Prokit 10: Nutrition

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Top athletes, coaches and experts agree that nutrition is a key ingredient to top performance in endurance sports. Optimizing nutrition and figuring out what works best can be very individual and depends on context, but there are some common themes: eating a balanced diet, eating whole foods, for some completely plant based, and eating enough to replenish all systems. 
We brought together ten insights from our deep-dive podcasts and expert interviews for this week’s Prokit 10 on nutrition. We hope they will give you some food for thought or inspiration to think more about your own nutrition.

  1. “My husband and I have always eaten whole foods; we like to cook for ourselves, eat locally when possible, and focus on high-quality ingredients without really having a restrictive diet. It’s very balanced.” — Sarah True, Olympian and Ironman triathlete (@sbtrue)
  2. “I think it’s so important to properly fuel your body with not just the energy but also the nutrition that it needs to rebuild and recover after hard efforts. I’m not on any sort of fancy diet. I like to eat whole foods, meat, vegetables, starch, and fruit…. I’ll eat until I’m full and I’ll eat when I’m hungry. I’m interested in a long term running career and for that you have to adequately fuel your body and not fall into an energy deficiency cycle, which will lead to adverse effects down the road. If you’re on a restrictive diet and you’re training heavily, you can get super lean, super light, super fast, but that’s a very short term result. Long term you’re going to have bone fracture injuries. You’re going to have the side effects of losing your period. You’re going to have mood disorders because being hungry makes people unhappy.” — YiOu Wang, pro ultrarunner (@yiouwang)
  3. “Nutrition needs are different depending on the level of the sport and the intensity and duration of training daily and weekly…. I pay close attention to energy deficits in athletes. I’m quite focused on helping athletes meet energy needs, by this I mean replacing the calories they burn, both for recovery, performance and health, including bone health, hormones and mental health.” — Anne Guzman, sports nutritionist and former pro cyclist (@anneguzman)
  4. “When you’re eating plant foods close to their natural state – when you eliminate the processed crap, no matter what your diet is – you’re going to get yourself to the 10-yard line…. I’m eating a very nutrient-dense diet high in phytonutrients, micronutrients, minerals, and vitamins – all the things you need to function well. It’s also a very anti-inflammatory diet. “ — Rich Roll, ultra endurance athlete, author and podcast host (@richroll)
  5. “I started changing my diet [to a vegan diet] in the middle of my race season. I was worried that I would get slower, or that I wouldn’t get enough calories. I didn’t really know any pro endurance athletes who were vegan, but I had to give it a try. Something weird happened. I got faster. I wasn’t expecting that to happen. A plant-based diet is the best anti-inflammatory diet you can eat. It reverses heart disease, which for many people will start when they’re children…. Almost daily, I get feedback from people that their lives are better because they’ve changed their diet completely or added in more plant-based foods.” — Sonya Looney, pro mountain biker and entrepreneur (@sonyalooney)
  6. “I found it’s better to eat nothing than to eat the wrong thing. It requires a hell of a lot of discipline but to me if there’s not food that is healthy and good, I just fast and I find better results with that…. Some people who know my story are going to be laughing because I’m known as the guy who ordered a pizza while he was running. I used to eat, I admit, all kinds of junk food. I thought you’re burning 25,000 calories a day in these things you’re doing. Get in the calories however you can. I’ve gone full circle over the years and have cleaned up my diet tremendously. Now I don’t eat anything that’s processed, anything that’s refined, anything in a bag.” — Dean Karnazes, Ultramarathon Man and best-selling author (@deankarnazes)
  7. “For runners, the most important thing in training is eating enough food. That might be more food than a lot of people think, especially if they look at magazine covers of runners and think that that’s the goal. No, the goal is to find your strong. It all comes down to glycogen depletion…. Glycogen depletion increases the production of cortisol, a stress hormone. Female athletes, in particular, can’t really perform well if they’re training in glycogen depletion or if they’re living glycogen-depleted.” — David Roche, elite trail and ultra runner and coach (@davidroche)
  8. “One of the biggest mistakes I see is athletes overcomplicating it. I think it’s best to keep it simple and listen to what your body craves, but also make sure to eat balanced meals and a lot of diversity. Right now, there are all kinds of different diets and nutrition studies out there. I think staying consistent, eating enough, getting enough protein, and just being smart works best. Use your brain and keep it simple.” — Megan Roche, elite trail and ultra runner and coach (@meganroche)
  9. “If I had to say one nutrition thing that I think is universally important and is not individual, it’s have some kind of recovery shake after your hard workouts.” — Kate Courtney, world champion mountain biker (@katecourtney)
  10. “I never did anything extreme with my diet. I saw a lot of athletes try to do things that were extreme. Maybe they would get a benefit for a very short period of time, but then there would be a cost. I try to tune into how food was affecting my energy levels and my performance and my recovery.” — Mark Allen, 6x Ironman world champion (@markallengrip)

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