Guest Post: Fueling for Optimal Endurance

I have yet to meet a training endurance athlete who fuels enough to support their training and health needs.

Cycle Racing 1997

This may sound surprising coming from someone who makes his living coaching Olympic athletes, pro Ironman triathletes and serious amateur age-groupers, but I can almost guarantee you that if you are an endurance athlete you are underfueling and that is hurting your performance and impacting your health.

One of the major reasons for this is that athletes don’t understand the metabolic difference between “fueling”–what you eat during and immediately following your training–, and “nutrition”–what you eat during the rest of your day. In this video excerpt from one of my recent webinar I explain the keys to proper fueling and nutrition and show how they have a significant impact on:

1. Your Performance During A Workout and Race

Obvious, and the only one most people think about, leading many to make taking the mistaken belief that if they can last through a 3 hour bike ride with minimal calories, they must be fine!

2. Recovery
Remember, we don’t do single training sessions, but rather string together multiple sessions in a row, which should all have a specific role and purpose. Proper fueling maximizes recovery from any single workout, allowing readiness for the next.

3. Controlling Your Cravings
Proper fueling, in terms of amount and type of fuel, allow it much easier to make positive food choices later in the day. These choices would focus on our building blocks (proteins), nutrients (vegetables and fruit) and good oils. Fueling well will prevent strong urges for starchy carbohydrates and sweet foods at the inappropriate time.

4. Minimizing Metabolic Stress
Our metabolic system has to deal with multiple stressors in life, as well as the massive physiological stress of our training, and inadequate fueling becomes another additional strain on the system. Proper fueling actually off-sets some of the stress of training and facilitates healthy homeostasis of our metabolic health. This is a central reason for caution in carb-depletion activities pushed by some coaches.

If, and only if, you follow this general path, you can then minimize starchy carbohydrates in the rest of the day; after all, your muscle glycogen stores will only get depleted in starvation and exercise. Focus instead on meats, veggies, oils and hydration. You will repair the muscles, recover well and be on the route to optimal performance and a leaner frame. Best of luck.


Matt Dixon is an exercise physiologist, former professional triathlete, elite coach and the owner of the San Francisco-based professional coaching company Purplepatch Fitness. He is coach to numerous professional triathletes and Ironman Champions including CycleOps Powered athletes Chris Lieto, Linsey Corbin, Meredith Kessler, Luke Bell, and Matt Lieto.

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.