Nutrition Rules for Endurance Athletes

FasterSkierAugust 1, 2021


Endurance athletes can be found in various sports disciplines like, cycling, running, canoeing, triathlon, swimming, walking or skiing. Hence, the nutritional requirements will differ due to the different requirements of each discipline, individuality, type of training and training periods.

This article is focused on highlighting the foundational nutrition rules for endurance athletes regardless of their discipline.

Calculating Metabolism

To accurately do this, a unit known as the total energy expenditure (TEE) which is used to calculate metabolism is considered for effective energy gain and loss. It is calculated in terms of: the sleeping metabolic rate (SMR), the energy cost of arousal, the thermic effect of food or diet-induced energy expenditure (DEE), and the energy cost of physical activity or AEE.

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For this article, you will be saved from the stress of having to interpret numbers as we are here to break things down for you. So, are you a professional or a recreational endurance athlete? Well, keep close attention as this article is about to change your game for life.

The human body system is designed in such a way that even minor changes can have a significant impact on physical consequences. The following are some of the factors that influence total energy expenditure (TEE):

  • Body mass
  • Body composition
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Duration and level of exercise; and
  • Rate of non-exercise activities.

For endurance athletes, the most important nutritional goal is to meet their energy demands. The Energy Intake (EI) is frequently lower than the conventional TEE, especially in female athletes.

Rule 1: Give Nutrient Recommendations Based on Body Mass Rather Than Relative Energy Consumption

Carbohydrates are known to provide energy to the body, which is why carbohydrate consumption is a major focus for endurance athletes’ nutrition. Cereals, vegetables, and legumes are all good sources of carbs. External sources of carbs, such as the aforementioned, are essential for these athletes.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued the following carbohydrate recommendations in response to this:

  • Athletes need 7-12 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight each day.
  • Athletes should take the following supplements depending on the duration of their workout:
  1. For workouts lasting less than 45 minutes, no additional carbs are required.
  2. Extra carbs for workouts lasting 45-75 minutes
  3. For 75-180 minute workouts, 30-60 grams of carbs each hour are recommended.
  4. For workouts lasting longer than 180 minutes, consume 90 grams of carbs every hour.
  • For pre-competition events lasting more than 60 minutes, ingest 1-4 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram 1-4 hours before the competition.
  • For events lasting more than 60 minutes, 1.2 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram per 1 hour for 4 hours is recommended for post-competition refueling (after which a return to previous diet is advised).


Rule 2: Aim for a Consistent Fluid Intake During Exercise and Maintain Adequate Hydration

Individual sweat rates, kind, length, and intensity of exercise, sex, fitness level, and environmental factors such as heat or humidity all influence the quantity of sweat athletes generate. Dehydration increases physiologic strain and perceived effort to execute an activity, according to research.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends:

  • Hydration should begin many hours before the competition. It is recommended that sodium-containing drinks be consumed in order to retain fluids.
  • The goal of hydration while exercise is to avoid losing more than 2% of your body weight.
  • After exercise, a return to normal hydration status within 24 hours is advised, as is the ingestion of beverages and snacks containing electrolytes, which will aid in quick recovery.

Rule 3: Iron is Important for Oxygen Delivery and Energy Metabolism

Meals include two types of iron: heme iron, which may be found in animal foods such as red meat, chicken, and fish, and non-heme iron, which can be found in lentils, beans, and spinach.

To improve iron absorption, vitamin C in any form should be consumed with non-heme iron. Because the body has a harder time absorbing non-heme iron, it’s best to combine it with a vitamin C supply from diet or supplements to improve absorption.

Iron supplements are known for having gastrointestinal adverse effects, and they’re not always well taken just after a workout. It’s imperative that your athlete has sufficient iron because it helps form red blood cells.

Iron deficiency can decrease muscular function and reduce the body’s ability to do tasks. Iron deficiency or insufficiency is more common in certain athlete demographics, such as female athletes, distance runners, and vegetarian/vegan athletes. Female athletes’ iron requirements can be up to 70% more than the average.

Intense endurance training can cause the body to lose a lot of iron. Altitude training, a period of development or injury, or simply striking the ground with the feet repeatedly can all induce an increase in iron requirements over baseline.

A diet rich in iron-rich foods, as well as supplementing iron, or a mix of the two, can meet these higher iron requirements.

It is advised that endurance athletes be screened for iron shortage on a regular basis, followed by supervised iron supplementation to correct for iron depletion. Nutrition plays a role in form and ultimately in the results of your sports performance.


It may appear to be a lot of work, but why start something you don’t intend to finish? If you enjoy endurance sports or they help pay the bills, the very least you can do is respect your body and avoid crushing it due to your lack of devotion.

Here are some further suggestions to assist you in reaching the aforementioned: Grasp your nutritional demands during exercise, understand the significance of good fats in promoting exercise recovery, maintain a balanced diet, maximize your protein intake, and consume endurance training superfoods.


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