Nutrition fads for endurance athletes zigzag from no fat to high carbohydrates to low carbohydrates to low protein to the current fad of high protein. Good nutrition for endurance athletes includes all the macronutrients - carbohydrates, protein and fat. Carbs provide the easiest source of energy; fats are a denser type of energy and help lubricate the joints. Protein is used to build and repair the body’s tissue. Hard workouts break down muscle proteins and damages muscle fibers. It is during rest and sleep AND WITH THE USE OF PROTEIN that the body repairs itself and consolidates any gains, that is you get stronger.
Endurance athletes are in a constant cycle of burning energy followed by rejuvenation. When you consume enough carbohydrates and muscle glycogen stores are high, you can rely on a very efficient source of energy. When muscle glycogen stores are low, the protein you consumed is used as energy, robbing the body of the amino acids it needs to repair itself. Consuming enough carbohydrates and fats are called “protein sparing.” This means that the protein you consume is used for what it is best at – repairing and building tissues including your muscles. Protein is necessary to make antibodies for the immune system and is also a necessary ingredient to help transport oxygen to during exercise.
Every meal should have a combination of carbohydrates, fats and protein. Before a long work out consume a little more carbs. After a long workout have a little more protein. Maximize your nutrition with everything you consume. Try and eat as many whole foods as possible, keeping your meals as nutrient dense as possible.
Complete proteins contain all 9 essential amino acids. A good source of these are lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy. Incomplete proteins are beans, nuts, tofu, seeds and grains and must be combined to create complete protein. If you are a vegan you must be careful to get all the essential amino acids, which is the major reason I stopped being a vegan.
Consume carbohydrates, fats and protein on a regular basis. Keep your food nutrient dense and you’ll provide your body with the right fuel to take your workouts to the next level.