Is there a good diet to increase cardiovascular endurance performance?

A high carbohydrate, balanced, nutrient dense diet enhances endurance performance by: Providing maximum carbohydrate for glycogen storage; Adequate protein for muscle growth and repair; Adequate fat for satiety and essential fatty acid provision; Providing the required amount of vitamins and minerals.

A few tips that I would add to the answer posted by the NASM is to eat a REAL FOOD diet absent of as many packaged and processed foods as possible. 

REAL FOODs are usually more nutrient dense and better assimilated than packaged processed foods. So by including real food complex carbohydrates like whole (sprouted are best) grains, legumes, organic vegetables, organic fruits, lean grass fed hormone free proteins and adequate good fats (olive and coconut oil) you'll be able to enhance not only your performance but your health.

REAL FOODS improve health and endurance performance by:

  • Reducing health risk factors
  • Improving nutrient absorption
  • Optimizing muscle function and repair
  • Increasing energy storage in the form of muscle and liver glycogen
  • Improving the availability of the required vitamins and minerals


Believe it or not, increasing your carbohydrate intake should help increase cardio endurance performance. Your body uses CHO as energy specifically in endurance-type events. Make sure your CHO intake is 60% of your diet. If it is less your endurance performance will probably be suffering.
Heidi Skolnik, MS
Sports Medicine

You also want to make sure that you are properly hydrated. Dehydration causes a decrease in blood flow to the muscles and the brain, which results in the early onset of fatigue and the impairment of mental functioning.

It is best to drink small amounts of fluid more frequently throughout the day, as opposed to a lot at once, and be sure not to skip any meals as food can provide approximately one-third of our fluids daily. For training lasting more than one hour, The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends drinking 5 to 7 ml/kg body weight at least four hours prior, and if needed, 3 to 5 ml/kg body weight two hours prior. For example, a 60 kg (150 lb) athlete should take in approximately 300-420 ml (10-14 oz) four hours prior and 180-300 ml (6-10 oz) two hours prior. A sports drink during extended training sessions is beneficial because it replaces sodium along with fluid lost, supplies the muscles with carbohydrate for fuel, and is flavored to help you drink more.

Proper nutrition is important for everyone. Eating properly alone will not increase your cardiovascular endurance; however, the rights foods will get you through your workouts easier as well as help prevent illnesses that keep you from your fitness routine. It's important to make sure you're getting a proper balance of proteins carbohydrates and fats to not only get you through your workouts but to help recovery as well. Have you ever seen a racehorse eat pizza or drink soda and win the prize?  Getting to know your body and how you get through your workout with different meal plans will take a little time and effort with food logging and also logging how you feel before, during and after your workouts when you're eating certain foods. After a few months you will learn what to eat and when to eat it so you are getting the workouts you want. A good guideline to start would be a few complex carbs before your workout (about an hour before) and a good source of protein within 45 minutes after your workout. This is when your muscles will utilize these nutrients the best and when you have a successful workout; your endurance will naturally increase. 

Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT
Yes and it's to consume ~55-70% of your daily calories from carbohydrates (CHO) such as pastas, rice, breads, cereals, etc. The longer your cardiovascular (CV) activity, the greater the percentage of CHO. A marathoner might consume 70% CHO, while someone who does 1 hour/day of CV activity may do fine with as low as 55%. Depending on how many daily calories you are allowed, your protein intake should be 15-25% and fat 10-20%. Your meal timing around activity is also key. Your largest meal should be ~2-3 hours before your event followed by a small CHO and protein snack/shake 30 minutes before and immediately after. Also, CHO loading during the week before competition can dramatically increase your performance. Using the Sharecare Fitness App, you can design ideal athletic menus individualized for you including proper CHO and protein amounts, meal timing and complete endurance performance food plans. Simply fill in your personal statistics, set your goal and your program is created. The Sharecare Fitness Application is located under the Coach tab; click here for access:
A popular carbohydrate-loading technique requires that you deplete your muscle glycogen stores by reducing your carbohydrate intake and exercise intensity for a few days. This is followed by a reloading phase over the next few days when you increase your carbohydrate intake and taper off exercise.  This allows the body to “super compensate” and store as much as 2-3 times more glycogen (potential energy) than normal.  The result is extended/maximal muscle energy stores on the day of competition, allowing for optimal performance. This loading method normally begins 7 days prior to prolonged endurance events & tournaments with multiple games/matches lasting several hours.
Sherman/Costill Method:
Day 1: 90 min of exercise @ 70-75% V02 max. Consume 50% of total calories from carbs (1.8 g/lb)
Day 2: 40 min of exercise @ 70-75% V02 max. Consume 50% of total calories from carbs (1.8 g/lb)
Day 3: 40 min of exercise @ 70-75% V02 max. Consume 60-65% of total calorieS from carbs (1.8-2.3 g/LB)
Day 4: 20 min of exercise @ 70-75% V02 max. Consume 70% of total calories from carbs (4.5 g/lb)
Day 5: 20 min of exercise @ 70-75% V02 max. Consume 70% of total calories from carbs (4.5 g/lb)
Day 6: Rest. Consume 70% of total calorie from carbs or 4.5 grams per pound of body weight
Day 7: Competition. Consume pre-competition meals and snacks 

The best diet for humans is a plant-based whole foods diet.  Eat lots of vegetables, particularly green leafy ones, fruit, whole grains and legumes.  If weight-loss is not an issue, add in small servings of seeds and nuts. 

If you’re an active athlete, carbs are the way to go. What I find is that most patients have a tendency to overeat once they begin a new exercise regime. It’s important to have a healthy balance between exercise and diet. Eat what you normally would eat.

Carbohydrates, or "carb" heavy foods, such as pastas, rice, breads and cereals, help fuel the muscles and overall endurance capability of athletes. They can also help anyone with a regular aerobic routine produce the energy needed.

But it is also important to eat balanced diets and keep hydrated before, during and after extensive cardiovascular programs.

Sports drinks can help replace sodium in more aggressive cardio routines, and supplement muscles with proper nutrients. But sports drinks are also very high in calories. So water is the best form of hydration.

Your meal timing is also important. Your largest meal should be two to three hours before cardio training. Afterward, wait at least 30 minutes before grabbing a carb-heavy snack or protein bar or shake.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.