Home > Getting Started > Nutrition for Endurance Sports

Nutrition for Endurance Sports

By: John Beith - Updated: 21 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Nutrition Sports Nutrition Endurance

If you take part, or intend to take part in an endurance sport like cycling, marathon, triathlon or cross country skiing, then you need to pay particular attention to consistently fuelling the body with food and liquids.

Endurance athletes, especially those who compete or train in very hot climates are constantly at risk from dehydration. This risk increases the longer an athlete is competing, or if they train or have to compete more than once a day. They also need to eat the right foods so they have enough energy to get through a gruelling event, or a long workout. Some things you will have to take into consideration are:


It's important you keep yourself properly hydrated during a training session or competition you should:
  • Replace fluids lost in sweat. If you lose too much fluid and electrolytes (potassium, sodium) through sweating without replacing them you will suffer from dehydration. Sports drinks are a good way to re-hydrate.
  • Take plenty of fluids throughout the day. It's important for the athlete to turn up for a competition or training session hydrated. Start the day off with a sports drink and make sure there is a plentiful supply of water at hand at all times. Use water fountains or water coolers as a trigger for fluid intake.
  • You should hydrate 2-3 hours before competition. Try to take onboard at least 16oz 2 cups of liquid at this time and 10-20 minutes before starting your competition have another 1 cup of liquid at least.
  • It's important you know your sweat rate and how to replace it. Athletes need to know how much they can drink during a competition; this will vary according to the weather and the intensity of the exercise. To know your sweat rate you should measure how much weight (in fluid oz) you lose when competing, plus how much fluid you are consuming; this should equal the amount you need to drink to replace lost fluid.
  • Drink only to replace lost fluids, do not over drink. A lot of inexperienced marathon runners tend to do this, as they run at a slower pace and tend to take on board liquid at every opportunity. This can lead to over hydrating and can become dangerous as sodium levels in the body can drop dangerously low.


To have the energy needed to get through an event athletes should fuel their body 2-3 hours before the event. Carbohydrates are the fuels for your muscles, and provide the energy that's needed for endurance events. Some people feel they can't run well if their stomach feels full, if that's the case then try having your meal around 5 hours before the event , then top up with a liquid snack or light meal with a couple of hours to go. Here are some pre race fuelling tips:
  • A pre-race meal should consist of high energy foods like- bread, cereals, pastas, rice, fruit and vegetables and lean sources of protein. Around 65-70% of the food on the athlete's plate should be carbohydrates.
  • Attention should also be paid to the meal the evening before a race. It's a good time to stock up on easily digested carbohydrates like potatoes, pasta, rice and fruit juices.
  • The sodium the body loses while competing also needs to be replaced. Anyone competing in an endurance sport shouldn't be following a diet that is low in sodium. Sodium can be replaced by salting your food regularly, eating salt based snacks, like pretzels, nuts or soups.
  • After training or racing it's important to take in carbohydrates as soon as your body will allow, this enhances glycogen replacement. Try having on hand a fruit smoothie, chocolate milk drink, banana, or yoghurt. You can of course have meal of pasta, both solids and liquids are equally as good at refuelling the muscles.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
I am taking part in a 54 yomp in June can you suggest what energy snacks, nutriion would be beneficial to me, I am 73 years old and plan to do this for The Soldiers Charity
Jacko - 22-Feb-12 @ 1:22 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Mary
    Re: Using The Gym Safely: Equipment
    I am looking for signage to put up on the use of gym equipment for the gym we have built as part of our property…
    22 August 2019
  • Jems Born
    Re: Benefits of Joining an Athletics Club
    Sir.. I Want to joined atheletic in runing.. How can i joined this course..
    24 July 2019
  • Young Poor
    Re: Paragliding Safety
    I keep asking advice for over half Century; people in my age group, smart and polite have obviously died out. Undisturbed, they watch pilots…
    24 October 2018
  • Pat
    Re: What Are the Rules on Children and Gym Equipment?
    we are in a bit of a quandary...we are a charity, voluntarily run community based sports facility. we…
    14 October 2018
  • Damzy
    Re: Gym Induction: What to Expect
    Thanks the well-articulated article on gym induction. I find it very refreshing in offering inductions to clients.
    26 September 2018
  • Pinky
    Re: Bungee Jumping Safety
    I think that the bungee jumping is a very good extreme sports which I have also experience of doing bungee jumping. THIS IS ONLY MY COMMENT
    18 April 2018
  • snipa
    Re: Technical Ability in Football
    good information for semi professional footballers.
    28 December 2017
  • Crashed
    Re: Go Karting Safety
    In a public karting venue is there a regulation for seatbelts/ harness to be worn ? Or just helmet /suit/ gloves
    26 December 2017
  • Kaz
    Re: Darts Safety
    Is it safe for students of 14 to 16 years old to play darts in a pupil referral unit. Is there any health and safety rules
    20 November 2017
  • zozo
    Re: Training For Competitive Sports
    This articale can really help people with losing weight.
    27 October 2017