For over a decade, I focused strongly on becoming the best endurance athlete I could be. I meticulously planned my workouts, completed my daily training log, ate healthy, monitored my hours of sleep and read all of the magazine articles I could find about successful endurance athletes.
While this persistence landed me some medals and a college scholarship, something was missing. This became very apparent during my first year of competing as a Division I collegiate cross-country runner as I struggled to beat my personal best and barely placed in many 5K races.
It didn’t dawn on me what that missing piece was until the day our trainer talked to me and my team about the importance of proper nutrition daily, before, during and immediately after training. I thought I was eating healthy, but I had no idea that I wasn’t properly planning my diet around my training regimen and that nutrient quality and timing was everything.
Why wasn’t this information covered in the magazines I was reading? I started doing extensive research, and the tactics were buried in scientific articles, but the proof was there. Not only did this change my nutrition habits and my performance, it also drove me to pursue a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Human Nutrition.
I also conducted research on collegiate athletes and began counseling athletes to help them improve performance through nutrition. Now, I am honored to be a part of the GNC team where quality, science-based supplements are developed. It is truly a passion for me to share with others the knowledge I’ve learned through research and personal experience. Below are some key tips that have helped me, the athletes I counseled and GNC customers who have realized the benefits of using quality supplement.
Top Nutrition Tips for Endurance Athletes:
- Stay hydrated! Thirst means you’re already dehydrated. Even slight dehydration can hinder your performance. Try to consume at least 8 cups of fluid per day, plus replace your every pound lost in workouts with 16 oz. (2 cups) fluids.
- Carbs are your friends. If anyone tells you to cut out carbs as an endurance athlete, don’t try it. You may feel fine at first, but it’s a matter of time before it hinders your progress. Carbs are the primary energy source you need for performance. Endurance athletes need ~ 4 grams carbohydrates x body weight (lbs) every day, which is tough to do with just food. Meal replacement shakes and bars can help keep your quality carb intake where it needs to be.
- Quality protein and amino acid supplements are NOT just for bodybuilders! Endurance athletes may need anywhere from 0.6-1 gram per pound body weight per day. Most athletes I have worked with miss the boat on getting enough quality protein first thing in the morning AND within 30 minutes after training. Research supports that quality protein supplementation at these times can help support muscle recovery, function and performance. Choose a branched chain amino acid (BCAA) rich protein, like whey, that can help keep muscles fueled and preserve glycogen (muscle energy) stores.
- Supplement with essential nutrients. Nutritional deficiencies can prevent you from performing at your best, increase susceptibility to injuries and take a toll on your health. Take a quality multivitamin and fish oil for omega-3 fatty acids daily to make sure your body and immune system can function at its best.
- Focus on nutritional balance and timing. It’s important to stay fueled by consuming a balance of proteins, carbs and fats at EVERY meal and snack. Plus, what you do before, during and after training is crucial. Always eat and drink something within 1 hour before and after exercise!