3 Nutrition Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make and How to Fix Them

Are you an endurance athlete? STACK Expert Rebecca Scritchfield notes three common endurance nutrition mistakes and advises you how to fix them.

Nutrition Mistakes

Endurance athletes definitely need more fuel than the average gym rat, but sometimes what they eat can do more harm than good. Endurance nutrition done right will increase your performance.

Here are three common endurance nutrition and fueling mistakes that athletes make and how to fix them.

Mistake 1: Eating low-quality "convenience foods"

Many of my athlete clients tend to rely on packaged convenience foods, which give them nothing but empty calories.

The Fix: Choose wisely

Instead of inhaling a bag of potato chips or grabbing a candy bar from a vending machine, choose a premium grade fuel.

Fresh, whole fruits—like pears, oranges, grapes and bananas—are great portable fuel sources packed with phytochemicals.

For convenience, choose higher quality fuel bars, like KIND Healthy Grains bars, which have ingredients you can see and pronounce. Each bar provides one-third of your daily serving of heart-healthy whole grains like amaranth, quinoa and gluten-free oats. I'm currently noshing on Peanut Butter Chocolate. Who doesn't love a quality bar that reminds you of dessert?

Mistake 2: Running to eat, not eating to run

If you think you perform better on an empty stomach, think again. I am forever amazed at how many people "run to eat" rather than "eat to run."

The Fix: Fuel adequately for the demands of your training

Many endurance athletes who complain of fatigue during workouts fail to realize they may be under-fueling, not under-training.

Pre-exercise fuel should hydrate your body, fuel your muscles and settle your stomach. Choose foods with high carbohydrates and moderate protein that are lower in fat and fiber. Most endurance athletes need around 75 grams of carbohydrates before a workout. Try plain bagels with a dollop of nut butter or a cereal yogurt parfait with a whole banana sliced in.

Mistake 3: Imbalance of nutrients

Usually with endurance athletes, the nutrient most lacking is carbohydrates. I'm constantly asking my athletes to increase "nutrient C." An average endurance athlete can easily require upwards of 300 grams of carbohydrates a day, and depending on the level of training, sometimes twice that amount!

Eating too much high-protein and high-fat food such as steak and eggs or greasy burgers shortly before exercise can cause an upset stomach and delay glycogen uptake in your muscles. Healthy carbohydrates, on the other hand, keep your body going.

The Fix: Befriend the carbohydrate

Instead of avoiding pizza, pasta and potatoes, bump up the carbohydrates and have fun with it. Don't order a thin crust pizza thinking it's better for you. If you are endurance training, go for the thick crust!

Order lean protein toppings like chicken and add all the veggies you want. Try Hawaiian pizza with pineapple for a sweet and tangy flavor combo and a dose of vitamin C to boot.

Add black, pinto or kidney beans to your baked potato. Some shredded cheese or sour cream will provide protein along with zinc, calcium, and iron—three crucial nutrients for endurance athletes.

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