5 Nutrition Tips for Endurance Athletes
Replenish not Replace. When you exercise, blood is routed to working muscles, fluids are lost through sweat, and oxygen is routed to your brain and heart and away from your digestive tract. Because of these physiologic changes, trying to replace the calories, fluids, and electrolytes lost during exercise will only interfere with these systems, causing cramping, bloating, GI distress, swelling, and bonking. The better choice is to replenish (take in) only what your body can reasonably handle at that time.
You can eat too much. Running a marathon or even an iron man triathlon does not give you license to eat WHATEVER you want. Many an athlete has found out the hard way that a 2 hour bike ride can quickly be mitigated by a medium ice cream waffle cone (700 calories) or double hamburger (560 calories). Yes you need to eat enough, but make sure you stick with quality foods that will supply you with adequate energy (calories) but also the many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants you need to support your active lifestyle.
You can under and over hydrate. Most athletes will satisfy hydration needs with a fluid intake in the range of 20-25-ounces/hour. Smaller athletes and/or athletes exercising in cool weather conditions may only require an intake of 16-18 ounces/hour. Larger athletes and/or athletes exercising under very hot and humid conditions can consider a fluid intake of 28-30ounces/hour in extreme conditions. Consistent intake over 30-34 ounces/hour increases the potential hypernatremia (low sodium levels) leading to serious muscle cramps, poor performance, seizures, and even coma.
Protein, Protein, Protein. Many athletes get caught up in eating carbs and carb loading, but what they forget is how important protein is to their performance and recovery. While you don’t have to use protein powder to get in your protein needs, it does make it easier when you figure most endurance athletes need a minimum of 80-100g protein each day. To put this in perspective:
½ cup black beans = 7g
2 eggs = 14g
¾ cup Plain Greek Yogurt = 17g
1 serving BiPro whey powder = 20g
3oz canned tuna = 25g
3.5oz cooked chicken breast = 31g
Recovery is as important as the workout. You need to sleep in order to for your muscles to repair themselves. While many people think melatonin is just for falling/staying asleep, it actually stimulates growth hormone in the body, which helps with muscle recovery. If you are not making sleep a priority your performance will suffer. You also need days off, and I don’t mean an easy 5mile run or intense game of ultimate Frisbee. I LITERALLY mean nothing but a gentle walk, or splash session with your kids at the pool, or a restorative yoga session that isn’t heated. Rest days help prevent over-use injuries and mental burn out.
Need help fueling for your active lifestyle? Call 952-224-1919 to schedule an appointment with the Odom Health and Wellness Dietitian, Brenna Thompson