Eat Like an Endurance Athlete

Drinking eight glasses of water throughout the day and grabbing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich within 30 minutes of exercise is usually sufficient to meet our body’s needs for working out. But when you start training or competing for over two hours non-stop, there’s more planning needed to make sure you find the proper diet to fuel your muscles.

Endurance athletes, those that push themselves for hours at a time in events like triathlons and ultramarathons, have learned how to sustain their performance ability without weighing themselves down with overly filled, heavy bellies. They use nourishment to keep their energy high and maximize their achievements.

Even if you never plan on running for 24 hours around the Schuylkill (Back on My Feet’s Lone Ranger Ultra Run) or biking 156 miles through Manayunk (Philadelphia International Cycling Championship), you can still take notes from these athletes’ diets to help keep you consistently active and healthy so that you are ready to go whenever the exercise mood strikes.

3 Diet Tricks to Steal from Endurance Athletes

  1. Perfect your hydration. Drinking too much is as bad as drinking too little. Both can cause hyponatremia (low blood sodium) and increase your chance of muscle cramping. Over hydration can also cause bloating and excessive urination. Your body can only absorb about 24 ounces per hour. Excessive fluids will flush out electrolytes from your system before you even get to the race. Drink until your urine is light to clear. Include salt and electrolytes on heavy workout days.
  1. Snack on small, simple meals. You don’t want to feel full and heavy or have to stop and find a bathroom mid-workout. Focus on easily digested foods that are unprocessed like fruits and vegetables and complex carbs. Avoid simple sugars, high amounts of fat and meat. Don’t use high calorie burn as an excuse to eat anything and everything.
  1. Pack in the protein. Protein is not just for muscle building workouts: after two hours of fuel-burning workouts your body taps into your protein reserves for energy. If the protein is not there, your body moves on to stealing from your muscles and leads to increased fatigue. But still stick to small, simple proteins like quinoa, tofu blended into a smoothie, tempeh, hemp protein powder, and non-dairy yogurts or kefirs like coconut.

Maybe you are already competing in Ironmans, maybe you never will, but regardless you can optimize your body’s condition prior to, during and after working out.

Although I hit ultra distance during the 2011 PA Ragnar Relay, I will never intentionally train to run 50k. If you are interested in following a runner’s journey to do so, check out Every Day Is Run Day.

PHOTO: Juli, right, ran in the 24-hour Lone Ranger Run. I was simply her pacer for two 8-mile loops. But we both proudly wore our tutus!

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1 Comment

Filed under Nutrition, Running

One response to “Eat Like an Endurance Athlete

  1. Thanks for the shout out! Love this post. I definitely need to think more about how I fuel for long distances.

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