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Food for Endurance and Stamina: Eat to Compete

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Jan 20, 2022

Food for Endurance and Stamina: Eat to Compete

Food is life, both literally and figuratively speaking. For athletes and those with physically demanding jobs, what you eat can affect your performance and recovery. That is why eating food for endurance and stamina can help get you through tough workouts and long days.

Food for Endurance and Stamina

Because food is fuel for our bodies (just like gasoline is for cars) it is essential for us to to eat the right things. Initially, our brain and body rely on glucose and simple carbs for energy. After these are used up, we begin to tap into stored forms of glucose known as glycogen. With prolonged physical activity, we start to burn fat and muscle for fuel.

Fast and hard workouts like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) last seconds to minutes at a time. However, activities like triathlons and hiking or manual labor such as construction and shipping are also endurance-dependent activities. Endurance activities are generally non-stop for 30 minutes to several hours. Because of this, the body runs out of glucose and starts tapping into stored forms of energy.

During long workouts or endurance training sessions that last for more than an hour, experts suggest eating small snacks or food for endurance and stamina. At 30-minute intervals, take a bite or two of low-fat, easy-to-digest carbs. Good food options are small servings of dried fruit, slices of fresh fruit, or low-fat yogurt. Preparing a smoothie or juice beforehand is a convenient way to get fuel on the go.

The term “carbo-loading” is often associated with marathon runners, but the concept can be applied to others who do prolonged activities. Consuming more carbohydrates days and hours before you plan to do heavy physical activities will improve your endurance and stamina. In addition, consuming protein a few hours before will prevent muscle damage and provide another source of energy.

food for endurance and stamina

Examples of food for endurance and stamina include:

  • Complex carbs or whole-grains (e.g. bread, rice, oatmeal, pasta)
  • Lean meat (e.g. beef, chicken)
  • Fish and seafood
  • Green or leafy vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cabbage, petchay)
  • Starch or root vegetables (e.g. potatoes, kamote, carrots)
  • Nuts and nut butters (e.g. peanut butter)
  • Dairy products
  • Soy products or milk alternatives
  • Fresh fruits

Avoid too much fiber and fat before exercising, as these can slow digestion and make you feel bloated. You may also need to increase your caloric intake if you do endurance exercises regularly. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about your individual nutritional needs.

Best Food for Recovery

You can prevent injury and preserve energy by eating food that helps your body recover after hard-hitting activities. After workouts, you should focus on eating food that builds and repairs muscle fibers, restores glycogen for energy storage, and rehydrates your body.

Examples of post-workout recovery food include:

Key Takeaway

In summary, endurance athletes and laborers rely on their bodies’ day in and day out. That’s why eating the right food to improve your endurance and stamina is important. If you are planning on changing your diet, ask your doctor or dietitian for advice.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated Jan 20, 2022

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