Runner's Footprints

Runner's Footprints

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

How to Fuel for Endurance Events

There is a great deal of information and advice available regarding healthy eating and sport nutrition science. One important question to always ask yourself first is: what is your goal? Is your goal to: improve your health, maintain weight, lose weight, build muscle, and/or fuel properly for optimal performance? Each have their own mechanisms and tips for each. There is overlap in the goals above; therefore, it is important to first identify what your goal is in order to understand how to pick and experiment with what advice will work best for you. I am passionate about healthy lifestyle choices, therefore, my goals include fueling strategies around healthy food choices for both quality of living and optimizing physical performance.

If you are looking for my tips on “How to Lose Weight as an Endurance Athlete” you can visit: here. Below are my tips on "How to Fuel for Endurance" training or races to optimize your physical performances. Experiment with what works for you. What works for one athlete may not necessarily always work for another athlete. Also, your individual needs may also change as you become a more efficient endurance athlete and as you vary training intensities in your training/races.

For Training LESS than 1HR:
Normally, you do not need to emphasize or worry too much about consuming a surplus of calories before or during training or an event that is less than one hour. Truth is, our bodies have a large caloric reserve, particularly a fat and glycogen storage. Regardless of intensity or your personal body composition, you have a storage of calories for your body to use. You can opt to fuel with a small calories intake or energy boost at least 30 minutes prior to the onset of training or event. After your training, whether it is high intensity or not, you will want to consume something with high quality protein either in food form such as: lean chicken, grilled fish, salmon, hummus, etc. or a lean protein drink/smoothie. What type of protein drink or shake you choose will depend on your goals. If you are looking to simply refuel: pure protein drinks usually are around 200 Calories per serving with primarily all protein are a great option. If you are looking to refuel with a meal replacement: a protein smoothie with a mixture of proteins/carbohydrates is a great option, but keep in mind these smoothies can vary between 400-600 Calories so it is meant to be a meal replacement. 

For Training MORE than 1HR:
Here is where you will want to focus on calorie quantity and quality depending how long and intense you are training or racing. For any long training session and/or event such as a half marathon, marathon, Ironman, try to consume complex healthy carbohydrates mixed with lean protein and/or healthy fats before, during, and after.  Simple carbohydrates are usually the best choice during the activity, as it will get absorbed into the bloodstream faster. Some examples that have worked for my longer training sessions or races of 2hrs or more are listed below. These are my go-to snacks that are healthy, lean, contain quality micro/macro nutrients, and normally do not upset my stomach. The longer the training or endurance event, the more essential it is to find a fueling strategy and frequency that works with your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Sometimes, you will find some athletes report after an Ironman or ultra event that they were sidelined, slowed, or DNF’d due to GI tract distress, cramping, etc. Most of the time, this is completely avoidable and due to lack of training the GI tract to withstand a proper fueling strategy while racing for 4hrs to 12hrs to 24hrs or longer. Physiologically, our GI tract can be trained properly, but it needs practice just as our muscular and skeletal systems needs to be to endure the length of these events. If we do not do long training sessions AND train the GI tract to consume and process a large amount of calories, it WILL most likely shut down on race day due to the race effort and cause any of the GI issues above. My strongest Ironman and ultra times have risen from a combination of proper training, race execution, and the final touch is a proper fueling strategy that you have practiced and honed in on during your long training sessions. Always make sure to practice different fueling strategies in training first before utilizing it in a race. Key point to remember: 

Your individual needs may change as you become more efficient. They may also change as you vary your intensity in training and races. You will notice some athletes will need less than others because they are either pushing at a higher intensity or have already trained to require less. What works for one may not necessarily always work for another. Experiment with what works for you and implement that strategy for you on race day.

BEFORE: 200-500 Cal 1-2hrs before start
* greek yogurt with fruit, granola and/or almonds/walnuts
* whole wheat bread toasted with almond butter and sliced banana
* whole wheat crackers with peanut butter, sliced banana, drizzled with honey
* lean chicken breast with pico de gallo (normally this is for my afternoon or evening sessions)
* whole wheat bread with avo hummus, tomato, and tapatio (adds sodium)
* bowl of fruit with cottage cheese
* light smoothie with frozen banana, almond milk, flax, chia, and 2-3 fruits
* Stryve biltong - lean, delicious beef biltong, chicken bites, and turkey sticks (100 Cal/serving of lean delicious protein)
* Mas Korima Korimalitas snack bites made of Pinole (100 Cal/packet of carbohydrate)
* Vital4U energy shot in 4 different flavors (35 Cal/packet with 150-200mg caffeine)
* Drip Drop (oral rehydration solution) electrolyte powder mix at the correct osmolarity for your cells

DURING: 100-500 Cal/hr
* gels (I am not a huge fan of gels, however I may opt for one per road marathon)
* any high calorie powder mix in my water bottles (for my long bike rides or mountain runs)
* Andale Pinole mix by Mas Korima (100 Cal/scoop)
* nutty bars 
* salty trail mix
* almond butter sandwhich 
* individual packets of almond butter
* forager baked chips
* crackers with cheese
* turkey slices with avocado and tapatio
* turkey wheat sandwich with avo, spicy hummus, veggies, salsa (lunch on mountain days)
Drip Drop (ORS) comes in three flavors, average one packet/hr
* note: all most of these options are meant really when training is 3hrs or more and I use them on my mountain outings where I carry more in my hydration pack.

AFTER: 100-300 Cal within 30min of finishing
* protein drink (Aurena - comes in 3 versions/flavors: refit, reboot, relite)
* Stryve biltong - lean beef biltong, chicken bites, and turkey sticks
* lean grilled chicken with wild rice and steamed veggies
* grilled fish with kale and couscous  
* blackened salmon with quinoa
* grilled shrimp or scallops with baked sweat potato 
* ceviche, pico de gallo with air popped popcorn
Drip Drop (ORS) average 3-4L/day with drip drop throughout the day

* note: it is very important to consume protein within 30 minutes of finishing your activity because that is when your cells will absorb it the fastest as the enzymes/mitochondria are their most active. This is why having a packet of pure protein powder helps to just get the protein in when you're done training/racing. Then within 1-2hrs or when your appetite returns, you can have a healthy recovery meal. It is VERY important to reward ourselves with healthy food options. Every healthy meal will help strengthen our body systems and, most importantly, set it up to be stronger for the next training session or event. Recovery happens faster by how we refuel. You trained and raced hard, so you deserve healthy, wholesome fuel. Your body will thank you for it. 


  1. Great resource, healthy food really does not need to break the bank.I really like what you gues are up too.I really like it that very nice.
    Nice this list. Every time I go to the grocery store I find myself mulling over each item going..."which do I choose: healthy or inexpensive"
    I have included u gues in my blogroll.
    Best Choices

  2. Great Blog Nadia
    I have found this great app for runners ( GPS TOTAL RUN ), I hope you find it useful

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