Nutrition is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of any runners training. For most people, just running is not enough to help you become more competitive and become a better runner in general. So it is important that you use both proper training methods, and good nutrition, to help you to advance your skill in running.
With that in mind, here are a few key things to keep in mind when thinking about nutrition for distance runners.
Carbohydrates come in two forms, simple and complex. It is a good idea to try to make most of the carbohydrates you intake complex, to help avoid drops in energy levels. Complex Carbs take longer to digest, but once they enter your bloodstream, all carbs appear as simple carbs known as glucose. Some good examples of Carbs that also give you other essential nutrients are as follows, bananas, tomatoes, squash, all cereals and grains, potatoes, and rice. In a perfect world 40 – 50% of your diet should be made up of raw foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Remember that since complex carbs take a long time for your body to digest, you can consume enough carbs the night before to be able to keep you full for your morning run the next day. A good example is a nice big bowl of pasta the night before. Just make sure that you wake up early enough to drink 16 ounces of water and stretch before your run.
Protein is essential to any runners diet because protein is the building blocks of muscles. It is important that you get a good base of lean muscles in your legs, runners may look like they are made of bones, but believe me, anything on there body is lean muscle. So where can you get good protein? Well three key sources are chicken, beef, and fish. As long as they are lean and not fried they are excellent sources of protein. Also, for vegetarians, soy is an excellent source of plant protein. Another way for vegetarians to make up for the lack of protein in there diet is by taking a whey protein supplement. Most protein supplements come in powders that you can add to milk or water, that serve as a good source for extra protein, you don’t have to be a body builder to take these supplements either.
Most people think fats are bad, but in truth there are both good and bad fats, and good fats are a key part of your diet. Good fats come from foods like olive oil, avacados, and nuts. Another good source of linolenic acid is vegetables.
Meals and Snacks
It is important that you eat your three big meals a day, to make sure your body stays full and does not start eating at your muscles for energy. The rest of calories that you do not intake from the three main meals should be divided into two or three snacks, so that you end up eating every three- four hours. Eating this often helps to prevent random drops in energy levels. Both your meals and your snacks should consist of Carbs, Protein, and Fat, to make sure that your body has time to digest all the nutrients needed.
The final point I would like to make is that it is extremely important to stay hydrated, especially while exercising. It is recommended that you get 8 full glasses of water a day, but you should also supplement that with drinks like gatorade and powerade while you are running, to replace electrolytes and salt lost when you sweat.