Fuel Your Body for Running
with Proper Running Nutrition Road Runner
Sports Run Today Newsletter
Eat right and you'll run better. It's that
simple. Your body functions best, and you run better, when your diet includes
the right kinds of foods in the right amounts at the right times. The following
information will enable you to put together your ideal diet, one that will help
you achieve your ideal body weight, and get the most out of your running.
You'll learn the basics of good sports nutrition. Finally, you'll learn how to
hydrate and fuel your body before, during and after your workouts. We'll start
with information about the right kinds of foods. Ready? Here goes!
Why are carbohydrates so important? Here's
the easy one-word answer: Energy! Carbs, as they're affectionately called,
provide a steady stream of energy. So why not just pig out on carbs? Bad idea.
The body can store energy from carbs, but only in small amounts (think of a
storage unit versus a warehouse). These small amounts are used up quickly
during exercise. After a quick jolt, you're running on empty. And you can't
overload that storage unit either becasue the body punishes you by turning the
excess carbs to fat! The trick is to store energy by eating carbs on a
continuous basis. Experienced runners eat the right carbs in the right amounts
at the right times! Carbohydrates are also known as sugars. Experts recommend
that your diet consist of 50 to 70% carbohydrates. The standard unit for the
energy your body uses is the calorie. Each gram of carbohydrate provides 4
calories. Got all that? Be ready for a pop quiz at any time! Now, to
continue-carbohydrates are either simple or complex.
Simple carbohydrates are
the most basic form of sugar. Examples of foods containing simple carbohydrates
are candy, fruit and sodas. These foods can provide a quick "shot" of
energy-but it's only temporary. For this reason, you should keep those simple
carbohydrate snacks, like grandma's homemade fudge, to a minimum. But feel free
to enjoy a treat now and then, especially after a good run.
provide energy on a more consistent, long-term basis. That's why experts
recommend that the majority of the calories you get from carbohydrates be in
the form of complex carbohydrates. Foods that are high in complex carbohydrates
include cereals, pasta, breads, rice, and potatoes and vegetables. It's
important that you maintain a diet high in complex carbohydrates to support
your running program.
Performing up to your full potential is
often a matter of balancing a lot of little things. For runners, the little
things include meeting your nutritional needs, working on your strength and
flexibility, as well as controlling stress and maintaining mental health.
Successful runners set challenging but realistic goals, plan carefully, train
patiently, eat and sleep well and cultivate a positive mental outlook.
Attending to the little things not only creates athletes, it's a key
characteristic of those who achieve excellence, variety and balance in their
chosen vocations, relationships and inner lives. Each of us can improve upon a
few of the little things that make a big difference.
Fats, in general, get a bum rap. There's a
lot of confusion about how much fat is healthy in your diet and the type of fat
you should be eating. So here's the scoop-your body needs fat. The problem is
that fat is strongly linked to heart disease and other medical problems. More
scoop-not all fats are created equal. They're all okay in limited amounts, but
some are more okay than others. Fats are classified as (1) saturated, (2)
poly-unsaturated and (3) mono-unsaturated.
Saturated fats are easy to spot
because they remain solid at room temperature. Common examples include lard,
butter and cheese. These fats are required by the body in small amounts and
should be a small part of your overall fat intake.
These fats stay semi-solid
at room temperature. Many margarine and butter alternatives are made with
Mono-unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Examples
include olive oil and most other natural oils. Some foods containing
mono-unsaturated fats have been "hydrogenated." Don't ask what that means but
it's not good. Just avoid them! Recent studies have shown that diets with a
higher proportion of mono-unsaturates seem to reduce risk of heart disease. As
a result, you should obtain 20 to 30% of your daily calories from fats-with
more from mono-unsaturated than from the other two. All excess fat in your diet
is stored in your body as..? You guessed it - fat!
Low-fat foods are
foods in which 30% or fewer of the calories in a serving are from fat. Yeah,
that's a head-scratcher, huh? To figure it out, read the nutrition label on the
package. First, find the total number of calories in a serving. Second, find
total number of calories from fat. If the second number is 30% of the first (or
less) you've got low-fat! That doesn't mean you can go on a low-fat binge! You
lose weight by eating fewer calories than you burn. Fats contain humongous
amounts of calories-9 per gram! When you eat less fat, you reduce a risk factor
for disease, but it's no guarantee you'll lose weight. The key is to look at
your diet as a whole, and find out where those calories are coming from. And
don't forget that the amount of exercise you get is just as important as what
As you exercise and eat right, you'll feel
your body getting stronger. Why? Because of the protein you eat. Protein builds
strength in your muscles and tendons, and helps them stay healthy. It also
provides energy-4 calories per gram. Meats, eggs, beans and nuts are common
examples of foods that contain significant amounts of protein. Experts agree
that runners need 10 to 20% of their daily calories from protein. However, most
people eat two to three times their protein requirement each day! So many
burgers, so little time!
Like the surface of planet earth, your body
is mostly water-between 60 and 70%. Although water does not provide any energy
(or calories), your body requires large amounts of H2O in order to function
properly. Water regulates the core temperature of your body. As you run, your
working muscles produce large amounts of heat that must be dissipated to
prevent the core temperature from rising dangerously. To dissipate this heat,
your body perspires, and loses large amounts of water. As a runner, you should
consistently hydrate yourself during both warm and cold weather, so that you
never become thirsty. By the time your thirst mechanism is activated, your body
is already suffering from dehydration-hurting your running and putting you at
risk. You know you're drinking enough water if you urinate about once an hour
and your urine is clear. So-gurgle gurgle-drink lots of water, okay?
carbs 1-2 hours before exercise. Try an energy bar, bowl of cereal, bagel,
fruit...your usual diet. Drink 8-16 oz. of water or combine with the above in a
Consume 25g carbs for every 45 minutes of exercise. Go for a gel pack. They
typically contain 25-30 grams and are easy to digest. Drink 4-8 oz. water or
diluted sports drink for every 15 minutes of exercise.
Consume 25-50g carbs immediately
after exercise. This can be a combination of food and drink. Of course, you
will need to re-hydrate with water while eating an energy bar, bagel, or some
form of carbohydrate. Or, you can drink 25-50 grams of carbohydrates in a
sports drink if you have a hard time eating right after a workout. Begin
drinking 16 oz. of water for every pound lost during exercise. Continue to
drink water throughout the day. Consume another 25-50g carbs 30 minutes after
exercise. Consume 50-100g carbs and 20-40g protein 1 hour after exercise. This
is a good time to eat a well balanced, sit-down meal. Soup and a sandwich,
salads, whatever suits your tastes. Chicken and tuna are great sources of
protein. Consume 50-100g carbs per hour and 20-40g protein every 2 hours.
Continue to do this for 6 hours after your run. You will find that by following
this routine, especially on your long run days, you'll feel refreshed rather
than exhausted after your workout.