Nutrition in endurance sport: Kathrin Götz gives tips

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Endurance athletes stretch their body to its limits. Those who train hard and often, or even take part in competitions, may be wondering what the best nutrition plan for athletes is?

Nutrition tips for endurance athletes

Who better to provide nutrition tips for endurance athletes than one of the most successful ultra trail runners in Switzerland? Kathrin Götz knows which foods provide long-term energy and how best to recover after a long run.

Who is Kathrin Götz?

Kathrin Götz is one of the best trail runners in Switzerland. In 2019, the 40-year-old native of Solothurn won the Eiger Ultra Trail for the second time. Mother of three and Trail World Championships participant in Portugal, Götz needed around 14 hours for the 101 kilometres and 6,700 metres difference in altitude.

Endurance athletes eat a different diet to ordinary people

The two forms of nutrition don't differ in principle, as both cases consist of a balanced diet based on the Swiss food pyramid. This says that meals ideally consist of 3 components: vegetables/salad, proteins and starch/carbohydrates. Proportions vary depending on the level of athleticism being strived for.

Athletes need food supplements

A balanced diet generally covers a person's needs in terms of all the important nutrients, minerals and vitamins. For athletes, commonly found natural foods like Biberli (Appenzell gingerbread), rice cakes and salted sticks often «perform» the same as expensive sport foods (bars, gels). Sport foods make sense when the body depends on an optimal supply within a short time, as can be the case when training several times a day or during competitions.

Athletes should take vitamin or mineral supplements

For most people, a balanced diet covers their daily requirement of vitamins and minerals. Anyone who wants to selectively optimise their diet should always do so with natural foods. Natural foods contain micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) in an adequately balanced ratio for your needs – provided you eat different coloured fruits and vegetables every day.

Anyone with a medically proven deficiency of vitamins or minerals can counteract it with supplements – but only under medical supervision. Over-the-counter products often contain vitamins in high doses and taking such high doses isn't always harmless.

Isotonic drinks as thirst quenchers

During the day, water is the best drink. For short training sessions, the body doesn't need special drinks. Only when it comes to achieving certain performance levels and for longer workouts over 60 minutes do electrolyte drinks make sense. After sport, fruit juice mixed with mineral water (1:1) or an alcohol-free beer is enough.

Eating plan for endurance athletes

Breakfast

Carbohydrate source (choose one component per meal; 1 portion = 1 handful):

  • 1 portion muesli (oats or similar, cereal flakes, semolina)
  • 1-2 slices of brown or wholemeal bread

Protein source (select 1-2 components per meal = approx. 10-20g protein):

  • 200ml milk
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1 piece hard cheese (approx. 30g)
  • 1-2 triangles of cheese spread
  • 60g soft cheese

Vegetables / fruit (select 1-2 components per meal):

  • 1 seasonal fruit
  • 1 handful berries
  • 1 handful vegetables

Lunch

Carbohydrate source (1 portion = 1 handful):

  • 1 portion pasta, rice, cooked grains
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes
  • 1-2 slices bread
  • Pulses (lentils, chickpeas, etc.), sweetcorn

Protein source (select 1-2 components per meal = approx. 10-20g protein):

  • 120g meat, fish or poultry
  • 120g tofu, quorn
  • 1 piece hard cheese (approx. 30g)
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 150-200g cottage cheese
  • 150-200g quark, yoghurt

Vegetables / fruit (select 1-2 components per meal):

  • Fill half the plate with vegetables (cooked or raw)
  • 1 seasonal fruit as dessert
  • 1 bowl of salad
  • 2 medium-sized carrots
  • 6 cherry tomatoes

Dinner

As for breakfast or lunch

Snacks to eat straight before training

  • Biberli (Appenzell gingerbread)
  • Leckerli biscuits
  • Rice waffles (possibly with honey)
  • Salted sticks
  • Salted pretzel
  • Dried fruit (check tolerance!)
  • Banana
  • Toast with honey

Special

For athletes who do more than 60’ training per day at mid or high intensity: after training, add 1/2 - 1 portion carbohydrates.

Immediately after highly intensive / long training sessions: Add an extra 1/2 - 1 portion of a protein component and possibly combine with an added 1/2 portion of carbohydrate. For example: 300ml milk + 1-2 teaspoons chocolate powder.

Nutritional tips for competitions

  • The basic rule is to try out for yourself which foods you tolerate.
  • Many people find liquid food easier to tolerate than solid food.
  • Special sport foods often have an optimal composition of ingredients and have usually been tested several times. Here, too, it is very different from person to person as to who tolerates what.
  • Foods that contain a lot of fructose or are artificially sweetened tend to cause digestive problems.
  • Since bars are very dry, they're difficult for athletes to swallow when running due to a lack of saliva. A much better energy supply is a piece of banana bread.

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