of nutrients in order to get the job done.
Do Not Fear Carbs
First you must make sure you aren’t an endurance athlete with a fear of carbs. If weight control or loss is something you’re after to boost your performance, you may be shunning carbs to help kickstart the process.
However, doing so often means sacrificing performance. While your body can utilize fat as a fuel source when the intensity is lower as it typically is for endurance training, it still isn’t preferred. Many endurance athletes do find that carbs simply boost performance more, so avoid cutting them out entirely.
For endurance athletes who are not dieting, a general carbohydrate recommendation for optimal performance is set at around 8-10 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight each day, as noted in a study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition.
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Don’t Neglect Protein
The next big mistake so many endurance athletes make is doing the opposite. They are carb, carb, carb driven and neglect protein entirely. It’s the typical ‘pasta dinner’ syndrome. These athletes may think that carbohydrates are essentially the top and primary concern in their diet, so they down them as often as they can at the expense of other nutrients.
Remember, you will still be breaking down muscle tissue as you go about these workouts so if you aren’t getting protein into the picture, you aren’t going to be able to rebuild the muscle cells back up as strong as they should be.
Aim to get one gram of protein per pound of body weight if you aren’t dieting and up to 1.5 grams per pound if you are.
Keep in mind that endurance athletes need even more protein than strength athletes when they start dieting because their energy needs can often be higher meaning there is a greater chance of burning up protein as a fuel source.
Learn How Your Body Responds To Fats
It’s also important that you take some time to learn how your body responds to fats as you go about the dieting process. Does it respond well, helping you optimize your energy level and performance?
Or do you find that eating fats in your diet makes you feel sluggish and you perform far better on carbohydrates?
Different athletes will have different preferences here, so it’s critical that you learn what works best for you and then tailor your diet around this.
Again, this doesn’t mean go to any extreme. You still need some of both nutrient for proper health sake, but you may not need as many carbs if you’re eating more fats – and that is what you perform best on.
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Keep On Top Of Your Energy Balance
Finally, the last thing that every endurance athlete needs to know is the importance of staying on top of their energy balance.
Don’t ever let yourself start getting to a point where your energy deficit is getting really great. While you do need some energy deficit if fat loss is the goal, if you take this too high, you’ll be seeing detriments in your performance.
Aim for a deficit of no more than 500 calories per day, ideally through a combination of exercise and diet.
So there you have a few quick tips for endurance athlete nutrition. Your diet will be different than a strength athlete’s diet will, so it’s vital that you learn to recognize the differences you need to have in place and make appropriate adjustments.