Sports Nutrition Made Simple

Easy Fuel Solutions For Distance Runners & Triathletes

Sports Nutrition Llangollen

Disclaimer: This page focuses on distance running (typically over one hour), or triathlons of all distances. Nutrition for other sports may differ than the recommendations here, please email [email protected] for further advice on your sport.

Endurance sports calorie calculations

Distance running includes all distances over 10k including Marathon and Half Marathon and of course Ultra Running. When running under 10k you’re spending a lot more time anaerobic than assumed in this article. All triathlon distances are considered endurance from sprint all the way through to Ironman and extreme triathlons. To fuel with adequate nutrition in endurance sports you need to know how much you burn each day to make sure you’re not eating too much or too little. I prefer to do this using your BMR (Basel Metabolic Rate) which is best calculated using a set of scales rather than using an online calculator so it takes your body composition into account. By multiplying that number by 1.2 you’ll get the amount of calories your body needs to survive, get up and do basic daily activities. I recommend a sports watch all day that will record your activity levels and additional calorie expenditure, and I highly advise athletes to eat those calories back so you don’t bonk in training.

Fat Loss, Maintenance or Muscle Gain?

Depending on what the athletes goal is depends on the next approach. If you’re after maintenance then once you’ve worked out that calculation, just eat that everyday! Focus on a huge variety of good quality, highly nutritious food, and aim to get as close to your calorie target as you can each day. If you’re after fat loss then the approach is the same, however you’re going to deduct 250-500 calories from your daily target. It won’t give you much of a deficit but you will have tons of energy and be able to train well whilst trimming up slowly and sustainably. It’s not often that endurance athletes want to bulk up with muscle, so I won’t recommend the body builder approach to nutrition. However if you want to increase your muscle mass then you really want to focus on getting a good amount of protein in every meal, in the UK we don’t eat nearly the amount of protein that we should do, and if you want to build more muscle you need to get a good 35-40% of protein in your daily calories (more on this shortly).


I would recommend a periodised nutrition plan depending on where you are in your race season. Typically in the winter months we are in base training where the focus can be a lot more relaxed and many athletes decide to use this time to reduce unnecessary fat and build muscle in their bodies ready for the upcoming race season. In the build period you’re going to want to focus more on calorie maintenance than fat loss, and aim for any additional weight reduction to come from good training rather than under eating, it’s also a good time to add nutrition planning into every long training session so you can train your body to process your race nutrition effectively. In the peak period before a race you should be all ready for the race or event, you should have your nutrition plan for race day and any carb loading prior all practiced so you know it’s all going to go well on the day.

So you hopefully have a good idea of how much to eat… now what to eat!

Macronutrients Nutrition


Carbs have had a bad reputation in recent years, but they are essential to all endurance athletes. Carbohydrates turn into glucose which is required to turn into ATP and contract muscles. So when a muscle moves it quite literally uses your carbohydrates or fat stores.


Fats are higher in calories per gram than carbohydrates and proteins, but they important for our body. Fats operate in a similar way to carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose, but the process takes a lot longer and requires more oxygen. Some athletes choose to avoid carbs and fuel exclusively with fats, but when their muscles have used all the ATP and need more, it can be a long wait until the stores are replenished especially with reduced oxygen intake during exercise. Our body likes to break fats down at rest when oxygen rates are at their highest.


Protein operates differently than carbs and fats, it is essential to build muscles and repair tissues throughout the body. You also need a variety of different proteins so you ideally want to eat a good range of protein sources throughout the day.


Alcohol is higher in calories per gram like Fats, so over consumption is easy to do if not closely monitored. There are many health issues with alcohol consumption, however there are a few quick points I’d like to bring us regarding sports nutrition. The first is when consuming alcohol we are more likely to make poor choices with regards to food nutrition. Secondly, if you’ve drank a bit too much alcohol you’re at risk of trips, slips and falls which means you have an increased risk of injury. Third, when intoxicated your liver is working hard to get rid of the alcohol, treating it like toxins which in turns slows down fat burning whilst alcohol is in your bloodstream. Finally, just one drink can impact on your HRV (Heart Rate Variability) which can mess your nervous system up for almost a week depending on your sensitivity.

Macronutrient Percentages

Here’s the golden question, how much should you eat of each of the three macronutrients? I believe this is down to personal preference unless you’re in a position where you require a nutrition coach to complete your goals. Anything below 20% on any of the three food groups is classified as a fad diet, and as most of your energy and muscle function comes from carbohydrates and fats I’d recommend 60-70% of you food to come from those two groups. Protein is best at 30-40%, it doesn’t really need to be any higher but I really recommend 30% at a minimum if possible.

Fuelling Your Races

Top age group athletes tend to consume anything from 60-80 grams of carbohydrates per hour on race day, and the latest data suggests that some Pro athletes can consume over 100 grams per hour. It’s true the intensity and distance of the pro race is different than the age groupers, but it’s worth considering that the more fuel you can train your body to take means you can potentially race at a higher intensity without getting into GI distress. I recommend athletes to consume nutrition along with hydration on all longer training sessions especially in the build period. Personally I like to get my nutrition through real food rather than gels, but we are all different! The 24 hours before a race you ideally want to get plenty of carbohydrates into your body without adding too much fibre or fats otherwise we can run the risk of getting a poorly tummy during the race!

Glucose Monitoring

Glucose monitoring round the clock is quite a new thing in endurance sports. The monitors came out initially to assist diabetics in monitoring the glucose in their blood and prevent hypos. Many athletes now use them at all times for that data. The interpretation of that data is still being looked into in terms of usefulness, so don’t go buying one just yet!

Sweat Testing

You can also get “Sweat Tested” which is probably more beneficial at this point. In it’s somewhat over simplification, it looks at how much salt you lose when you sweat as we all “salt” a different amount. It’s useful data because it can help determine how much water you need to drink and what electrolyte composition you should be looking to replenish in training and racing.

Glucose Monitoring - Nutrition

Hydration Testing

A good way to guesstimate how much water you need to consume is to do an hour long training session indoors on the turbo trainer or treadmill ideally at race pace or intensity. Weigh yourself before you start, and don’t drink or eat anything during the session. Weigh yourself afterwards and it will give you an idea of how much water you lose per hour. This is only a guideline though, how much you actually sweat will vary depending on temperature and intensity. It also doesn’t cover how much you need with terms of electrolytes, but it’s useful data all the same.

Pre Race/Workout

Before your event or big training session it’s key to get some good carbohydrates into your system. Ideally you don’t want to take on board any fats as the stomach won’t be able to process them and you’ll find yourself burping a lot or worse! If it’s a big race then it’s worth carbing up 24-48 hours before where you make sure you’ve eaten plenty of carbs to kickstart your energy off with a full tank on race day. Some people prefer to train in the morning fasted, there’s nothing wrong with that providing it’s shorter than an hour and if it’s something that you’re not familiar with I’d recommend starting with lower intensity and building rather than going for your highest effort sessions fasted from the get go.

Post Race/Workout

20-30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of finishing your race or training session is important especially for female athletes. During that small window females in particular will begin the recovery process faster. I’d also recommend getting some carbohydrates in as quick as possible to help have an energy boost for the rest of the day and to prepare for your next training session. As many long course triathletes train twice per day in the build period this is incredibly important to stay on plan!

Avoid A High Calorie Deficit

As said earlier, a calorie deficit will lead to fat loss but the temptation to go for a 1000 calorie deficit each day for speedy fat loss is powerful. The problem with this method is though that the body will tend to work against you. When your body cannot replenish itself quickly enough from the fat stores it will zap your energy in a bid to stop you training so it can catch back up. It’s better to just have a small deficit that will be maintainable and enjoyable, then wiping yourself out and missing training sessions because of it.


Nutrition Plans

Manage your weight by creating your nutrition plan

I’ve been big. When I started running I was wearing mens 3XL tops because the 2xl felt too snug when I moved. I’ve done every diet under the sun, and the only way I believe I can help you is to find a lifelong nutrition plan that suits you and your food choices. 

I don’t believe in restricting and I believe that no food is off limits, but I also advocate a “food is fuel” approach to selecting your nutritional choices. We all have individual goals and our bodies are unique in their own ways, what works for one person won’t always work for another. Therefore I work with my clients to help educate and develop their own individual plan they scan stick to for life.

If you would like to know more and think I might be the right support for you you Contact Me.

Jen Coppock
Jen Coppock
Level 4 Obesity & Weight Management
llangollen, North Wales