So you decided that you want to start running, but are not sure how to meet the nutritional requirements for properly fueling yourself before, during and after a run.
To help your body perform, endure and recover at its best, you need to know what you’re putting into your body. Since food is what fuels your muscles and provides energy during a run, you should make sure to incorporate these foods into your diet:
Complex Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are an essential food source that provides slow and steady fuel during your runs. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy and beans will help sustain your blood sugar levels so that you don’t experience blood sugar spikes - which can leave you feeling depleted at the end of your run.
Sports Drinks and Water: Sports drinks such as Gatorade help to rehydrate your body quickly and replenish the electrolytes lost during your run. However, they only need to be consumed if you are running for more than 60-90 minutes. If running for under 60-90 minutes, I recommend drinking water. Drink at least 16 ounces two hours before your run, and then another 8-16 ounces 15 to 30 minutes before you hit the pavement. During your run, aim for 4-8 ounces of water every 15 minutes to ensure proper hydration and performance.
Protein: Training has the potential to breakdown muscle protein. All athletes should consume a recommended protein intake of 1.2-1.8 g/kg of body weight versus the DRI (daily required intake) of an average American which is 0.8g/kg of body weight. Often times, athletes will turn to protein bars and supplements, but I believe that practice is unnecessary and a waste of money. I encourage you to consume protein from whole foods such as lean meats like chicken, turkey, fish and non-animal sources such as soy, nuts and beans.
Fats: The consumption of fat does play an important role in endurance exercise. It is recommended that an athlete consume no more than 30 percent of daily calories from fat. To insure adequate fat intake without consuming too much saturated fat, try getting your fat from non-animal sources such as olive oil, canola oil, nuts (almonds and walnuts) and seeds (sunflower and pumpkin). I also encourage you to eat 2-3 portions of oily fish per week. Mackerel, salmon, tuna and many other fish contain important essential fatty acids such as omega-3’s which are vital for heart health, good circulation, mobility of joints, and may have positive effects on fat metabolism.
Although the night before and a few hours before a run are important, it’s the consistency of the diet that counts most. Ensure proper hydration and energy storage before a run by regularly consuming 60 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 10-15 percent from protein and 30 percent or less of calories from fat.
Here's how to work these recommendations into your daily routine:
Pre-Workout Fluid and Fuel Guidelines:
- Eat breakfast, even when training in the morning.
- Eat a carbohydrate-rich pre-exercise meal 1-4 hours before training or competition.
- Limit fat and fiber intake. They delay digestion and may cause GI distress.
- Avoid caffeine as it may also cause GI distress.
Post-Workout Fluid and Fuel Guidelines
- Eat or drink carbohydrate sources immediately. For example: fruit, gel pack or sports drink.
- Within 1-2 hours of finishing your exercise, have a snack or meal that includes complex carbohydrates and protein.
- Drink 8 ounces for every pound of body weight lost after exercise.
Read more Goal Getter for healthy eating, weight loss and more.