Beef Jerky: The Endurance Athlete's Secret Nutritional Weapon

For some reason, beef jerky holds a reputation as a "junk food" and an unhealthy snack. Believe it or not, nothing could be further from the truth! Beef jerky is actually a fantastic food to add to your endurance training diet. Here are the reasons why.

Beef Jerky's Health Benefits

A mere ounce of beef jerky offers over nine grams of protein and a healthy supply of both iron and zinc. To the endurance athlete, this translates into a powerhouse of a snack.

Endurance athletes frequently suffer from low iron blood levels. This is because iron plays an integral role in the body's ability to use oxygen--something that endurance athletes particularly need. Unfortunately, this need is seldom met because endurance athletes' activities negatively impact their bodies' ability to retain consumed iron, losing much of it through sweat, broken blood vessels, and the common but dreaded "runner's trots."

Endurance athletes also benefit from increased zinc intake. Studies show that zinc contributes to muscle strength and recovery, improved sleep, and increased immunity. These three factors are intimately connected with the endurance athlete's ultimate performance, but like iron, zinc is readily lost through sweat and bodily fluids. 

The benefits of these two minerals, coupled with the muscle-boosting benefits of protein, make beef jerky a valuable (albeit overlooked) food source for the endurance athlete.

Incorporating Beef Jerky Into Your Training Diet

You can very easily reap the benefits of this nutritional powerhouse. As a high-protein food, beef jerky serves as a very valuable post-workout snack. Strenuous workouts, especially those involving long distances, can wreak havoc on your muscles. Extreme distances can break down your muscle fibers, leaving them especially desirous of a protein treat. 

If you gravitate to the obscenely strenuous activities, like ultramarathons or triathlons, consider incorporating beef jerky into your race snack pack. Naturally, you will survive these races on high-carbohydrate, energy-rich foods, like performance gels, bananas, and those strange salt-dipped boiled potatoes, but the endurance athlete cannot survive on carbs alone. Long races, whether by bicycle or foot, can take a toll on the self esteem. When the going gets tough and you start feeling discouraged, the fats in beef jerky can help boost your mood--and your resolve to win. Furthermore, the high sodium content in beef jerky will help replace the massive amounts you'll sweat out along the route.

Beef jerky from a company like Gio's Jerky is so easy to carry along on the road, and its nutritional benefits are delivered in compact bites. As an added bonus, beef jerky is delicious and available in a variety of flavors. Experiment with beef jerky before using it on race day, however; like all foods, make sure that your body is used to it before you consume it miles into your race.