Nutrition in endurance sport: Kathrin Götz gives tips

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Endurance athletes stretch their body to its limits. Those who train hard and often, or even take part in competitions, may be wondering what the best nutrition plan for athletes is.

Do I need food supplements?

On this subject, there are as many half-truths and myths as real-life reports. Kathrin Götz, one of the best trail runners in Switzerland, provides information.

 Myth buster

«As an endurance athlete I have to eat differently to someone with a sedentary lifestyle.»

The two diets don't differ in principle. The basis is always a balanced diet as illustrated by the Swiss food pyramid. This says that meals ideally consist of three components: vegetables/salad, proteins and starch/carbohydrates. Proportions vary depending on the level of athleticism being strived for. The «Eating plan for endurance athletes» provides inspiration for individual eating plans.

«If I practise sport regularly and with ambitious aims, I need special food supplements.»

A balanced diet generally covers a person's needs in terms of all the important nutrients, minerals and vitamins. For athletes, commonly found natural foods like Biberli (Appenzell gingerbread), rice cakes and pretzel sticks often «perform» the same as expensive sportfoods (bars, gels). Sportfoods make sense when the body depends on an optimal supply within a short time, as can be the case when training several times a day or during competitions.

«As an active athlete I need additional vitamin or mineral supplements.»

For most people, a balanced diet covers their daily requirement of vitamins and minerals. Anyone who wants to selectively optimise their diet should always do so with natural foods. Natural foods contain micronutrients (vitamins, minerals) in an adequately balanced ratio for your needs – provided you eat different coloured fruits and vegetables every day.

Anyone with a medically proven deficiency of vitamins or minerals can counteract it with supplements taken under medical supervision. Over-the-counter products often contain vitamins in high doses and taking such high doses isn't always harmless.

«Isotonic drinks are especially suitable for endurance athletes as thirst quenchers.»

During the day, water is the best drink. For short training sessions, the body doesn't need special drinks. Only when it comes to achieving certain performance levels and for longer workouts over 60 minutes do electrolyte drinks make sense. After sport, fruit juice mixed with mineral water (1:1) or an alcohol-free beer is enough.

Eating plan for endurance athletes


Carbohydrate source (select one component per meal; 1 portion = 1 handful):

  • 1 portion muesli (oats or similar, cereal flakes, semolina)
  • 1-2 slices of brown or wholemeal bread

Protein source (select 1-2 components per meal = approx. 10-20 g protein):

  • 200 ml milk
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1 piece hard cheese (approx. 30 g)
  • 1 -2 triangles of cheese spread
  • 60 g soft cheese

Vegetables / fruits (select 1-2 components per meal):

  • 1 seasonal fruit
  • 1 handful berries
  • 1 handful vegetables


Carbohydrate source (select one component per meal; 1 portion = 1 handful):

  • 1 portion pasta, rice, cooked grains
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes
  • 1-2 slices bread
  • Pulses (lentils, chickpeas, etc.), sweetcorn

Protein source (select 1-2 components per meal = approx. 10-20 g protein):

  • 120g meat, fish or poultry
  • 120g tofu
  • 1 piece hard cheese (approx. 30g)
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 150-200g cottage cheese
  • 150-200g quark, yoghurt

Vegetables / fruits (select 1-2 components per meal):

  • Fill half the plate with vegetables (cooked or raw)
  • 1 seasonal fruit as dessert
  • 1 bowl of salad
  • 2 medium-sized carrots
  • 6 cherry tomatoes


As for breakfast or lunch

Snacks straight before sport

  • Biberli (Appenzell gingerbread)
  • Leckerli (Basel spiced biscuits)
  • rice cakes (maybe with honey)
  • pretzel sticks
  • pretzels
  • dried fruit (test for intolerance!)
  • bananas
  • toast and honey


For athletes with more than 60’ training per day at mid or high intensity: After training, add ½-1 portion carbohydrates.

Immediately after highly intensive/long training sessions: Add an extra ½-1 portion of a protein component and possibly combine with an added ½ portion of carbohydrate. For example: 300 ml milk + 1-2 teaspoons chocolate powder.

Nutritional tips for competitions

  • The basic rule is to try out for yourself which foods you tolerate.
  • Many people find liquid food easier to tolerate than solid food.
  • Special sportfoods often have an optimal composition of ingredients and have usually been tested several times. Here, too, it is very different from person to person as to who tolerates what.
  • Foods that contain a lot of fructose or are artificially sweetened tend to cause digestive problems.
  • Since bars are very dry, they're difficult for athletes to swallow when running due to a lack of saliva, which can be very unpleasant.

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