Track & Field athletes compete in one or more events that consist of running, throwing, and jumping. Track and field competitors train for strength, speed, power, and endurance and require adequate nutrition and hydration to support the demands of the sport. In order to excel in the season of season nutrition, sleep, recovery, and overall habits are critical.
Track & field/ XC athletes require a high amount of calories, carbohydrates, and sufficient protein. The number of calories, carbs, protein, and fat will depend on the phase of training, along with the intensity, and whether the athlete is in season, pre-season, or in the off-season. The athlete’s performance plate is a simple place to start. Portions will vary based on the athlete’s goals and training phase respectively.
Carbohydrate requirements in the health and fitness industry are constantly being debated. Randomized control trial studies which are the gold standard for research support the notion endurance athletes require carbohydrates for optimal performance.
Regardless, the carb conundrum continues on leading to significant confusion amongst both young, college, and even masters athletes. I can’t tell you how many countless conversations I have had with fellow dietitians, practitioners, and sports scientists about this carbohydrate debacle.
Several keto and carnivore physicians are making the water even more muddled with their banter on carb needs for competitive athletes and even young athletes without respect to context. I have written many blogs about fueling young athletes based on the position stand papers of both the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN). Read here
- The TheAcademy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Dietitians of Canada (DC), and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) published a joint position stand paper that recommends that moderate exercise (1 h/day (h/day) recommends 5–7 g per kilogram of body weight per day (g/kg/day) of CHO.
- Whereas moderate to high-intensity exercise (1–3 h/day) requires 6–10 g/kg/day.
- Ultra-endurance athletes with extreme levels of commitment to daily activity (4–5 h of moderate to high-intensity exercise every day) may need up to 8–12 g/kg/day (2).
- The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends in order to maximize glycogen stores athletes should consume an 8–12 g/kg/day high CHO diet (1).
Over the years I have delivered presentations to high schools, clubs, and collegiate programs on how to properly eat and fuel for endurance and power.
Below is a table outlining the recommendations using common body weight for an athlete that we have received great feedback on Specifically from one of the NWW partners, DOANE University Track and Field.
Why focus on nutrient quality?
👟Protein for muscle maintenance, growth & repair
👟Hydration and minerals for muscle contraction & cardiac function
👟Carbs + calories for power, speed, strength & endurance
Another common example of a 165 lb.👟 that is best to spread meals and snacks throughout the day but focus on eating within targets listed below:
Total kcal range: 2,500-3,500 kcal
Nutrient quality and why it matters
When deciding how to eat and fuel you must focus on nutrient quality. You should strive to balance as many high-quality protein sources as eggs, beef, chicken, fish, Greek yogurt, and beans to ensure you’re getting key nutrients you won’t attain from protein supplements. Many athletes often use protein powders and bars in place of real food and fail to understand that quality is more important than quantity. (click here for snack and meal ideas)
- For example, Greek yogurt is going to offer you high-quality protein rich in leucine (the number one driver for muscle protein synthesis) along with other key nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and probiotics you won’t get from a protein powder or bar. (food first supplement second should always be your focus.
- Supplements are meant to supplement the gaps in our nutrition not replace actual meals. If you expect supplements to be a “meal” you are literally rearranging furniture on a sinking ship. -A quote I enjoy using for many topics like discussing pre-workouts and advocating for quality food choices.
That being said you can take a look at a simple fueling example for XC/TF athletes along with some recommendations on snacks.
- Click here to learn more about the night before the competition, pre-workout fueling along with nutrient timing. I also address hydration and other key aspects of fueling both track & field as well as XC in previous posts.
- Recovery nutrition can also be understood using the NWW rule of thumb and I outline recovery nutrition in a video as well as listed out below.
- Please contact us for more information on our student-athlete coaching package, performance nutrition partnership, or custom talks for your program!
In good health, faith, and fitness
-Wendi A. Irlbeck, MS, RDN, LD, CISSN
The Nutrition with Wendi team utilizes evidence-based science to tailor nutrition programs for athletes to optimize performance, minimize health risks, and enhance recovery from training while focusing on injury prevention. We partner with parents, athletes, health professionals, and individuals and offer elite nutrition and health guidance for optimal athletic performance, injury, and disease reduction. We provide virtual services including telehealth but are based in Nashville, TN. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for more nutrition information. Services booking here