Meal plan for endurance athletes is a crucial part of every athlete’s diet. There are several types of food that should be considered, including carb, fat and protein. All of these foods must be included in the diet in appropriate amounts. Endurance athletes require an array of nutrients to repair and recover. Maintaining proper nutrition is crucial to ensure sustainable training progress.
A Meal Plan for Endurance Athletes
In order to perform and recover to their highest potential, endurance athletes depend on good nutrition. Athletes who eat poorly run the danger of suffering major health consequences that have an impact on hormones, bone mass, strength, energy, and risk of injury. In order to fuel their everyday activity, endurance athletes must ingest enough calories in the proper ratios of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
The primary fuel source for endurance athletes during activity is carbohydrates, thus they need sufficient reserves as well as an external supply. Athletes who work out for one to five hours each day need to consume 6 to 12 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day. In order to replenish their stockpiles and stave off hunger, endurance athletes should eat 200 to 300 grams of carbohydrates before exercise, advises Clinical Sports Nutrition. Athletes should eat 30 to 90 grams of carbohydrates every hour while exercising. The American Dietetic Association recommends bananas, energy drinks, and gels as healthy carbohydrate options. Carbohydrates should be ingested right after after exercise to promote recovery. Bread, oats, chocolate milk, and fruit are a few examples of foods that are high in carbohydrates.
Even while protein only supplies a small portion of the energy required for prolonged activity, it is essential for sustaining muscle growth and recovery. You require protein to keep the ratio of muscle synthesis to breakdown in check, to stop injuries, and to promote muscle repair. 1.2 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight should be consumed daily by endurance athletes, with a focus on doing so within an hour of activity. Constipation may be exacerbated by eating protein-rich foods just before and during exercise. High-quality proteins like those found in meat, milk, and soy products should be consumed by athletes.
According to the American Dietetic Association, athletes generally need dietary fat intakes that account for 20 to 35 percent of their daily caloric consumption. Both athletes and non-athletes should prioritize sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like vegetable oils, fatty fish, and avocados, reduce intake of saturated fat sources like butter and bacon, and completely avoid trans fats, which are included in processed baked goods and margarine. Avoiding high-fat foods prior to a sporting event will help you avoid digestive distress.
Although recommendations can vary depending on an athlete’s sex, weight, and activity level, a typical meal plan for an extremely active endurance athlete might look like this: Start with a fruit smoothie for breakfast and whole-wheat bread with peanut butter, then have a granola bar and fruit for a snack. A cereal and milk snack can be had after lunch, which can also contain a chicken sandwich, fruit and green salad, or pasta salad. For dinner, you may serve chicken, rice, a sweet potato, green vegetables, and milk. For dessert, you can serve yogurt and berries. A sports drink can provide the water and carbohydrates that athletes need during exercise. This is followed by a post-workout snack, such as chocolate milk.
15 Minute Meals for Endurance Athletes
Looking for quick but nourishing meal options to assist your training and recovery but short on time? This article demonstrates how endurance athletes may prepare quick, simple meals in only 15 minutes that are nutrient-rich and can help you perform at your best. Each day of the week is represented by one of the seven recipes.
You must ensure that you are giving yourself the following as an athlete:
– Carbohydrate foods to give you the energy to train or restore depleted energy stores: wholegrains, vegetables, fruits, pulses (beans, lentils, chickpeas)
– Protein foods to enable muscles to repair and recover, also to support your hormones and immune system: meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, pulses, nuts, and seeds.
– Healthy fats to provide energy and keep your hormonal, nervous and immune systems well balanced: oily fish, avocado, nuts and seeds, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil.
– Vitamins and minerals to enable your body to function optimally. Calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A and vitamin K are particularly important for endurance athletes. NB vitamin D is provided more from sun exposure than food.
Each of the seven meal suggestions below provides an appropriate range of the nutrients above to help you meet your daily requirements, when eaten at lunchtime or in the evening.
What you will need
Store cupboard ingredients: get stocked up with minimally processed, long life foods that you can use as the basis of these quick meals, with minimal preparation or cooking time.
- Tinned foods: chickpeas, lentils (puy, green or brown), black beans, sweetcorn, coconut milk, tinned salmon.
- Quick cook grains: couscous, quinoa, rice noodles, egg noodles, soba noodles.
- Pre-cooked grain and pulse sachets: one of the best time savers. These are particularly good for rice, which takes more than 15 minutes to cook from scratch, and as an alternative to tinned foods like lentils. Flavoured grain mixes, quinoa or puy lentils from a sachet are particularly useful. Try the Merchant Gourmet or Tilda brands for these in the UK, available from most supermarkets.
- Nuts and dried fruit: cashews, almonds, pistachios, dried apricots.
- Sauces and pastes: a quick way to add flavour to your meat, fish, pulses, tofu, or tempeh. Tamari soya sauce, basil pesto, sundried tomato pesto, tahini paste (sesame), harissa paste, garlic paste, ginger paste, red Thai curry paste, chipotle chilli paste, tamarind paste, red chilli paste. My favourite ranges are Bart and Belazu, available from various supermarkets or online. Keep in the fridge once opened.
- Oils: olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil.
- Other: honey, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, peanut butter, jar of sundried tomatoes, jar of roasted peppers, lime juice, lemon juice, jar of black olives.
Fresh ingredients: plan ahead the meals you will have before or after your training sessions – the ideas below are suitable for both fuelling and recovery – and buy the fresh ingredients you need once or twice a week, including plenty of vegetables, salad ingredients and fruit. Pre-cooked meat and fish may be more expensive, but it does save time. Eggs are a fantastic quick protein source, as are tofu and tempeh for those following a plant-based diet.
Meal Ideas (all for 1 person, double quantities for 2 people)
1. Mexican rice with chicken, smoked mackerel, or egg
Ingredients: ½ sachet pre-cooked wholegrain rice, ½ tin of sweetcorn, ½ tin black beans, 1 tsp chipotle paste, 1 tsp lime juice, 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp olive oil, ½ avocado, 6 cherry tomatoes, handful of crispy lettuce, ready cooked chicken fillet or smoked mackerel fillet or two eggs.
Instructions: (1) Boil the eggs for 9 mins until hard boiled or warm the chicken/mackerel in an oven for 5 minutes at Gas mark 6/200⁰C. (2) Place the rice in a saucepan with 2 tbsp of water and heat for 2-3 mins until water has been absorbed. (3) Chop the tomatoes, tear the lettuce if needed, chop the avocado into chunks (4) Mix the chipotle sauce, lime juice, honey, and olive oil into a dressing. (5) Stir the sweetcorn, black beans, tomatoes, and avocado into the rice (6) Slice the eggs, chicken, or mackerel (7) Place the lettuce in a large bowl or on a plate. (8) Add the flavoured rice, then the eggs, chicken, or protein (9) Drizzle over the dressing and serve. NB You can have the chicken or mackerel cold if preferred.
2. Mediterranean Lentils and Rice (vegan)
Ingredients: ½ packet of pre-cooked lentils or ½ tin of puy, green or brown lentils, ½ packet of pre-cooked wholegrain rice, 2 large tomatoes, 6 black stone-less olives, ½ avocado, 3 sundried tomatoes, 2 tbsp roasted peppers, handful of French beans, juice of ½ an orange, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar, 3 tsp olive oil
Instructions: (1) Boil a kettle and boil or steam the French beans for c 7 minutes (2) Place the rice in a saucepan with 3 tbsp of water and heat for 2 mins until most of the water has been absorbed. (3) Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes into quarters, the olives in half, and the sundried tomatoes and the peppers into small pieces. (4) Mix the lentils into the rice and heat for a further 2 minutes until all the water has been absorbed (5) Meanwhile, heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a frying pan, then add the tomatoes, olives, sundried tomatoes and peppers and heat gently for 3 mins (6) slice the avocado and mix the orange juice, 1 tsp of olive oil and apple cider vinegar into a dressing. (7) Add the dressing, avocado and tomato mix to the rice and lentils, stir together, and place in a serving bowl. (9) Top with the cooked French beans NB if you dislike beans, try leeks or tender-stem broccoli instead.
3. Chicken or chickpea quinoa with orange and almonds
Ingredients: 125-150g of pre-cooked chicken or ½ tin chickpeas, ½ sachet of ready-to-eat quinoa, ½ large red onion or 1 small red onion, 1 orange, 8 almonds, 2 handfuls of rocket or baby spinach, 1/2 avocado, 2 tsp olive oil, 2 tsp balsamic vinegar.
Instructions: (1) Thinly slice the red onion. Heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a saucepan and cook the onion on a low heat for 5 minutes until soft. (2) Meanwhile, peel the orange and split into segments and thinly slice the avocado. (3) Add the quinoa and the chicken or chickpeas to the pan with the onions. Stir through 1 tsp of balsamic video and heat gently for 2-3 minutes. (4) Mix the remaining 1 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp balsamic vinegar into a dressing. (5) Turn off the heat under the pan and stir in the rocket or baby spinach. Allow to wilt. (5) Place the quinoa mix in a bowl or onto a plate. Top with the avocado slices and orange segments. (6) Drizzle over the dressing and serve.
4. Red Thai rice with prawns or tempeh
Ingredients: ½ sachet of pre-cooked white or basmati rice, 100-125g of prawns or 100g of tempeh (usually half a pack this fermented soya food), ½ tin coconut milk, 2 tbsp Red Thai curry paste, selection of vegetables: either a pre-chopped oriental mix or carrots/baby sweetcorn/red peppers/mange tout or sugar snaps, 1 tbsp coconut oil, small handful of cashew nuts (c 10).
Instructions: (1) heat the coconut oil in a wok or large frying pan, preferably with a lid. (2) Cook the tempeh (chop into cubes first) or prawns for 5 mins on a low heat. (3) Meanwhile, chop the vegetables into small pieces or slices, unless using a pre-chopped mix. (4) Add the vegetables to the pan and cook for 2 mins (5) Mix the paste and the coconut milk together in a jug (6) Add this liquid to the pan, turn up the heat to bring to the boil, then put on the lid and turn down to the heat (6) Simmer the curry for 5 minutes – less if no lid (7) Meanwhile, heat the rice with 1 tbsp of water in a separate saucepan for 2-3 mins. (8) Optional: dry fry the cashew nuts in a saucepan (no oil) for 2 mins. (9) Place the rice in a serving bowl, add the curry and top with the cashew nuts. Optional: add some chopped fresh coriander leaves.
5. Pesto steak or chicken with puy lentils and rice
Ingredients: 125-150g steak or chicken fillet (uncooked), ½ packet of pre-cooked lentils or ½ tin of puy, green or brown lentils, ½ packet of pre-cooked wholegrain rice, 2 tbsp basil or sundried tomato pesto, 2 tbsp olive oil, 80g frozen peas, 2 large tomatoes, ½ large or 1 small red onion, ½ red pepper.
Instructions: (1) Heat a frying pan with 1 tbsp olive oil (2) Add the steak or chicken fillet to the pan. Turn the heat up to medium and fry the meat for 8-12 mins, turning at least once. (3) slice the onion, quarter the tomatoes, and chop the pepper into small pieces. (4) Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a saucepan and cook the onion and peppers for about 5 mins on a low heat. (5) Then add the rice, lentils, tomato quarters and frozen peas to the saucepan. Cook for a further 3 mins. (5) Once the steak or chicken are cooked to your liking, turn off the heat in the frying pan and stir in the pesto sauce to coat the meat. (6) Place the rice, lentil, and vegetable mix onto a plate and top with the pesto steak or chicken. NB Use tofu to create a vegan version of this meal. Coat the tofu in pesto before cooking to enhance the flavour.
6. Harissa chickpeas or salmon with couscous
Ingredients: ½ tin of chickpeas or 125-150g salmon steak or fillet (raw or pre-cooked) or tinned salmon, 60g of uncooked couscous, chunk of cucumber, handful of baby spinach, 2 spring onions, 2 tbsp pistachio nuts, 5 dried apricots, 1 tbsp tahini paste, 3 tsp olive oil, 2 tsp harissa paste.
Instructions: (1) if cooking raw salmon, heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a frying pan, then cook the salmon on a moderate heat for 7-10 mins, turning once. (2) boil a kettle. Place the couscous in a heatproof bowl and cover with the hot water. Place a cloth, saucepan lid or another cover over the bowl and leave for 5-7 mins until all the water has been absorbed and the couscous is cooked. (3) Chop the spring onion and dried apricots into smaller pieces and the cucumber into half-moon slices. (4) Blend the harissa paste with 1 tsp of olive oil in a bowl. Add the chickpeas or pre-cooked/tinned salmon and mix into the paste. Then stir in the baby spinach. Put to one side. (5) Once the couscous is cooked, stir in the tahini paste and then the spring onions, cucumber, pistachios, and dried apricots. Mix well and place on a plate or bowl. (6) If cooking salmon, once it is ready, flake it into the harissa paste and olive oil mix, and add the baby spinach. (7) Spoon the harissa chickpeas or salmon onto the couscous mix.
7. Peanut butter egg noodles with tofu, prawns, or chicken
Ingredients: 100g egg noodles, 100g tofu or prawns or chicken breast, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 1 tsp ginger paste, ½ tsp red chilli paste (or 1 tsp if you like your noodles hotter), 2 tsp tamari soya sauce, 2 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp sesame oil, 2 spring onions, handful of pak choi, 2 carrots, ½ red pepper, 4 chestnut mushrooms.
Instructions: (1) Slice the tofu or chicken. Chop the pak choi leaves, peel and slice the carrots, slice the mushrooms, and cut the spring onions and red pepper into small pieces. (2) Boil a kettle. Place the egg noodles in a saucepan, cover with boiling water, and simmer for 8 minutes. (3) Meanwhile, heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a wok or large frying pan. Cook the tofu, prawns, or chicken on a moderate heat for 5 mins, turning frequently. (4) Add the pak choi, carrots, mushrooms, pepper and spring onion to the wok or pan for a further 5 mins (5) Blend 2 tbsp of peanut butter with 1 tsp of the tamari soya sauce and 1 tsp of sesame oil to make a sauce (6) Drain the cooked noodles and stir in the peanut butter sauce. Mix well. (7) Add the other tsp of tamari soya sauce, the ginger paste and the chilli paste into the wok or pan and stir well. (8) Serve the peanut butter noodles in a bowl and top with the vegetables and tofu, prawns, or chicken. Optional: add a handful of chopped fresh coriander leaves to the bowl.
Alternative ingredients: you could also make this noodle dish with rice or soba noodles instead of egg noodles, with tempeh, beef, turkey, pork, or salmon instead of tofu, prawns or chicken, and using tamarind paste instead of peanut butter to make the sauce. You could also replace chilli paste with garlic paste.
Sports Nutrition for Endurance Exercise
Marathon runners, long-distance cyclists, and swimmers are examples of endurance athletes who have specific sports nutrition needs. The right nutrition is crucial for optimum performance and recovery if you engage in high-intensity exercise for more than two hours per day on the majority of days.
But even the most seasoned endurance athlete could find it difficult to determine when, what, and how much to eat and drink. The following pointers offer some broad suggestions to make your fueling (and refilling) plan easier to follow.
How Food Becomes Energy for Exercise
It’s important to comprehend how our diets can fuel our muscles and keep us active for long periods of time without becoming fatigued before creating your plan. Carbohydrates, lipids, and protein are the three broad categories in which these items might be placed.
The primary fuel for moderate to intense activity is carbohydrates. The body receives the glucose it needs from these foods for consistent, long-lasting energy. By consuming them, endurance athletes can continue without “bonking,” a condition in which blood sugar levels fall too low and you are unable to move on.
However, studies show that the majority of non-elite endurance athletes do not eat enough carbs to sustain their demanding training program.
Fats can also act as an energy source, particularly during prolonged, low-intensity exercise. This makes this macronutrient crucial for sustaining workouts that emphasize endurance over speed.
The healthiest fats are monounsaturated fats because they help raise HDL or “good” cholesterol levels in the body, which lowers the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation lowers inflammation and improves brain and nervous system performance.
Muscle maintenance and repair are the main functions of proteins. Although these nutrients are not typically considered as fuel for endurance training, research indicates that they are required in somewhat higher amounts when performing this sort of exercise.
Consider protein as giving your muscles the power they require to continue to fight. Proteins also aid in muscle recovery following a taxing workout or competitive event.
When to Eat Each Food Source
Before discussing the finest sources of protein, fat, and carbohydrates for endurance athletes, it’s critical to understand when to eat each of these foods for the best possible energy and fuel. This can be divided into tips for replenishing before, during, and after an endurance training session or event.
Eating three to four hours prior to endurance training or competitions enables the body to begin the activity with a full supply of fuel. The optimal food sources for this pre-training meal, also known as “loading,” are complex carbohydrates, or carbs that take the body longer to digest.
During the Endurance Training or Event
During high-intensity activity, the body’s limited supply of glycogen is quickly depleted (in roughly 90 minutes to two hours). Insufficient refueling causes tiredness, which forces the athlete to slow down or run the risk of “hitting the wall.”
For this reason, it’s crucial to eat carbohydrates during prolonged training sessions or endurance competitions. Simple carbohydrates, or those that the body can digest fast, are the optimum carbohydrates for this use.
The body needs to refuel its energy reserves after the endurance training session or event. More carbohydrates can help with this, but protein is also crucial at this time because it gives your muscles the fuel they need to recover properly.
Good Foods for Endurance
Certain foods fall under each of the three categories of macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fat) and have a higher nutritional value, making them better options for refueling and sustaining the body. Here are several to think about.
Since pre-training eating involves consuming complex carbs, healthier foods that fall into this category include:
- Beans and legumes
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole wheat bread
- Whole wheat pasta
Athletes gain from fuelling their bodies with quickly absorbed or “fast” carbohydrates during the training session in order to perform high-intensity exercise for prolonged periods of time. Good options for recharging during your workout that won’t make you feel heavy include:
- Chocolate milk
- Energy bar with carbohydrates
- Fresh fruit, such as an apple or banana
- Fruit juice
- Honey (couple of tablespoons)
- Skim and lactose-free yogurt with fruit
- Sports drink with added carbohydrates
Protein helps the body heal, making it a great after-training food source. Healthier protein food options include:
- Cottage cheese
- Greek yogurt
- Lean meat or poultry
- Nuts and seeds
This category of macronutrients is somewhat tricky, especially since more than 70% of endurance athletes consume more fat than their body needs.6 However, the body does need some fat to function effectively. Fats that are healthier include:
- Dark chocolate
- Fatty fish
- Nuts and nut butter
- Olive oil
How Much to Eat
For endurance athletes, understanding how much to eat is just as crucial as knowing what and when to eat. This guarantees that you get the proper amount of the required nutrients without ingesting too many calories and possibly putting on weight.
Intake recommendations for endurance athletes are:
- Pre-training: 6-12 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight during the 24 hours prior to the training or event, with 1-4 grams per kilogram consumed within four hours of the training or event
- During a training or competition: 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour if the activity lasts longer than 60 minutes; 60-70 grams of carbohydrates per hour if the activity is longer than 2.5 hours (or up to 90 grams per hour if you can tolerate that much, but this high level is not recommended in hotter environments)
- Post-training: 1-1.2 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight during the first 3-5 hours after training or the event, plus 0.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight
One kilogram is equivalent to 2.2 pounds when determining your body weight. So a person weighing 150 pounds would be 68 kg (150 divided by 2.2 equals 68).
Despite the fact that there are no recommendations for eating fat before, during, or after a workout or competition, endurance athletes should try to get 20% to 35% of their daily calories from fat sources.
Hydration for Endurance Exercise
You should be aware of your hydration requirements if you exercise vigorously for longer than three or four hours at a time and drink water prior to, during, and after your workout.
Don’t let thirst be your guide for when to hydrate during activity. You are already dehydrated by the time you begin to feel thirsty. Instead of guzzling a lot at once, it’s recommended to drink little and often.
Make it a routine to weigh yourself before and after strenuous training sessions to ascertain your unique hydration requirements and to understand how various environmental factors, such as the weather and training circumstances, may effect you. Additionally, you’ll begin to understand how much fluid you require for your typical workouts.
The flow and color of your urine can be used as another quick indicator of your post-workout hydration condition. You are likely well hydrated if you have a lot of light-colored, dilute pee. You may be dehydrated and in need of additional water if you have a tiny amount of pee that is dark in color and extremely concentrated.
The following advice will assist you in monitoring your fluid requirements when exercising:
- Before exercise: Drink 7–12 ounces of fluid 15 to 30 minutes before the workout.
- During exercise: Drink 4–8 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes.
Rehydrate by drinking about 24 ounces of water for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) you lost during a workout.10
Sodium and Electrolytes
You’ll most likely need to consume more electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and magnesium) than you normally would during prolonged endurance training and events. This supports mental and physical performance at its peak.
During the workout or competition, consuming an electrolyte-rich sports drink is a quick and simple solution. This can lessen the chance of developing hyponatremia, a condition in which low sodium levels lead to water intoxication.
Every athlete will have different preferences and demands for recharging and fuelling. Finding the strategy that works best for you will require some experimentation with various techniques.
Before, during, and after your workouts, experiment with different snacks and food combinations. You can eventually identify your ideal refilling technique by experimenting with the timing and quantity of your meals.