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Optimal Nutrition for Endurance Exercise: A Systematic Review


Geisel School of Medicine



As fatigue in endurance events correlates with depletion of muscle glycogen, the traditional approach to nutritional support has been carbohydrate loading. However, there has been recent interest in improving athletic endurance performance by novel diets in the days to weeks prior to endurance events, the pre-event meal, and during exercise.


We searched PubMed and SCOPUS for randomized trials published from 1992-2017 with a primary endpoint of endurance performance. We identified 407 citations which were examined against our inclusion criteria of randomization or crossover allocation to diet and for which a primary outcome was endurance performance.


Twenty full text articles met our inclusion criteria and were included in the present review. In the days to weeks prior to testing, one trial of a high-fat diet versus carbohydrate improved performance, the others were neutral. There was no benefit of substituting protein for carbohydrate during this time period, but almond intake did result in ergogenic benefits. In the pre-event meal, fat only showed ergogenic benefits when combined with carbohydrate intake. A single study suggested that vegetable-derived nitrates did provide benefit. During endurance events, partial substitution of carbohydrates with protein had varying results on performance and should be further examined.


Carbohydrates remain the best fuel source both before and during events for overall endurance performance compared to other macronutrients, including water. Partial substitution of carbohydrate with fat and protein immediately before and during events warrants further investigation. Additional trials on nitrates and almond consumption are also needed.


DOI: 10.15226/jnhfs.2017.00198

Original Citation

Bruce W Andrus, Sarah E Andrus (2017) Optimal Nutrition for Endurance Exercise: A Systematic Review. J Nutrition Health Food Sci 5(5):1-9. DOI: