Eating Well to Run Better
May 19, 2009
Are you a long time runner aiming to better your time, a runner who simply wants to learn more about optimal nutrition, a runner who is participating in this years run as a means to get in shape and lose weight, or are you a new runner challenging yourself to complete a 10k as a personal accomplishment?
(Or if you were the person that said they run just for the cookies at the end, read on!)
Ces Dawson, MS, LAT, RD Sports and Wellness Nutritionist with recently spoke to our Run A Better Bellin Class on “Eating Well to Run a Better Bellin.” Hey, lets not forget that we are runners now, food = fuel! Here is a portion of what Ces had to share (yes at some points I paraphrase her points, but just a little)
Food = Fuel, if you do not have fuel, you cannot perform. As a runner looking to prepare for an event you need to revisit the basics of nutrition. Carbohydrates are the main fuel for exercise. 50-60% of your daily food intake should come from carbohydrates. There are “good” carbs and there are “not so good” carbs, but at the end of the day carbohydrates still provide energy to working muscles regardless of their nutritional value. Protein is needed for muscle repair and it is true that runners may need slightly more protein than the general population. 20-25% of your diet should be from lean protein. Fat is a necessary macronutrient for many of our body’s processes. While the wrong fats can be hazardous to your health and quickly add inches to your waistline, a combination of the right fats can improve your health and your performance.
It is not rocket science that you should be eating a well balanced diet to keep your body healthy for life, but here are some tips to help you fuel your body to perform:
Pay attention to the timing of your meals. If you are a morning runner, a lunchtime runner or an evening runner this will affect how you plan your daily meals. You need energy to train intensely so plan to eat to fuel your workout. When you run, you deplete your muscles of “energy”. This “energy” known as muscle glycogen (sugar) needs to be replaced before your body can train again. We know that to effectively refuel our bodies, we have to replace this sugar very quickly. Data reccomends within 45min to an hour after you run. So you need to plan to eat before and after your workout.
What to eat? We just determined when to eat, but what you eat at each meal can be just as important. Carbohydrates can be used by the body quickly, especially simple sugars. Proteins take at least an hour to empty the stomach. Fats may take up to four hours to digest. If you want to avoid nasty GI issues, what would you choose to eat before you run?
Here is a tip:
3-4 hours before a run you can eat almost anything. Your body will be able to digest and use carbs, protein or fats.
1-2 hours before you run you may choose to limit your fat intake and focus on a meal high in carbohydrates combined with a little protein.
30-60 minutes before you run you should focus on eating carbs only.
Recovery - after your run you have a small window of opportunity to optimally refuel your muscles. You have drained your muscles of energy and they are starving for sugar. Within 45-60 minutes post activity you need to eat. Recent data reccomends that consuming a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein will enhance your recovery. Chocolate milk is getting a lot of positive press for being a great recovery drink as it contains this ratio. (Yes, if you are in it for the cookies, now is the perfect time to satisfy your sweet tooth)
What about Race Day? You have about a month to practice your nutrition prior to race day. We have kept no secret that the race will start at 8:00am, think about what you will eat and what time you will eat it on race morning. If you can’t seem to wake up a couple of hours prior to the start, this is where a sports drink may really come in handy. Go out for a run to test out how your nutrition plan will “feel”, make modifications to your plan until you determine what your body needs to perform at its best. As for after the race, we are still currently working on the menu so I can’t promise brats and beer!
These are some simple guidelines to help you have a better Bellin 10K run experience. If you have specific questions on nutritional requirements please add a comment below and I will have Ces address your needs.