If you're aiming to enhance your endurance in sports or simply wish to extend your workout time, understanding fundamental nutrition is essential. Consuming appropriate foods in the correct quantities ensures you get the energy required for sustained training.

Endurance? What is it?

Aerobic activities that last for at least an hour are classified as endurance exercises. Running, swimming, and cycling are among the most common endurance sports. These can be standalone events like ultra-marathons, or combined ones like triathlons. Endurance events demand significant energy, which is derived from nutrition. Ensuring the right nutrition for stamina and vigor is crucial, regardless of whether you're a top-tier athlete or a hobbyist.


Different events, athletes, and routine fitness enthusiasts have unique needs. Hence, it's evident that there isn't a universal diet for endurance. Elements like body weight, surrounding environment, and when nutrients are consumed play significant roles. Each competitor might have varied nutritional requirements based on the event. The journey might begin with general dietary suggestions. If these don't yield the expected outcomes, alterations can be made. Pinpointing the optimal endurance diet often requires a process of experimentation. 

Nutritional Requirements for Endurance Athletes.

These are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Healthy adult eating includes ratios of:

Modify these proportions according to the objective of the exercise. For instance, an athlete focusing on endurance might raise their carbohydrate intake to enhance glycogen storage in muscles. Conversely, an individual emphasizing strength would prioritize greater protein consumption to more effectively bolster muscle growth.

What is the appropriate amount of carbohydrates that endurance athletes should consume?

There are two simple and complex carbs:

Which type of carbohydrate should be your primary choice? A majority of your carb intake should be derived from complex sources and natural sugars. It's advisable to reduce or steer clear of processed carbohydrates and refined sugars.

What should be the carbohydrate intake for endurance athletes? While specific needs may vary based on the nature and length of the exercise, a general guideline is to derive up to 70% of total daily calories from carbohydrates. This is to ensure a sufficient glucose supply for the intense energy demands of such activities. Every gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories. Endurance sports enthusiasts should aim for 8 to 10 grams of carbs per kilogram (kg) of body weight daily, though the exact amount might change depending on the duration of their event. For those undergoing endurance exercises that span 4 to 5 hours, a consumption of 10 grams per kilogram of body weight is recommended.

For instance, consider an endurance runner weighing 70 kg participating in an event that spans 4 hours or longer. Their daily carbohydrate intake should be at least 700 grams. On the other hand, a power athlete would have a lower carb intake, typically around 4 to 5 grams per kilogram of body weight. Their dietary emphasis would shift towards higher protein consumption.

What is the recommended protein intake for endurance athletes?

While many emphasize carbohydrates for endurance training, it's essential not to overlook the significance of protein. Protein plays a crucial role in building and repairing lean muscle tissue and can also serve as an energy source during caloric shortages. Proteins can be categorized into two main types: Animal-derived and Plant-derived.

Animal-derived proteins come directly from animals, whether from their flesh, like a piece of beef or a fish fillet, or products they produce, such as milk or eggs. These proteins are termed complete proteins because they provide all nine vital amino acids. Examples of animal-derived protein sources are beef, fish, chicken, eggs, and milk.

On the other hand, plant-derived proteins are sourced from plants. They may originate from the plant's leaves, roots, fruits, or nuts. Although nutritious, they are often termed incomplete proteins, as they typically lack one or more of the essential amino acids. Common sources of plant-derived proteins include almonds, oats, broccoli, chia seeds, quinoa, hemp seeds, and peanut butter.

It's worth noting that each gram of protein provides 4 calories. The daily protein requirement for an average adult is approximately 0.8 grams/kg. However, endurance athletes should aim for around 1.4 g/kg/day. Athletes participating in longer events will need more protein than those in shorter activities. For instance, a 70 kg endurance athlete should target 98 grams of protein daily. In contrast, athletes in strength or power sports might consume up to 2.0 g/kg/day. For endurance athletes following a plant-based diet, their protein needs might be slightly higher because plant-derived proteins are often incomplete.

What is the recommended fat intake for endurance athletes?
Endurance athletes require beneficial fats as part of their nutrition. About 30% of their daily caloric intake should be sourced from fats during endurance activities. The body utilizes dietary fat for reasons such as: Provide energy, Assist in producing and regulating hormones, Contribute to cell membrane formation, Support the development of the brain and nervous system, Facilitate the transport of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), Deliver two essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce (linoleic acid and linolenic acid).

Various fats exist, with some being beneficial and others less so. The primary kinds include triglycerides, fatty acids, phospholipids, and cholesterol. Among these, triglycerides are the most prevalent in our diet. Fatty acids can be further categorized into saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. Endurance athletes should limit their intake of saturated fats. The majority of their fat calories should come from monounsaturated fatty acids. For those adjusting their fat consumption to meet the requirements of endurance activities, it's crucial to prioritize healthy fats [1].

This includes fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna, which are rich in omega-3s. Avocados are another excellent choice, packed with monounsaturated fats. Seeds, such as sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds, are abundant in beneficial fats. Nuts, including peanuts, walnuts, almonds, and cashews, are not only protein-rich but also have the right kind of fats. Olive oil, a staple in Mediterranean diets, is another source of monounsaturated fats. Eggs offer a balance of fats and proteins, while ground flaxseed provides a plant-based omega-3 source. Additionally, beans, including kidney, navy, and soybeans, contain both protein and healthy fats, making them an excellent addition to an endurance athlete's diet.

Timing of Nutrients for Peak Endurance Performance.

To reach optimal performance, it's crucial to have nutrients ready when your body demands them. This is best achieved by establishing a structured nutrient consumption strategy that outlines when to intake specific nutrients. It's vital to strategically time the consumption of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and water for the best results in endurance activities. This entails planning what to eat and drink before, during, and after endurance workouts or events.

Before your endurance session:

During your endurance activity:

After completing your endurance activity:

Endurance Nutrition: Piecing It All Together

Endurance nutrition encompasses various elements. However, when athletes diligently follow guidelines and discern strategies that resonate with their needs, they witness enhanced performance. This dedication can lead to more accolades during competitions. Regardless of whether you're a top-tier competitor, an occasional sports enthusiast, or a personal trainer crafting plans for athletes, appropriate fueling is paramount. Consuming the right nutrients at the opportune moments empowers the body to function at its peak potential.

[1] Healthy Fat foods for your diet. WebMD. (2022, February 22). Retrieved April 19, 2023, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-healthy-fat-foods

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Barak Gahtan

PhD student in computer science, Technion from Haifa

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Yoga / Pilates Strength Training marathon 10k

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