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Diet for Cardio Training

By Chris Dinesen Rogers ; Updated July 18, 2017

Cardiovascular training is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. The American Council on Exercise considers aerobic exercise one of three things every exercise program should include. Your diet should support your physical activity, allowing you to get an adequate number of cardio workouts by providing you with the necessary energy. Consult your doctor before beginning any new diet or exercise regimen.

Calorie Intake

The crux of your diet for cardio training is providing adequate caloric intake to support your activities. Cardio training can burn significant amounts of calories. High-impact aerobics, for example, can burn more than 500 calories per hour in a 160-pound person, the Mayo Clinic calculates. Running 8 mph for an hour can burn more than 900 calories for that same person. Your diet, therefore, should provide the energy your body will demand.

Diet Composition

Your diet must focus on ready sources of energy, as your body will tap two such sources. It will first use sugar or glucose in your blood to fuel your cardio training. It will then use reserves of sugar and fat to maintain strength and energy through longer workouts. To create these reserves, the Mayo Clinic recommends that you load up on carbohydrates before intense training by making them 70 percent of your diet. While your body can break down proteins for energy, it is an insufficient source for sustained activity.


The diet for cardio training will create the maximum amount of reserves for your body when it will need them most. Energy drain can cause you to hit the wall when you are working out. Your diet anticipates this scenario with plenty of glycogen, the stored form of sugar. It will also provide fuel to help your body recover after intense activity. Your intense training may cause tiny tears in your muscle fibers; repairing these tissues will also take energy. Your diet will ensure that your recovery from training does not suffer due to a lack of energy.

Weight Loss

You can also modify your diet during cardio training so you lose some weight, by reducing your calorie intake. You will lose one pound a week if you trim 250 calories per day and burn another 250 daily through cardio training. The more intense your cardio training, the fewer calories you need to cut out of your diet to lose weight.


Both your diet and cardio training can help improve your cardiovascular health. With exercise, you can reduce your blood pressure and dependence on medication, the Mayo Clinic reports. To get the health benefits, your diet must provide adequate nutritional content. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will provide the necessary foundation for your cardio training, while improving your overall health.

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