Nutrition for Endurance Athletes

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Please stick around and read this because you don’t have to be Chrissie Wellington or Dean Karnazes to be considered an endurance athlete.  Don’t believe me?  Go to Endurance Athlete Project and see all the EAs there.  Then sign up while you are there.

Thursday night Karen and I are typically sans Chico.  We are kidless and you know what that means….no not dinner and a movie.  It means going to a presentation on nutrition for endurance athletes.  The presentation was done by Lon Breitenbach who is a Nutrition Tech Rep for PowerbarLuke’s Locker in Plano, Texas was hosting this presentation and we decided it would be a great way to learn about fueling our bodies (ok we went for free stuff but we learned a lot.)

I wanted to share his presentation with you and get your thoughts.  He covered before race, during race and post race nutrition and was very informative.  He even gave me some tips on the 70.3 California coming up in April.

Let’s discuss what to look for in terms of ingredients on a package.  This part was simple as you want to see maltodextrin, glucose or brown rice sugar.  What you don’t want to see if Sucrose or high fructose corn syrup.  Easy enough.

Before the event:

This is where I run into trouble because I always think that I need to eat but not to much, how much is too much, what is too little and what should I eat.  I have grown accustomed to eating a thin whole wheat bun with about 1 tbs of peanut butter and sliced banana on top with a cup of decaf coffee.  I eat this every morning that I am training so that come race day I am prepared to do that same thing as nothing new on race day is the RULE.  Not a rule of thumb, but a RULE.  Don’t do it.

Lon informed us that for an event that is going to be 2 hours or longer that consumption should be about 500-1000 calories so that you top off your glycogen stores.  I thought about that and 500 calories sounds like a ton to me.  How can I get 500 calories in me without having to run to the bathroom constantly, forget about 1000.  He suggested items such as oatmeal or an egg sandwhich.  These items will give you all you need for the race in terms of carbohydrates, and the egg will provide you with protein if you feel you need it.  Try to avoid fiber as much as possible as that will affect your GI.  With this knowledge in hand I will be looking to consume 500-1000 calories on Sunday prior to my workout as I have a long swim followed by a 3h30m ride and a 30m run.

Other information to know is that you should have approximately 1g of sodium and at least 16-24oz of fluids prior to activity longer than 2 hours.

During the event:

This for me was one of the most important components of this presentation as I am afraid of bonking on the run if I don’t get enough nutrition on the bike.  I was all ears at this point….even put my BlackBerry down so I couldn’t Twitter.

For an event that would last less than 1 hour you don’t need to much in terms of fueling according to Lon and I would agree with this.  Maybe a GU or 2 depending on exertion and temperatures for me would be enough for 1 hour.  If I am swimming that is just a few sips of water or Accelerade in between sets.

If you are going 1-2 hours then you will need 30-60g of carbs per hour.  If you multiply that by 4 you will get the number of calories that you will need to sustain yourself.

Now for those going longer than 2 hours you are looking at 45-90g of carbohydrates and still x4 for calories. 

Don’t forget that you will still need to take in 16-24oz of fluid per hour as well as well as the need for 500mg to 1g of electrolytes each hour.  Now you don’t wait until you get to the hour mark and start gulping liquid and stuffing your face.  For  example, on the bike I take a sip of fluid every 10 minutes plus at least 100 calories every 30 minutes so that I get up to 200 calories per hour.  That gets me at the low end of the range for calories but that doesn’t take into account my consumption of liquid calories.

Lon did single me out and say that for a person my size that he thinks I should be consuming 350-400 calories per hour on the bike.  I will test out that theory on Sunday to see how my body reacts to the increase in caloric intake.  I will be measring out Powerbar Energy Blasts and their newest product Bites.

Recovering after the event:

So Karen persuaded me not to ask about my recovery routine because it is usually pizza and 3 Michelob Ultras.  I refrained and listened to Lon.

The information was something that we all know but it was refreshing to hear it again.  Essentially within 20 to 30 minutes of completing your event you want to take in food.  The rule of thumb that was pointed out was to take in your body weight x 0.5 in carbohydrates.  For example, I weigh 142 lbs which means that I would need to consume 71g of carbohydrates when I was done with my event.  I would also have to take in 15 to 25g of protein.  HoneyMilk is my recovery drink and the label states that it has 26g of protein in it so I am good there, but there are only 26g of carbs so I would need to partner the HoneyMilk with something else.  That something else, which we see at races, could be 1/2 a whole wheat bagel.  A whole wheat bagel has almost 44g of carbohydrates in it along with 8.55g of protein.  That is all I would need to help my body recover.  This is one lesson that I learned because I can find myself eating as if I’m going to prison the next day and just shoveling it all down.  Now I know that 1 serving of my favorite recovery drink and 1/2 a whole wheat bagel and I am ready to go.

I hope that this helps you in your nutrition plan for training or racing.



***Please remember that I am not a registered dietician or nutritionist so please do your own research on top of the information that I have provided here for you.  In addition to that know that each person’s body will react differently to the amount of calories, carbs, protein, etc and you should adjust your intake accordingly.

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  1. Terri says:

    Great post. I know I don’t fuel properly on my long runs – I definitely need to work on that!
    Terri recently posted..My PantsMy Profile

  2. Kristin says:

    Nice tips!! Thanks for posting!
    Kristin recently posted..Good News!!!My Profile

  3. Raegun says:

    Great tips, as always. Thanks for sharing!

  4. JenniferLeah says:

    Wow! Lucky you :) I know if we were childless for a night the first thing on hubby’s mind would NOT be going to a nutrition presentation!! LOL
    JenniferLeah recently posted..Stretch- Squat- Run and RollMy Profile

  5. Shutupandrun says:

    I am SO digging the look of this site. Clean, easy to move around in, creative. Had to get that off my chest.

    I am printing out this whole post, such good info. I know when I come here I get good info. Looking back on my last marathon training cycle I know I did not pay as much attention to proper nutrition as I could have. What an amazing difference it can make!

  6. Jeff Irvin says:

    dude I am so jealous of the 142 lbs – my friends and family would hold an intervention if I could get down to that weight – I am so hoping for an intervention.

    350-400 on the bike per hr is about right. Might be on the high side but heat and humidity should be factored and how hard you are working (FTP% and race length). I personally seem to work with about 300 per/hr on the bike. I also like to quit taking in excessive fluids (don’t finish the bottle just because) about 15-20 minutes before T2 – just to give the stomach a chance to settle down and get over the stress of running (which bangs the hell out of the GI tract). Once I settle into the run and start to feel normal then I start my run nutrition and make sure to hydrate accordingly. This stuff isn’t that hard but all of us type-A over thinking Triathletes analyze the heck out of it. Just keep it simple and you’ll rock your nutrition (oh, and practice it in training).
    Jeff Irvin recently posted..Sick PuppiesMy Profile

  7. Derek says:

    Great site!
    im glad the updates are coming thru google blogger dashboard

    I really need to get on board with google reader

    and great post! bookmarked for when Ill need this info in 2months…


  8. Marlene says:

    Really great info here – thanks for sharing!!!
    Marlene recently posted..Perfect SundayMy Profile

  9. These are great tips! Thanks for posting them!
    Aimee (I Tri To Be Me) recently posted..A week in review and other things tooMy Profile

  10. Colleen says:

    Sounds like a great talk… thanks for sharing the info!

  11. Jason,
    I think you captured the majority of my talk very well, glad to know someone was paying attention.
    As for ingredients, maltodextrin is glucose, which has been the gold standard for years. However recent research has shown a 2:1 ratio of glucose to fructose is actually more beneficial to the athlete. This ratio allows the athlete to consume more calories(up to 50% more) and has an actual performace benefit of up to 8%.
    All the information we discussed can be found at
    Good Luck in Oceanside, I will be watching!

    • Jason says:

      Lon –

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I bought some of the triple threat energy bars and used it after my 3h ride and 30m run and felt awesome after. No hunger at all.

      If you read the week in review post you will see how I fueled.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

  12. says:

    Asking questions are truly pleasant thing iff you are not understanding something fully, however this plst gives
    pleasant understanding even. recently posted..loansg.sgMy Profile


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