Basic Nutrition for Endurance Athletes, Part 2: Micronutrients, What are They and Why Athletes Need Them

Micronutrients, What are They and Why Athletes Need Them

Build a Strong Fueling Foundation for Victory, Blog Series Part 2

Piggy backing off last month’s post where we discussed macronutrients, this month we will discuss micronutrients. In order to optimize performance through nutrition we need to start with the basics and build a solid foundation. Similar to how base training builds a foundation in which top end efforts and season-long fitness is built off of, a well-balanced eating pattern provides the necessary nutrients the body needs to function and support health and training.

Micro Level:

Micronutrients are chemical elements or substances required in trace amounts for the normal growth and development of living organisms. Vitamins and Minerals are the most commonly discussed micronutrients. Other compounds such as essential fatty acids, individual amino acids, phytochemicals and adaptogens are also considered micronutrients in some fields. Micronutrients are found in all whole foods in varying amounts, degrees of availability, and types. In order to prevent depletion in any one nutrient, it is best to fill one’s diet with a variety of foods. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats and seafoods, dairy, and legumes.

What sets endurance athletes apart from the rest of the population:

Endurance athletes require more of everything, but especially carbohydrates, protein, and micronutrients. In order to fuel training and competition at maximum capacity the body requires proper fuel in the form of carbohydrates before and during exercise. Muscle breakdown happens at a more accelerated rate in endurance athletes compared to those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle, and therefore these athletes need more protein throughout the day. Every bodily process and organ is working faster and harder when the body has a stimulus from physical activity and therefore these individuals require more vitamins and minerals to function. In order to get the most out of an athlete’s training and competition, athletes needs to consume a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods.

A short list of micronutrients:

Fat-Soluble Vitamins:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

Water-Soluble Vitamins:

  • Vitamin C
  • B Vitamins 

Fatty Acids:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Amino Acids:

  • Essential Amino Acids (arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine)
  • Branched Chain Amino Acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine) 

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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.