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A Diet Checklist for Distance Runners

from The Cincinnati Post

Question: What is the proper nutrition plan for long-distance runners?

Answer: Runners, like other athletes, should eat a balanced diet containing all of the five food groups (grains, fruits, vegetables, milk and meat).

Calories will vary depending on the sex, size (weight) and activity level of the runner. Most long-distance runners will need about 2,400-3,500 calories per day.

The most important nutrient though, is carbohydrate. Carbohydrates provide your body with the proper fuel to sustain long endurance events. Carbohydrate is stored in the body as glycogen.

Glycogen is then converted to glucose for the body to use for energy while exercising.

Foods high in carbohydrate include grains (rice, cereal, bread, crackers, noodles, etc.), fruit and fruit juice, dairy products and some vegetables (corn, peas, potatoes, dried beans).

The diet of a long-distance runner should be at least 60 percent carbohydrate, but some experts advocate up to 70 percent carbohydrate.

This adds up to 350-450 grams of carbohydrate per day for most runners.

Protein needs are also a little higher than the RDA for long-distance runners. Protein is needed to help replenish glycogen stores, as well as build and repair muscle tissue.

To figure out your protein needs, divide your weight by 2.2 to convert it to kilograms. Most runners need at least 1-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram. The RDA is 0.8 gram/kg.

Finally, water and other fluids are extremely important to keep you well-hydrated during your long runs.

Drink at least eight to 10 glasses of water per day and also hydrate before, during and after you exercise.

Answer provided by Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, Adjunct Instructor: Nutrition Sciences, College of Allied Health Sciences, University of Cincinnati.

NetWellness, a collaboration of the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State University and Case Western Reserve University, is a consumer health information site on the World Wide Web (netwellness.org).

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