For all runners, a good nutrition plan is just as important as a good training regimen. Use the following guide to make sure you stay on track with your macro and micro nutrients.
Carbs should be the emphasis of your diet plan because it’s your body’s preferred source of energy. Carbohydrates convert to glycogen to be stored in the muscles; your body uses that glycogen while running. The “wall” you might hit after a number of miles is a result of depleted glycogen stores. The amount of carbs you need per day depends on how far you’re going that day.
If it’s an easy day with just a 30- to 45-minute run, Competitor advises you eat 3 to 4 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight. For runs that last 120 minutes or longer, such as during your long runs or the marathon itself, consume 8 to 10 grams per kilogram of body weight as part of your diet plan.
Protein and Fat
Protein helps your muscles repair and grow, while fat is essential for a variety of bodily functions. Registered dietitian Allegra Burton says that marathon runners need as much as 50 percent more protein than sedentary adults.
Your diet plan should include about 12 to 15 percent of total calories from protein, while less than 30 percent of calories should come from fat. Be sure not to eat too much fat on your diet plan, particularly before you work out — fat takes longer to digest and can slow you down.
This antioxidant vitamin is beneficial to runners for three main reasons. Firstly, vitamin C helps to counteract potentially damaging free radicals which are generated during activity and may otherwise contribute to delayed onset muscle soreness. Vitamin C also helps to support your immune system, which strenuous exercise can make less effective.
Lastly, it aids the absorption of iron from non-meat sources, helping to reduce the risk of anaemia that can otherwise hold you back. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables will help to ensure that you receive a good intake of this vitamin, particularly if you focus on those items richest in vitamin C, which include citrus fruits, kiwis, berries, bell peppers, tomatoes, dark green leafy vegetables and broccoli.
Although this vitamin is traditionally linked to promoting strong bones and may help to reduce the risk of fractures among runners, it is now believed to offer wider benefits. As the muscles have vitamin D receptors, an adequate intake may boost muscle performance and reduce muscle injury, and a deficiency is known to cause muscle weakness and pain.
There is also evidence that vitamin D may enhance immune function, which as already mentioned is beneficial to athletes. The best source of vitamin D is from exposing your skin to sunlight, though sunscreen largely blocks its production. A small number of foods are rich in vitamin D – oily fish, egg yolks and liver – but certain products such as breakfast cereals, margarine and milk powders also have added vitamin D.
Iron is essential for the formation of haemoglobin for the transport of oxygen to all the tissues, including the muscles, for the release of energy. It’s therefore no wonder that depleted iron stores can impair endurance and this may even occur when haemoglobin levels are normal but ferritin levels (a marker of iron stores) are low. Although red meat and offal are among the richest sources of iron in the diet, poultry and fish – particularly when the darker flesh is eaten – are also a useful source of heme iron that is easily absorbed by the body.
Alternative sources of iron include egg yolk, fortified cereals, pulses, dried fruit, wholegrains and green leafy vegetables. However, it is important to include a source of vitamin C at all meals and to avoid caffeine near mealtimes to aid the absorption of non-heme iron. If you feel lethargic or breathless, this could be a sign of iron deficiency, so a blood test from your GP would be advisable to identify whether you require iron supplements.
image couresy: nutricisedr.com, bossgirlfitness.com, clipartkid.com, jjvaldivia.com, active-dynamic.co.uk,
elementsmassage.com, jamiesonvitamins.com, health.harvard.edu.