Runners Nutrition Part 6: Fats

Image: m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.netThe first step to “Good” Nutrition is focusing on what foods you need for optimal performance, instead of focusing on what foods to avoid. Getting the proper nutrients isn’t that easy.

To learn what an endurance athlete needs to eat in order to maximize performance we will focus on two primary objectives:

  • What am I consuming?
  • Why should I consume it?

There are six classes of nutrients. We’ve covered the first four :

water, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Today we’re covering fats.

1. What am I consuming? Fats
Fats are essential for energy production, absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, cell membrane structure, hormone synthesis, insulation and the protection of vital organs.

We will discuss the two categories of fats in terms of their cholesterol concentration. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) carry more cholesterol than high-density lipoproteins (HDL). High levels of LDL cholesterol are directly related to cardiovascular risk while high levels of HDL cholesterol offer protection from heart disease. The concentration of HDL cholesterol is influenced by heredity, gender, exercise and diet.

Diets high in saturated fats increase LDL cholesterol.  A reduction in the sources of saturated fats including meats, animal fat, palm oil, coconut oil, hydrogenated shortenings, whole milk, cream, butter, ice cream and cheese will reduce LDL cholesterol.

2. Why should I consume it?  Fats
Current dietary practices for elite runners in many parts of the world, as well as for much of American society, emphasize low saturated fats and cholesterol, which imply a minimum of red meat intake, and a greater emphasis on vegetable protein and complex carbohydrates.

For athletes scheduling two training sessions per day and who require a high-energy intake that can be assimilated easily and quickly, such emphasis is useful. However, this diet is likely to have a lowered iron content among other essential vitamins and minerals. Including a reduction of the muscle repairing nutrient, protein.

For endurance athletes animal foods are essential. It is easy to find several sources of animal foods without high fat content. Lean red meat, poultry, pork, liver, milk, ostrich, turkey and fish are excellent sources of the nutrients needed for endurance athletes.


Thanks David Martin for your insight on endurance athlete nutrition and letting us use your research. He told us we could glean and share his information, as we’re working to help you guys run faster.

Better Training for Distance Runners by David Martin

 Exercise Physiology by Powers and Howley 331


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  1. Runners Nutrition Part 5: Carbohydrates - GoGo Running — November 14, 2011 @ 7:03 pm