Well Fueled: Avoid the Pitfalls of Poor Nutrition

April 22, 2024

We all know obtaining good nutrition is crucial, but when life is in full swing, it can be so easy to eat poorly, not eat enough or forget to eat entirely. This is also true with hydration, when we are busy we often forget to stay well hydrated throughout the day. While this isn't such a bad thing during the day, we run into problems when we enter our training or racing sessions in a dehydrated state. Likewise, while missing a meal once or twice won't hurt you, this becomes incredibly risky for endurance athletes if a habit is developed.

Lack of nutrition, otherwise known as low energy availability (LEA), is dangerous for endurance athletes and will put you at risk for the following:

  • Reduced endurance performance
  • Increased risk for injury
  • Decreased immunity
  • Increased susceptibility to infections
  • Increased risk of bone stress injuries
  • Impaired absorption of nutrients

Stress fractures in particular creep up over time with no notice and then put you out for an entire season. In a sense, I like to compare this to high blood pressure or high cholesterol, these are known as the silent killers. People will feel fine, seem healthy, and not get their regular checkups. However, they are unaware they have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Left untreated for a time, this state tends to be finally realized when the person has a heart attack or stroke and dies.

While this may seem like an extreme example, stress fractures are very similar in the way they appear. The athlete may be doing well in their training, however, they are not eating anywhere near what they should be to meet the energy and fuel demands to support training and racing. This may be purposeful or not. Months go by with these habits in place, ignoring the signs and symptoms of their body, and the athlete is struck with a "sudden" stress fracture.

Stress fractures are one example of the many pitfalls of poor nutrition. It is essential to understand your caloric needs and how much they can fluctuate through the varying seasons of training. Proper nutrition is a vital element in realizing your full potential as an endurance athlete, and for good health and longevity within the sport and life. If you do not eat according to your goals, how can you expect to achieve them? To learn and understand more, read our article Understanding Good Nutrition for the Endurance Athlete.

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