For every nutrition question you have, there are at least ten expensive nutrition products on the market that claim to have the answer. It’s easy to be overwhelmed. Luckily, good running nutrition can be broken down into a few simple principles.
Carbs vs. Other Nutrients
Based on body weight, a typical athletic diet should be about 60 percent carbs, 15 percent protein and 25 percent fat. To get ready for a race, “carbo load” by bumping up your carbohydrate intake for three to four days before the event. Keep a food and workout diary if you make any changes to your diet to help you figure out what works for you.
Many runners have questions about supplements – which to take, how many, at what times, etc. Skip those expensive pills and powders and spend your money on fresh fruits and vegetables instead. A varied diet will provide all the vitamins and essential nutrients that your body needs. Plus, your body is able to absorb nutrients better from food than pills. Fun fact: Consuming beets, a source of nitrate, has been shown to increase athletic performance!
Protein and Muscle Recovery
There is a belief that high amounts of protein, especially protein powders, improve muscle growth. A benefit to this has not been shown – excess protein is simply converted into energy – or fat. Save your money! Immediately after your run, enjoy an ice-cold glass of low-fat chocolate milk! It has a 4:1 carbohydrate-to-protein ratio and has been proven to help the recovery process. For an added benefit, have another glass two hours later – ideally with a healthy, balanced meal.
- A basic running diet should have roughly 60 percent carbs, 15 percent protein and 25 percent fat – but listen to your body. Consult with a dietitian or nutritionist for best results.
- Keep a diet and workout log to help you figure out what works best for you.
- Increase your carbohydrate intake for 3-4 days before a race.
- Instead of focusing on supplements, eat a balanced diet instead.
- For a natural performance boost, eat beets!
- Chocolate milk is an effective and cheap recovery drink.
In addition to this brief intro to running nutrition, I’d like to share an easy and nutritious snack to try during long runs. I came up with this idea after getting sick of bad-tasting gels and energy bars with a long list of ingredients that I couldn’t pronounce.
Long Run Sandwich Bites
You will need:
- Bread – you can use whole grain or white, depending on what your stomach tolerates
- Peanut or other nut butter – I like dark chocolate Yumbutter
- Jam or honey
Combine all of your ingredients to make a sandwich.
- Use a knife or mini cookie cutter to cut your sandwich into bite-sized pieces.
- Pack a handful in a small sandwich baggie to take along on your long runs.
Kelly Egan is a guest blogger for Brooks, as well as a member of our Inspire Daily program. Look for more posts from her on running myths in the coming months. Kelly is a fourth year medical student in Madison, Wis. This year, she plans to volunteer in India, graduate from school, get married, honeymoon in Morocco, move across the country and get her first job – in that order. To follow her adventures, please visit runningblonde.com.