Endurance Diet

A diet for endurance should center on complex carbohydrates and lean protein.


Many athletes rely on endurance to succeed in their athletic endeavors. Endurance is simply the ability to sustain a consistent level of exertion for a long period of time. There are four types of endurance: aerobic, anaerobic, speed, and strength. All involve producing ATP as fuel from glucose in the bloodstream and glycogen stored in the muscles. But each has a different mechanism and places different demands on the body.

Aerobic endurance exercise is done at a level at which the body relies on fuel intake and oxygen, creating very little waste. The longer aerobic work continues, the more it relies purely on the aerobic systems and less on the anaerobic for energy. Aerobic endurance is built using long-term distance exercise such as running and cycling, which improves the body’s maximum oxygen uptake, known as VO2Max, and interval training, which optimizes the heart’s ability to pump blood.

Anaerobic endurance work occurs when the body is working at a high enough intensity that systems must use the fuel stored in muscles as glycogen, thereby reaching the anaerobic or lactate threshold. This quickly results in oxygen debt and lactic acid accumulation, which leads to muscle fatigue and eventual failure. Athletes needing to build their anaerobic endurance will do so typically with high-intensity intervals of resistance-based training, combined with short recovery periods.

Speed endurance basically reflects the ability of muscles to contract more rapidly, such as in 800-meter races and other long sprints. Speed endurance is highly anaerobic, given that training to increase contraction speed involves heavy repetition at high intensity, typically multiple intervals at 80% of maximum heart rate and higher.

Strength endurance is about developing the ability to sustain the contraction force of the muscles over time. This is vital for all athletes, as even marathoners and ultra-distance runners have a periodic need for “surges” of power during races. Strength endurance develops via disciplines such as weight training and circuit training. Strength endurance is relevant for all sports, as it centers on the ability to repeat powerful muscle contractions for as long as possible before failure.

A diet for endurance should center on complex carbohydrates, your body’s major fuel source. Ideally, at least 50% of an endurance athlete’s diet should consist of complex, slow-digesting carbohydrates, such as brown rice, whole grains, oatmeal, vegetables, and legumes. A balanced endurance diet should also include sufficient lean protein to repair muscles damaged by long runs or cycling workouts, along with the healthy fats needed for cardiovascular health and preventing inflammation, leading to quicker recovery.

Recommended endurance foods:
Chia seeds – This is perhaps the ultimate running food. Chia seeds contain high levels of antioxidants, a great deal of protein and dietary fiber, and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and zinc. They are also gluten-free.

Green, leafy vegetables – Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and bok choy are perhaps the healthiest foods available in terms of nutrients per calorie. They are bursting with antioxidants, fiber, important phytonutrients, anti-cancer agents, and vitamins like A and C.

Quinoa – Quinoa is a South American seed that is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. Dense in fiber and protein, and rich in manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, and calcium, Quinoa is an ideal energy food.

Bananas – Bananas are portable complex carbohydrates and electrolytes. These fruits are ideal for endurance athletes because they are easy to digest, contain a great deal of potassium (which is lost through perspiration), and provide a quick boost of carbohydrate energy.

Author: Dr. Andrew Myers

Learn more about supplementation for athletic performance by ordering the book written by Nobel Laureate in Medicine Dr. Louis Ignarro and Naturopathic Physician Dr. Andrew Myers Health Is Wealth: Performance Nutrition for the Competitive Edge

Read about the new Nitric Oxide and Creatine Supplement and existing Niteworks Supplement

And recovery drinks for anaerobic and aerobic exercise

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Endurance Diet

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