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The Sport-Specific Diet

Whether you run, swim or cycle; eating the right food for each activity helps you improve your performance and make the most of each workout. Here are some nutrition tips tailored to each activity – helping you choose the best foods for your fitness goals.

Runners need to stay fueled during a marathon—but the pre-race, carb-loading spaghetti dinners are long gone. While carbohydrates are still considered a crucial fuel for training, experts advise runners to especially eat a balanced diet overall—with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables—as follows:

  • 60-70 percent of calories from carbohydrates (grains, pasta, bread)
  • 20-30 percent of calories from fat sources (oils, avocados, nuts)
  • 10-15 percent of calories from protein (fish, meat, chicken, beans)

Within an hour of finishing your run, refuel with a snack – sticking to a ‘4:1’ carbs to protein ratio (whole grain toast with peanut butter, or fruit with yogurt).

Swimmers need long-lasting energy and a chance to rebuild and strengthen muscles.  They benefit most from a diet rich in carbs and protein (eggs, lean meats, peanut butter, whole grains, protein shakes, Greek yogurt). Drink water before, during and after your swim to stay properly hydrated. During a competition, bring some light, healthy snacks (fruit, dry cereal, energy bars or granola) to keep your energy and blood sugar up. Be careful not to eat too close to your next race – you need time to digest the food first. Refuel with another healthy snack within the "glycogen recovery window" of 10 to 15 minutes after your swim. This is when your body really needs nutrients in order to repair muscles and replace glycogen.

Cyclists need to stay fueled and hydrated during their ride. Cyclists who train for 2-3 hours each day need about 3.5 to 4.5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight per day. Eat a light, high-carb meal (toast with peanut butter, yogurt, a banana, whole wheat cereal) 1-2 hours before your bike ride. If you are riding longer than 2 hours, you will need some carbs and electrolytes (sports drinks, fig cookies, bananas or energy bars) to replace glycogen stores during your ride. Drink liquid every 15/20 minutes, and eat a snack every 45 minutes. Refuel with healthy, protein-rich snacks (protein shakes, low-fat chocolate milk, turkey sandwich) to replace glycogen 10 to 15 minutes after your ride.