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Alison Tidy

Posted on June 09 2018

So, you’ve committed to your next (or maybe your first) major race!

You’ve put the training plan in place and are raring to go. You’ve got your gear sorted and are ready for the early starts and hours of training time ahead. Hang on a minute though… aren’t we forgetting something? Did you put together your nutrition plan? Often nutrition is a play-it-by-ear component of an endurance athletes training protocol. Eating on demand and focusing primarily on carbohydrates can often get you through but, to do the best for your training and recovery you need to be clear on what you really should be eating and give your body the best chance to perform optimally and avoid injury. One of the most often overlooked nutrients for the endurance athlete is protein. Protein contains amino acids, some of which are essential for cell repair, and is considered the building block for the body and its processes. Appropriate levels of protein maintain positive nitrogen balance in the body, allowing the muscle to optimally recover and adapt to training demands. Endurance athletes consuming insufficient protein are at a genuine risk of catabolism (muscle breakdown) and impaired recovery from training.

How much protein do I need? Protein requirements for endurance athletes range from 1g/kg to 1.6g/kg per day depending on the training status of the athlete and the intensity and duration of training protocol. An elite endurance athlete may need to consume protein in the upper ranges to optimize training and recovery. To show you how that works, lets take the example of an 80kg athlete. On average this athlete should aim for at least 120 grams of protein per day (1.5g/kg per day). This is easily tracked in many apps available online but to give you an idea, you can see some of the common sources of protein below:

  • 120 grams steak                        34 grams protein
  • 120 grams chicken breast       38 grams protein
  • 6 egg whites                               22 grams protein
  • 0% fat Fage (170 grams)         18 grams protein
  • 10 almonds                                  3 grams protein

As training intensity increases the demand for amino acids supplied by protein also increases. Thus, it is important for the athlete to address not only increased carbohydrate needs but also protein requirements as training load intensifies. Protein should be consumed with carbohydrate in a meal pre-training, during the event and post training.

Pre-event or pre-training A pre-event meal should contain at least a 3:1 Carbohydrate to Protein ratio. For example:

  • 2 egg, 2 egg white omelet with vegetables and 2 slices of toast, .25 cup baked beans
  • 1 scoop of whey protein blended with 1 banana, .25 cup low fat milk and .25 cup oats
  • 2 scoops of PURE Endurance 4:1 in 500ml of water

In-competition or during long training events Within 60-90 minutes of endurance exercise, most stored energy is close to depletion and again a carbohydrate and protein source should be consumed. For convenience, this meal may be a carbohydrate and electrolyte blend with protein or high quality sports drink containing protein. PURE Endurance hydration offers a blend of electrolytes, carbohydrates and protein in one serving, perfect for consumption in the first 90 minutes. It’s natural ingredient sources limit gastrointestinal upset and will keep your body fuelled and hydrated until the next water stop. Continuous hydration beyond 90 minutes is of course essential. Consider carrying up to three water bottles on the bike, containing an electrolyte solution such as PURE Electrolyte Hydration powder mixed with water. To further fuel performance, carry bars and gels for additional carbohydrate supplementation for each additional hour of exercise. Be sure to try a test run on the gels prior to the event as some are heavy on fructose and may not be that well tolerated, causing GI distress. In addition, many commercial bars contain sorbitol, fructo-oligosaccharides, maltose and other artificial sweeteners that can cause issues too. Often, eating a small real-food snack can be a better option and the addition of a small amount of fat can aid the steady release of glucose into the body. Some great options are:

  • Raw Energy bars
  • Peanut butter sandwich
  • Banana and cashews or other nuts
Post-event or post-training The ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition) recommends 20-75g protein be consumed immediately after and up to 3 hours post event to maximise recovery and immune responses. Keeping fat to a minimum will help absorption of nutrients and increase speed of delivery through the blood stream. For example:
  • PURE Exercise Recovery, which incorporates higher carbohydrates to aid protein absorption & increase muscle glycogen – a great option to refuel before Day 2
  • PURE Whey Protein
  • Grilled chicken and large sweet potato with green vegetables
  • Bowl of pasta with meat sauce
  • Large turkey and cranberry sandwich
  • Fruit salad, Fage 0% high protein greek yoghurt and honey
Supplemental protein Whole foods will always be the go-to source for quality protein. However, protein can be easily increased through supplementation and offers a less heavy option particularly mid-event and immediately prior to training or competition. In addition, easily digestible protein sources such as whey powders have been shown to offer superior recovery in some cases, particularly when consumed in conjunction with a carbohydrate source, within the first hour after exercise. Due to their easily digestible form, these supplements can provide quickly absorbed, convenient nutrition for those that can tolerate them. Benefits include muscle growth, recovery, improved immunity and better fatigue management. Whether you are a first timer or elite endurance athlete, planning your training and nutrition is key to a successful, healthy and enjoyable event. Weekly meal planning, tracking your nutrients and considering meal timing around your training will maximise performance and recovery. 


Article by Roz Alexander

About Roz

Roz is an Australian, Certified Sports Nutritionist, Master Trainer and qualified Specialist in Performance Nutrition. Currently completing a Bachelor of Exercise & Sports Science, in 2017 she will be a fully qualified ESSA registered Exercise Physiologist. Roz, a professional lifetime-natural Figure Athlete with over 18 years combined professional and competitive experience, she has helped hundreds of recreational athletes and the general population improve their health profiles to meet personal and competitive goals through nutrition. Qualifications Bachelor of Business – QUT, Queensland, Australia Bachelor of Exercise & Sports Science – current: CQU, Queensland, Australia Certified Sports Nutritionist of the ISSN (International Society of Sports Nutrition) Specialist in Performance Nutrition ISSA (International Sport Sciences Association) Certified Master Trainer (F.I.S.A.F.: AIF Australia) Certified Personal Trainer: Cert IV (F.I.S.A.F.: AIF Australia) Certified Gym Instructor: Cert III (F.I.S.A.F.: AIF Australia)