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Endurance athlete nutrition will contain a significant amount of carbohydrates and protein, while reducing the amount of fat the athlete consumes. Carbohydrates are necessary for energy production, while protein is useful in repairing and building muscles. Fat, while useful to some degree, should not be a large part of endurance athlete nutrition because it is difficult for the body to digest, and it is slow to burn, meaning useful energy cannot be readily created from it. Carbohydrates create stores of energy in the body more quickly, and they should be a major part of any pre-race meal.
The body uses glycogen for fuel when running, cycling, or swimming long distances. Glycogen is a stored form of carbohydrates that is readily available for use as fuel within the body. Creating an endurance athlete nutrition plan that includes a significant level of carbohydrates will in turn create large stores of glycogen. Whole grains and wheat are good sources of carbohydrates, as are beans, fruit, and vegetables. Endurance athlete nutrition should include large quantities of these high-fiber foods, and the majority of the athlete's caloric intake should be based on carbohydrates.
Fat, on the other hand, should be limited in endurance athlete nutrition plans. Sweets such as candy, cookies, and chocolate should be limited or avoided altogether. Fat cannot be burned as quickly as glycogen, and it takes the body longer to digest fatty substances. Protein is an important part of endurance athlete nutrition, but one should keep in mind that excess protein intake will be stored as fat, thereby proving to be counterproductive to the athlete.
The right amount of protein can help build and repair muscles, so protein should be a significant part of endurance athlete nutrition. Most adults do not actually need very much protein in their diets, but endurance athletes need the benefits of protein more than the average adult. Meats are a good source of protein, though the endurance athlete should be careful to choose lean meats like chicken or fish. Avoid red meat if possible, as the fat content is much higher.
Eating too much protein can lead to fat storage and dehydration, so one should research exactly how much protein is needed in his or her diet. The amount of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats needed for an individual is generally based on his or her weight, but visiting a nutritionist or professional trainer is a more accurate way to determine what the individual's dietary needs are.
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