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Fueling the Endurance Machine

Properly fueling your endurance training and racing is a bit of an art form. Too little and your performance will suffer while too much can pack on a few unwanted pounds. How much fuel you need depends on where you’re at in your training. Periods of light training don’t require the same nutritional investment as periods of heavy training. The chart below provides a rough estimate of the targets for calories, carbohydrates, and protein during different periods of training:


Calories Carbohydrate Protein
Male Female
Light 17 Cal/lb 16 Cal/lb 2 g/lb 0.5 g/lb
Moderate 19 Cal/lb 17 Cal/lb 3 g/lb 0.6 g/lb
Heavy 23 Cal/lb 20 Cal/lb 4 g/lb 0.7 g/lb


There are many food tracking smart phone or web-based apps that will make calculating what you eat easier. They will also provide nutritional targets, but be careful because they are not designed for endurance athletes. Also, there is no need to log everyday. When your training changes, log a few days to get an idea of how much you’re eating and revisit as often as you’d like.


When determining your needs, keep these things in mind:

  • These are recommendations, not hard and fast rules. You may venture outside these ranges and that’s OK.
  • Eating for weight loss and performance are two different goals. Understand that if intentionally trying to lose weight, your performance will take a hit.
  • Monitoring your weight and performance is a great way to find out if you’re fueling correctly. You’ll want to maintain your weight during your training. Weigh yourself once a week at the same time of day.
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