Diet And Running - Running
to Eat? Or Eating to Run?Road Runner Sports Run Today Newsletter
Youve probably heard more times than
you care to remember that your body is like a finely tuned car and wont
run well without the proper fuel. Granted, this cliché is as trite as
the one that marathon runners often hear, "26 miles! I get tired just driving
my car that far!" but no matter how hackneyed the car analogy sounds, it
happens to be true. If you dont eat right, you wont be able to run (or do any
type of physical exercise) for very long.
Dieting and Running
People often start running because they want
to lose weight. Running is an excellent way to lose weight, provided you take
in enough calories to support the energy youre expending. If youre
trying to lose weight, and youre using running or brisk walking as your
primary means of exercise, keep these tips in mind:
- Eat several smaller meals
a day, rather than two or three big meals.
- Bump up your carbohydrate
intake. Carbs are your primary energy source when you run.
- Drink half your body
weight (in pounds) in fluid ounces every day. Besides plain water, you should
drink "sports drinks" (particularly when you run for longer than 45 minutes.)
These drinks will provide you with the carbohydrates and protein you need to
replenish muscle tissue and reduce muscle damage that occurs after more intense
- Avoid a diet high in fat,
especially fats that are derived from animal sources like beef, butter and
whole milk. Focus on "good" fats like olive oil, fish oils and nuts, seeds and
- Your daily fat intake
should be no more than 30%.
Vitamins are a good way for runners and
other endurance athletes to get necessary nutrients that they might be missing
in their daily diets.
- Despite the best
intentions, many people today simply dont have the time (or wont
make the time) to eat right. If youre not eating enough calories a day to
sustain your activities, and youre not eating a well-balanced diet that
contains enough fruits, vegetables and good oils you're missing out on
important vitamins. Getting those vitamins in pill form is better than not
getting them at all.
- Processed foods are
missing a lot of vitamins and nutrients. Always go for fresh when at all
possible. Choose whole wheat grains and flours and avoid highly processed
cheese "foods" and other "convenience foods". If you think your diet contains
too many processed foods, take a daily vitamin supplement to make sure
youre getting what you need.
The Skinny on Sports Bars and Gels
Sports bars and gels come in almost as many
varieties as runners! In the past twenty years sports bars have evolved from
gritty, cardboard-tasting flat snacks that clung to your teeth to candy
consistency bars flavored to taste like everything from latte to salsa and
everything in-between. The bar you choose depends on your activity level and
what tastes best to you.
Bars vary in their amounts of carbohydrates
and protein. Endurance athletes need plenty of carbohydrates in their diet, so
sports bars that are higher in carbs make good between-meal snacks (provided
theyre coupled with a source of protein like yogurt or cheese).
Theyre also good as a pre-workout or pre-race source of energy. Keep in
mind though that they arent a substitute for a regular meal. If
youre doing a long training run, or running a race, use a sports bar
pre-run for fuel, but make sure you eat a meal within an hour of finishing.
Many of the newer sports bars are frosted or
dipped in a coating like chocolate. Although these may taste quite good, keep
in mind that if youre trying to lose or maintain weight, you would be
better off eating a piece of fruit as a snack. The coated and frosted bars are
high in calories and sugar. Bars with a high sugar content may also cause
energy levels to fall rapidly after an initial spike. Low-glycemic bars that
contain less sugar help sustain energy without highs and lows.
If youre a woman whos concerned
about osteoporosis, try one of the sports bars developed specifically for
women. They contain calcium, zinc and soy protein. Keep in mind though that
they dont contain all the minerals you need for the day.
Energy gels are an excellent way to give
yourself an "jolt" of sugar and carbohydrate during a long training run or a
marathon. Studies show that runners who participate in prolonged, intense
activity (a run over 90 minutes, for instance) are at a heightened risk for
developing an upper respiratory infection during the 2 hours immediately
following the activity. If youre going to be running longer than 90
minutes, you should consume ½ gram of carbohydrate per pound of body
weight for each hour beyond the 90-minute mark. Because sports gels are easily
carried, theyre one of the best ways to consume carbohydrates "on the run".
Just make sure you wash the gel down with a 6-8 ounces of water.
Dont Forget to Drink! (Something Other than
Water, That Is)
Water is, of course, critical
not only to life but to your performance. However, water alone doesnt
give you everything you need when youre training hard or racing
(particularly longer races from the half-marathon distance and up.)
Sports drinks provide glycogen, electrolytes
and antioxidants that are necessary for endurance, tissue repair and reducing
post-workout muscle damage. Sports drinks with only electrolytes and/or
glycogen are good to use during training, while those with glycogen and protein
help reduce post-exercise muscle damage and help your body recover quicker from
a hard workout or race.
5 Important Nutrition Tips to Keep in
Put color on your plate!
Choose foods with deep hues when youre at the grocery store or
fruit/vegetable stand. Foods with a lot of color are loaded with antioxidants,
which help protect your body from oxygen molecules called free radicals. Free
radicals cause damage to our immune systems. Squash, carrots, tomatoes,
watermelons, strawberries, red cabbage, broccoli and spinach are all examples
of foods whose colors can help you stay healthy!
Eat garlic and onions every day. They both
contain a compound called allyl sulfide, which has been known to increase
levels of infection-fighting white blood cells and enhance the efficiency of
antibody production. Use garlic generously in pasta sauces and chicken or meat
dishes, and try to consume one medium onion a day by eating sliced onion on
sandwiches or chop it and put it into sauces, stews and soups.
Eat yogurt once a day. Eating yogurt with
active cultures increases the amount of "friendly bacteria" in your intestines,
which helps fight off germs. Look for yogurt thats less than a week old
to guarantee that youll reap the full benefit of the active cultures.
Eat more vitamin E. This vitamin is good for
your immune system, which can be compromised if youre working out and/or
racing hard on a regular basis. Its found in almonds, wheat germ, whole
grains and vegetable oils.
Maintain your energy levels by eating small
meals every 3-4 hours. Your meals should be a mix of carbohydrate and protein.
For instance, a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread with a glass of
milk is a good mid-day snack/mini-meal.