Proper nutrition for runners is essential to enhancing training and performance. While opinions may vary and misinformation exists, there are some basic recommendations to follow that can help runners optimize their health and fitness.
Nutrition for Runners
The best source of quick and long-lasting energy for athletes, carbohydrates should make up 50-65% of a runner’s diet, including whole grain breads, pasta and rice; along with a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Instrumental in repairing damaged tissue and building muscle, protein should make up approximately 15-25% of the daily diet, with runners aiming to consume .5 to .75 grams of protein for each pound of their body weight. Good sources include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans and low-fat dairy products.
Fat is not the enemy, but ingesting too much fat can add pounds. Fat should be 15-25% of daily intake, including nuts, oils and cold-water fish, which is a great source of Omega-3 fat.
Running produces free radicals, which can damage cells in the body, and vitamins A, C and E are powerful antioxidants that can help neutralize these free radicals. Most experts recommend that vitamins are consumed through food, if possible, versus a supplement.
Calcium, found in dairy products, beans, eggs and dark leafy vegetables, helps to prevent stress fractures and osteoporosis by strengthening the bones. Aim for 1,000 to 1300 mg daily.
Because iron delivers oxygen to cells, without enough of it, you’re likely to fatigue. The daily goal for men is 8 mg, and 18 mg a day for women. Sources include lean meats, nuts, leafy green vegetables, shrimp and scallops.
Sodium and electrolytes
Sodium and other electrolytes such as potassium are lost through sweat and must be replaced. Most Americans get plenty of sodium in their regular diets, but a sports drink is a good way to supplement during and after long runs or races.
Of course, along with good food choices, proper nutrition for runners includes drinking plenty of water to remain safely hydrated. Minimize ingestion of coffee, tea and alcohol, which all are diuretics, in favor of pure water, for best results. By taking charge of their diet, runners can accomplish even more in training and racing.