Proper nutrition is important among runners for two reasons. One is to supplement their energy to achieve power performance. And two is to meet their nutritional needs. However, runner’s diet and proper nutrition are two of the most overlooked aspects of running that many runners, novices most especially, feel powerless and fatigued every time they run.
When running, runners burn calories, or energy, and to be able to fuel their running, they need to replace the lost calories adequately. Taking the following, in the right amount and at the right time, will do the job.
A normal diet should consist of 40% carbohydrates. For runners, however, the number should be anywhere from 60 to 65%, the reason being, carbohydrates are a good source of energy. Carbohydrates are converted into glucose and are then stored as glycogen. When running, the muscles use the stored glycogen to keep them energized. Sodas and candies provide carbohydrates, only theirs is the so-called simple carbohydrates or those that give energy for a short period of time. What the runners need are complex carbohydrates because these produce energy for long-term use. They can come from pastas, rice, breads, potatoes, and grains. Runners are recommended to take at least three grams of carbohydrates for every pound of body weight everyday. So a 120-pound runner should have 360 grams of carbohydrates daily.
Fats should make up 20 to 25% of the diet. Runners should take their fat requirements mostly from mono-unsaturated fats, or those that are liquid in form, as they are believed to meet sports nutritional needs effectively. Natural oils are good sources of mono-unsaturated fats. Foods with saturated and poly-unsaturated fats, such as red meats, butter, and margarine, are also good, but they should be taken in very minimal amounts. Foods with omega-3, an essential fat, should be also included in the runner’s diet.
To improve muscle stamina, runners are recommended to take .5 to .75 gram of protein for every pound of body weight daily. Proteins are not only a good source of energy, they also help in muscle growth and repair of broken muscles. Protein, which should be 15 to 20% of a runner’s diet, can be acquired from nuts, eggs, fish, beans, grains, and low-fat dairy products.
Runners sweat a lot when running, a normal response to the muscles’ rigorous workout. But in order to prevent dehydration, weakness, and, in more serious cases, heat stroke while running, runners need to constantly replenish the lost amount of fluid. The problem usually is that runners replenish only half of the amount. To be adequately hydrated, they need to drink water before, during, and after running. And whether thirsty or not, they need to continuously hydrate themselves throughout the day.
Vitamins and Minerals
Recent studies pointed out that a runner’s diet should have the vitamins A, C, and E. All three have antioxidant properties that can rid of free radicals. Calcium, which strengthens bones and prevents osteoporosis, and iron, which helps in the delivery of oxygen to all parts of the body, should also be included in the diet. Although most of these vitamins and minerals are obtained from supplements, foods are still the recommended source.