Why it's important?
Whether it’s running, cycling, swimming or even HIIT classes, getting your nutrition right plays a huge part in fueling your cardio activities. The timing of protein intake is not always at the forefront of athletes’ minds but it is just as important as water and carbohydrate if you want to make the most of your cardio.
Cardio-focussed training is one of the most popular forms of exercise right now, with endurance training becoming more popular than ever. In fact, the rise of ironman and ultra events mean that many humans want to test the boundaries of their physical fitness.
To give you an idea of what’s involved: Elite endurance athletes train 10-12 times a week and 600-1000 hours each year; approximately 90-95% is endurance training. About 70-75% of this annual training is performed at lower intensities and 10-20% at higher intensities (Mattsson & Holmberg, 2012).
Nutrition plays a huge role in fueling cardio activities but the recovery process has to be taken into account too. When undertaking large training volumes, an athlete’s body may break down or suffer chronic illness if nutrition is not addressed. These are very common problems.
Many of the endurance athletes we’ve worked with correctly focus their attention on hydration and carbohydrate intake but they are often uncertain about their protein needs for muscle protection and recovery.
To help you get off to the right start, here is our framework for fueling for cardio and endurance activities:
The general hydration rules are:
- Approximately 200-300ml of fluids should be taken every 10-20 minutes during exercise to maintain hydration, resulting in less than 2% bodyweight reduction.
- After exercise, Roberts (2012) recommends replacing weight with fluid at a rate of 150%. This equates to 1.5 litres of fluid for each kilogram of weight lost.
Carbohydrate rules are a little specific to you and the types of exercise you’re doing, so another article will address this. For now, here is a great reference.
Research suggests that endurance athletes should eat more protein than healthy non-exercising individuals due to higher metabolic demands for protein. 
While training and competing, an athlete’s body begins to break down its tissue and will continue to do so until the signal is given to begin the recovery and repair process.
Adequate protein intake must be satisfied to promote the growth of new tissue and activate the recovery and repair of damaged ones. Protein is made up of chains of amino acids, of which leucine is the key. Although the leucine content of protein-containing foods can vary, leucine can generally be obtained through 20-35g of high-quality protein foods or a protein supplement. Less than 1.5g of leucine is enough to initiate the recovery and repair process.
Day to day
- General protein guidelines for athletes: 1.0-1.5g of protein per kg of weight daily, spread across 3-4 meals per day.
- Advanced training, injury, illness guidelines: 1.5-2.2g of protein per kg of weight daily.
Intra- or post- workout
- 20-25 grams of protein within 20-30 minutes of training (the post-workout anabolic window). Ideally 1.5+ grams of leucine which can be provided in an amino acid complex like Amino recovery during the post-workout anabolic window.
We hope you find this framework easy to understand. Got further questions? Ask our team. Simply email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get them answered for you.