Basic Nutrition for Endurance Athletes, Part 3: Foods to Boost your Fitness, Putting it All Together

Build a Strong Fueling Foundation for Victory, Blog Series Part 3

Now that we’ve discussed what nutrients are, macro and micro, we can start to put it into practice with foods! Below is a list of nutrient-dense foods which are rich in micronutrients and also high quality macronutrients. Nutrient density is a term used often in dietetics which describes foods which have  a high quantity of micronutrients per calorie of food. For example, 1 calorie worth of spinach is jam-packed with potassium, vitamin B6 and B9, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, and calcium. Foods which are considered to be energy-dense have less micronutrients per 1 calorie of food. For example, 1 calorie of a cupcake will have very few vitamins and minerals. It is best to fill your food choices with nutrient dense foods and limit energy dense foods, or at least time them appropriately which we will discuss in further blog posts. 

Anyway you slice it, incorporating these nutrient-dense foods are essential to building a strong foundation in which more advanced performance-based nutrition strategies are built off of. 

Print this list off and put it on your fridge, take a screenshot and make it the background of your phone, memorize it!

Powerhouse nutrient-dense foods for athletes to incorporate:

Carbohydrate-rich foods:

  • sweet potatoes
  • red-skinned potatoes
  • dates
  • figs
  • bananas
  • berries
  • brown rice or white rice
  • quinoa
  • farro
  • 100% whole wheat products
  • oats
  • winter squash (butternut, acorn, spaghetti)

Protein-rich foods:

  • beef tenderloin, round
  • pork tenderloin, pork chops, round
  • chicken thigh and breast
  • lean cuts of pork
  • lamb
  • turkey
  • eggs
  • tuna
  • salmon
  • sardines, mackerel, herring
  • soy products (tempeh, tofu)
  • lentils


  • hard cheese
  • milk
  • kefir
  • Greek yogurt
  • plant-milk substitutes (soy milk)

Fat-rich foods:

  • avocados
  • nuts and seeds
  • plant oils (canola oil, olive oil, coconut oil)
  • nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter)


  • kale
  • collard greens
  • watercress
  • mushrooms (shiitake, crimini)
  • cabbage
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • carrots
  • cherry tomatoes
  • eggplant
  • beets

Ready to take the next step? Schedule a free 15-minute nutrition discovery call with Kristen!

About the author: Kristen Arnold MS, RDN, CSSD is a level 2 USA Cycling coach as well as a Registered Dietitian (RD) specializing in sports nutrition and is a board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). With Kristen’s nutrition expertise and diverse experience in the sport of cycling as a racer and a mentor, she provides a comprehensive approach to her coaching. She works with athletes from the beginner to elite ranks in road, cyclocross, and mountain biking disciplines. Kristen is professional road racer racing with ButcherBox Pro Cycling, and seasoned mountain bike and cyclocross racer. Learn more about Kristen.