One of the most common topics of conversation among runners is food, and for good reason. Just like the engine of a car, a runner’s body requires fuel in order to perform properly. Just as no one would put low-grade fuel into a sports car, runners should fuel their bodies with high quality nutrients for the best results. What does optimal eating look like at every stage of the training cycle? Anna Weber, an elite runner and Olympic trials qualifier, gives us her tips on nutrition for runners.
Nutrition for Runners During Training
- A wholesome carbohydrate source (i.e. brown rice, root vegetables, quinoa),
- A lean protein (chicken, tofu, turkey, beans, lentils, pork), and
- A healthy fat (salmon, avocado, coconut, olive oil) at every meal.
For endurance athletes, rough guidelines suggest that 60% of calories come from carbs, 20% from protein, and the remaining 20% from fat. However, the most important aspects are to listen to the body’s hunger cues and to fuel with high-quality ingredients. You should also include plenty of variety within one’s diet, and to be aware that diets are not “one-size-fits-all.”
During training runs, carb intake is important for any activity lasting more than 75 minutes. This macro nutrient is not only crucial for maintaining energy, but also for improving recovery. It does this by ensuring that muscles do not breakdown to the point that healing is hindered. During long efforts, you should consume 20 – 60 grams of carbs per hour of running.
Related: 5 Essential Supplements for Runners
After a long or hard workout, eating a snack that is approximately 200 calories, with a 4:1 carb to protein ratio, is necessary for optimal muscle recovery. Runners should consume this post-workout snack within 30 minutes of completing the workout. The reason for this is muscles are most primed for repair at this time.
In addition, there are a number of supplements that benefit endurance athletes. Vitamin D and iron are great for improving energy levels. Vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, calcium, chromium, L-Glutamine, and folic acid are excellent for aiding in muscle recovery.
Race Day Nutrition
Nutrition for runners on race day will vary slightly from training nutrition. In the 72 hours before a race, runners should carb load by aiming to consume 8 – 10 grams of carbs per kg of body weight while limiting fat intake. This will ensure that muscles are properly loaded with glycogen for conversion into glucose, which is the body’s main energy source.
During the race athletes should plan to use all the same carb sources that they practiced with during training. They should never try anything new the night before or day of the race.
After the race runners should spend a few days allowing themselves to relax. They should enjoy the foods they may have limited during training.
Fat and protein are necessary during this recovery period in order to provide muscles with the proper building blocks for recovery.
Runners should also focus on consuming plenty of probiotic sources since endurance training and racing can deplete the stomach and intestines of beneficial bacteria. Good probiotoc sources include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and fermented vegetables.
We would love to hear about your training preparation as well as any tips you might have to offer to those runners looking to start or improve their nutrition!
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About the Author
Anna Weber is an elite runner from Indianapolis, USA. In July 2015 she made the brave decision to put her PhD in Analytical Chemistry on hold so that she could follow her true passion – running.Since then she has worked harder than ever before and in October 2015 she qualified for the Olympic Trials at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in a time of 2:38:39.
Anna’s huge success is recognized by the running apparel company Oiselle, whose mission is to provide inspiration and support to women of all running levels. Oiselle have made Anna a member of their Haute Volée team which is their Elite Team.
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