A Basic Guide to Nutrition for Endurance Exercise

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Eating to participate in an endurance event like a marathon or triathlon are very different than training for shorter events or a trip to the gym. Because endurance sports use primarily muscle glycogen for fuel, your diet will be high in carbohydrates which is what is used to create glycogen in the muscles. You are still relaying on the three macronutrients carbohydrates, protein and fats, but the ratio is much different.


In a normal training diet, carbs make up around 50% of a diet, but when training for endurance, that amount jumps to 60% to 70%. To find out about how many you need, take your body weight and multiply by 7 (for weight in kilograms) or 3.2 (in pounds). In extreme training cases that figure can go as high as 12 per kilogram or 5.5 per pound.

As far as the types of foods you should be eating, concentrate on whole grains, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and low-fat dairy products at a ratio of 15/6/6/5 servings per day, respectively. If new to endurance training (and eating), it will take your body some time to get used to this amount and type of food.


While protein is not a major source of energy to produce muscle glycogen, it is what muscles need to repair and rebuild. As an endurance trainer, you need considerably more protein than non-endurance types. To figure just how much, take your body weight and multiply by 1.3 (for kilogram weight) or 0.6 (for pounds).

Good sources of protein include lean meat, eggs, fish and dairy products. As far as quantity, you should have 3 to 5 servings of protein per day. Don’t go overboard with protein as too much can impair your body’s ability to create and restore glycogen and can even have a negative effect on performance.


This amount pretty much stays the same regardless if you are endurance training or not. About 30% of your total diet should be comprised of fat with only about 10% of that amount coming from saturated sources and zero (if possible) from trans fat.

Saturated fat sources include fried foods, ice cream, bacon, hot dogs and baked products. Eat these sparingly if at all. Instead get your fat from unsaturated sources, including low fat dairy, lean meats, fatty fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil.


Of course, all these food calculations are for naught if you do not maintain the correct amount of hydration. As far as how much you need, it varies from person-to-person as it depends on how much you sweat, air temperature and humidity, altitude, weight, age and metabolism. As a general rule, you can monitor your hydration level by the color of your urine. When properly hydrated it should be clear to light yellow in color. If it starts to get dark yellow, you need more water.

But for endurance trainers, water may not be enough. You may want to alternate between water and electrolyte-laden sports drinks when on long runs or events.

In the beginning, it takes some time and experimentation to get your hydration and food amounts correct for your body type, environment and training methods. But once you get everything locked in, don’t make any major adjustments, especially right before a big event. Do your changes during the training phases if at all.

3 Best Snacks to Eat During Endurance Training

When you are trying to build up your body’s endurance, you are going to be using a lot of energy, so you need to replenish your body’s energy stores after and even during workouts. One of the best ways of doing so is by consuming food, which will help your body quickly replenish its energy stores, allowing you to continue training.

When it comes to food to help you boost your endurance levels, you are looking for two traits. Firstly, you want food that gets digested easily. The last thing you want while exercising is food that lies heavily on your stomach or food that can cause digestive issues. So, this is why fruit and light snacks like protein bars are so good for endurance training, they are easy for the body to digest and they are light enough that they don’t make you feel bloated at all. Secondly, you want foods that are rich in carbohydrates, these will help keep your energy levels up, which allows you to continue training. With that in mind, here are some good snacks that you can try while doing your endurance training.

1) Bananas

Bananas are a great snack for endurance training because they are easy to eat, delicious, and rich in carbs. A lot of people doing exercise avoid bananas out of the mistaken belief that they are bad for you because of the high sugar and carb contents. This is wrong. Bananas are a great food to have when doing endurance training. The high carb content will help keep you energized and the sugars are not nearly high enough to be bad for you. Furthermore, bananas are very easy to digest; although, as a note of caution, avoid unripened bananas, as they can mess with your digestive system a bit.

2) Grapes

Grapes are another fruit that is great for endurance training. Unlike some other fruits, like apples or pears, grapes (and bananas) are digested quickly and thus give your body energy quicker than fruits that take a while to digest. Plus, grapes are small and thus easy to eat. They also taste delicious.

3) Energy bars

Energy bars are specifically designed to be easy to digest and to give you loads of energy. This makes them great snacks to have when doing endurance training. Also, they come in such a wide variety of flavors, so anyone can find a type of energy bar that appeals to them.

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