Updated: Jul 24
Sport nutrition / supplementation is a lucrative industry. There is plenty of ‘advice’ available for athletes including fad diets etc. As a coach, my general advice is to eat ‘normal food’ that you enjoy eating where possible. Some of us have specific requirements such as vegan, vegetarian, plant-based, wheat free, coeliac etc. which can create unique nutritional requirements. Similarly, long-distance training for events such as marathons, ultras, half and full ironman events require extra nutrition planning & consideration.
Nutritional Requirements for Endurance Exercise
Nutritional requirements will be dependent on the intensity, frequency, type and duration of each workout plus the athlete’s body composition. Essentially you want to make sure you fuel for the work required. An inability to do do this can leave an athlete susceptible to illness and/or injury.
Relative Energy Availability
Energy availability is the amount of energy available for normal biological processes after the cost of sporting activity has been subtracted. Low energy availability specific to sport is known as RED-S - relative energy deficiency in sport. This often presents as impairments to menstrual function, bone health, metabolic rate, hormone disruptions, immunity, cardiovascular health and muscle rebuilding. To diagnose RED-S, you will need a detailed clinical analysis.
The two most common issues for recreational athletes with low energy availability are bone stress injuries and low iron levels. You may also see increased overall stress levels and an inability to perform or recover from training sessions. If you have a habit of skipping meals, not eating for more than 60mins post training session you could be at risk of RED-S.
Eat Real Food
To ensure you have adequate energy availability apply the food first policy. Eating real food should be the basis of any athlete’s nutritional plan. Supplements should be considered when there are nutritional deficiencies that can’t be met by food intake or where it may be impractical to consume “real food”. Look for signs and symptoms of RED-S and evaluate your daily nutrition plan and long workout nutrition strategies. If you need help with this please contact your coach and/or a qualified sport dietician.
Summarised from article by Ben Desbrow, Gary Slater & Greg Cox supplied by Sport Dietitians Australia