Nutrition for Endurance Athletes – 101

Ever since losing weight and becoming an endurance athlete, I’ve always struggled with nutrition and to make sure I’m eating enough calories. I’ve also struggled with what to eat during a race, before a race, after a race, and how much.

I finally had the opportunity to go to a nutrition clinic at Salt Lake Running Co the other night. My coach put on the clinic and I learned SO much. So, I thought I would share some of what I learned with you guys.

One concern I’ve always had while out running is if I’m taking in enough water. B.J. was saying the other night that before anything else, you need to drink water. To find out how much water you should be drinking, you should take a sweat test. (On a complete side note, as I was seeing what the internet says about a sweat test, they use a sweat test to test for Cystic Fibrosis. Who knew?)

Have you ever taken a sweat test? I never have, but I need to. To take a sweat test, you:

  • Warm up for 10-15 minutes, towel off and weigh yourself, sans clothes.
  • Run for 30 minutes at a good effort and preferrably in race day conditions. Dry off & weigh yourself again.
  • Multiply the difference in pounds by 2 & then convert to oz.

So, say you lost 2 lbs, you’re going to multiply that by 2 (4 lbs) and convert that to oz, so you would have lost 64 oz of water/salt during 1 hour of running. Now, ideally it’d be nice to be able to drink that much water in an hour of running, but realistically I don’t think that’s possible. At least for me. So, B.J. was saying to stay hydrated during your run and then try and hydrate as much as possible after your run.

Another thing that came up that really fascinated me was hypernatremia. This is what happened to me during my Ogden Marathon. Hypernatremia is where you take in TOO much water and TOO many electrolytes. The best way to prevent this is to take a sweat test.

You have your electrolytes. They help with cramping and help with energy and to keep you stable. One way of getting electrolytes during a race is to use salt tablets. B.J. was saying that the average person loses 800mg of sodium an hour. I don’t know if that’s alot or not. I’m going to say it is. I’m not a HUGE fan of salt tablets. During the Las Vegas Ragnar last year, a guy gave me a salt tablet and I couldn’t tell a difference. I might’ve been too dehydrated for it to make a difference though. Depending on how much you sweat, you might need to supplement with potassium, calcium and magnessium. Lately I’ve been taking magnessium supplements because I tend to cramp up on the bike. It has helped ALOT.

One question that came up during the clinic was about carb loading the night before a race. B.J. was saying that the actual term of carbo loading came from where 4 days prior to your race you would remove ALL carbs from your diet and that would clean everything out, so then the night before your race, you would have a big bowl of pasta and it would supposedly store the glucose, fructose, glycogens, etc., more so that you could have them for race day. B.J. said he did it once and it was miserable and he couldn’t tell much a difference. He suggested keeping just a normal diet the day before a race…except maybe cutting out fiber for a BIG race.

I love my carbs!

One thing I really struggle with is getting enough protein in my diet…especially after a workout. He was saying that you need to use up 20g of protein within 30 minutes of a workout or race. If not, it will take you 2 days longer to recover! I was shocked. Tonight I went out and bought protein bars to assist with this.

So, these are the highlights I took from the class. I hope they help you as much as they helped me.

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11 thoughts on “Nutrition for Endurance Athletes – 101”

  1. This is something I have definitely struggled with! I get the right amount of protein in my diet now, well according to the plan a friend set up for me, but I always ensure I have protein after a workout, though I hadn’t really been doing it after a race! I always struggle with what to eat before a race, how much on the day, the night before, I haven’t eaten during a race before, my longest being a 16K, but I am sure that if I plan to run further it’s something I would really need! Thanks for the tips of what you learnt, I definitely have to look into some of this!

    When I’m in the US, I tend to have the muscle milk protein drinks for instant and easy protein – I would get the light ones as they are very low carb and low fat, which fit into my diet limits a lot easier than the protein bars which I found were really high in carbs in the US. Here I have a great brand, Musashi, that makes high protein low carb bars that are actually delicious! With the muscle milk, you just have to expect it will taste like a chemical chocolate, then it isn’t so bad… kind of… Good in a pinch though, but I’m sure egg whites would be much better for you 😉

    1. I’ve never tried that muscle milk. I was actually just given some samples of some protein drinks where you mix it with milk & drink it. I haven’t tried it yet. It should be interesting seeing that I’m not a fan of milk.

      1. Try it with almond milk or soy – I don’t drink normal milk, I add my protein powder (optimum nutrition) to almond milk, usually make a smoothie with banana and strawberries, mmm delicious! 🙂

      1. I’ve been put on 180gm of protein a DAY! It’s so hard to eat that much protein each day especially when I’m not the biggest fan of meat! Hopefully you can get inventive with how to eat more protein!

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