Sports Nutrition Basics

As athletes, we are always working to improve performance. Proper nutrition can help you reach your athletic potential, so being well-fueled is crucial to getting the most out of each workout. Here are some basic tips on how you can use food to your athletic advantage.

Both whole foods and sport nutrition products play roles in your diet. Plan your meals and snacks based on time, convenience, and your own likes and dislikes. To be sure that your body gets all the vitamins and minerals it needs, every meal should be mostly carbohydrates, some protein (emphasis on plant sources), healthy fats for flavor, and LOTS of colorful fruits and vegetables!


Macronutrients include carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and hydration (water = electrolytes). Endurance athletes must focus on carbohydrates as 50-65% of total caloric intake, depending on the duration and intesity of the training and/or race schedule. The second macro we rely on for endurance sport is fat, and we need 20-30% of total calories to come from healthy fats. Protein should be 15-25% of endurance athletes calories, and we only use proteins for recovery, not as fuel for activity.


Not only are carbs our main fuel for skeletal muscles during high- intensity exercise (tempo-threshold efforts), they are the ONLY fuel source our brains use for concentration and mental sharpness (this is why we bonk if we don’t keep up on carbs during endurance sport).

✓ Choose whole grains, fruits, & veggies
✓ Have a carb-rich meal/snack 1-4 hours before training ✓Choose easily digestible carbs
✓Use a sport drink to get carbs and electrolytes for workouts over 45 minutes or in the heat


✓ The energy source for low intensity exercise
✓ fat helps send messages in the body
✓ aids in vitamin and mineral absorption
✓ and reduces inflammation in the body. 


Builds & repairs muscles, transports nutrients & maintains hydration, and protects immune our immune system

✓Include a small amount of protein with every meal and snack ✓Aim for ~10g of protein after training and 10-20g both before and after lifting sessions
✓Daily intake <1.0g/lb or < 2.5g/kg

By Breanne Nalder, MS, RDN
PLAN7 Endurance Coaching Dietitian and Nutrition Coach