Nutrition For Endurance Athletes: Best Endurance Foods For Energy and Stamina

By Danny Webber
Danny Webber is a SENr registered practitioner, an ISAK certified Anthropometrist and a UK Anti-Doping accredited adviser.
| Updated on April 20, 2022

Fuelling your body with the right energy and nutrients is fundamental for maximising performance. 

Eating a variety of foods, “a rainbow a day”, is the best way to ensuring your body receives an abundant supply of all nutrients allowing your body to perform, recover and develop after each training session.

Nutrient deficiencies are the main cause for premature fatigue, and a common reason for this can be a reduction in the amount of red blood cells or haemoglobin, a protein within red blood cells that carry oxygen in the blood. 

This will result in reduced oxygen availability and transport of nutrients to the working muscle, ultimately impairing energy production.

Iron, copper, vitamin A, B6, B9 and B12 all aid in red blood cell and haemoglobin production, therefore its essential to include them in endurance athlete diet regularly.

Here are 3 foods that are best nutrition for endurance athletes to promote the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to maximise cycling performance.

3 Best Endurance Foods that Gives Energy and Stamina:

1. Liver

Protein foods like seafood, poultry and animal meats, particularly red meat are well known for being a great source of iron and can be great diet for endurance athletes.

 Iron comes in 2 forms, heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron which is found in meat is better absorbed than plant-based non-heme iron, therefore eating meat enhances the availability of haemoglobin production.

Of all the red meats to choose from, liver is significantly richer in all of the micronutrients that contribute to red blood cell and haemoglobin production (see table below). 

One to two servings of liver per week is a good way to supply your body with these essential nutrients and promote energy metabolism. 

There’s very little difference in nutrient content between different types of liver, so if you’re thinking which animal’s liver you should eat just choose whichever you prefer to eat.


Red Meat (100g)

Beef Liver (100g)


3.3 mg

8.8 mg


.18 mg

12.0 mg

Vitamin A

40 IU

30,400 IU

Vitamin B6 – Pyridoxine

.07 mg

.73 mg

Vitamin B9 – Folic Acid

4.0 mcg

145.0 mcg

Vitamin B12 – Cobalamins

1.84 mcg

111.3 mcg

2. Kale

Dark leafy green vegetables are an excellent source of non-heme iron and other nutrients vital for red blood cell production. 

Although heme iron rich foods are better for iron absorption, some people do not eat meat or fish e.g. vegetarians. Therefore other food sources must be included in ample amounts to meet nutrient demands.

Kale is an excellent option that should be eaten regularly in the week. It is rich in vitamins A and B6, copper, and can boost protein intake with just 50kcal per 100g. 

It is also a great source of vitamin C which can improve the absorption of non-heme iron.

3. Beetroot

Beetroot has become a very popular food when considering performance enhancement. There has been a lot of interesting research in the last 10 years to link beetroot intake with improved performance, primarily the form of juice and highly concentrated shots. 

This has been attributed to beetroots being naturally rich in nitrates which are converted to the signalling molecule nitric oxide. Nitric oxide acts as a vasodilator allowing for a more efficient delivery of oxygen to the working muscles.

Although beetroot is credited for its role in enhanced blood flow, you shouldn’t be surprised that it also contains other nutrients that facilitate healthy blood cell production. 

It is also a great source of vitamin B9, copper and many other nutrients, but it’s not just the root that should be eaten as the leaves offer similar nutritional properties to kale being rich in iron, vitamins A and C.

Essential Sports Nutrition For Endurance Athletes

Complex Carbs:

Energy levels are sustained for longer compared to simple carbohydrates as they are digested and broken down slowly. They are also generall a greater source of fibre which slows digestion and contain more vitamins and minerals.


A lack of iron in your diet can result in reduced red blood cell count and may lead to iron deficiency anaemia. 

This can cause tiredness and lack of energy and poor athletic performance. 

The main foods which are rich in iron are red meat (heme iron) which are more easily absorbed, whereas plant based sources (heme iron) such as beans, nuts, dried fruits and some vegetables like spinach and broccoli. 

You should consult with your doctor before taking any iron supplements.

Vitamin C:

Vitamin C helps to boost our immune system. It also helps to protect us from infections like colds and coughs. Vitamin C can also enhance the absorption of iron.


Protein is one of the major components for the growth, development, and repair of muscle and other tissues like bone and tendons. 

The foods which are high in protein are meat, fish, eggs, dairy, tofu and beans are important sports nutrition for endurance athletes. Therefore, they should be consumed regularly to improve recovery.

Simple vs Complex carbs

Simple carbs are small in structure and they are easier to digest and can be easily used for immediate energy just before and during exercise. 

Simple carbs have a significant effect on your blood sugar levels as well as energy levels because of their fast digestion rate. 

As a result, consuming too many simple carbs may lead you to feel sluggish.

Here are some examples of simple carbs that you should avoid consuming regularly and in large quantities, such as fruit juice, breakfast cereals, white bread, and processed grains with added sugars.

On the other hand, complex carbs are structured as a chain of sugar molecules which take longer to breakdown. 

Generally, complex carbs are rich in fibre and provide a steady rise in blood sugar levels. As a result, complex carbs help to provide a steady supply of energy throughout the day.

Complex carbs are found in foods like oats, legumes, and whole grains.

Recommended: Also Learn About Nutrition Worshops For Athletes.


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