My Top 10 Nutrition Tips for Runners
Tracy’s Top 10 Nutrition Tips for Runners – It’s a lifestyle
- VARIETY and WHOLE FOODS. Most of your diet should consist of a variety of natural, whole foods. Avoid processed foods. If you cannot identify more than five ingredients on the label – don’t eat it! There is no one single food you should focus on. Eating too much of a good thing can be bad too.
- HYDRATE. Drink about 6-8 glasses of water per day. You can also include fluids such as soups, low fat milk, soy beverages or unsweetened juices as part of your fluid intake if you have a hard time sticking to just water.
- EAT CARBOHYDRATES. Don’t be fooled by the low carb diet craze. Runners need carbs!! Choose complex carbohydrates, which have a lower glycemic index. Don’t get stuck in the wheat rut. Try ancient grains like quinoa (higher in protein than any other grain), millet, kamut (makes good pasta), oats, brown rice, rye breads, and spelt. Spelt flour is higher in protein than wheat and stimulates the immune system.
- PROTEIN. Include a protein serving at every meal. Runners need protein to repair muscle tissues and to stabilize blood sugars. Eat nuts, seeds, and legumes for protein, fibre, and energy. Include a soy protein each day, preferably organic. Don’t obsess about protein though, usually by including a protein source at each meal you should be covered for your daily protein requirements.
- FAT. Most people generally only lack omega 3 fats. Get these from including fish, ground flax seed / flax oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts more often in your diet. Eating healthy fats are good for arthritis, cholesterol, psoriasis, and immune response. Limit saturated and avoid trans fats completely. (hydrogenated fats). These are man made fats that clog the arteries.
- FIBRE. The recommendation by the dietitians of Canada is to eat 25 (women) to 38 (men) grams of fibre per day. If you are not already doing this, increase gradually to give your body a chance to adjust without bloating or cramping. The day prior to a race and the day of, consume less fibre to avoid running……to the port-a-potty.
- EAT FOR IMMUNE HEALTH. Stimulate your immune function so you get sick less and are able to train more. Include foods high in vitamins A, C and E like dark green leafy vegetables, orange veggies, onions, mushrooms, garlic, pomegranate, berries, red wine (in moderation), tea, citrus fruits, almonds and turmeric. These foods have immune boosting properties. Because of the amount of oxygen we use, this will help protect the lungs. Eating less refined wheat and sugar also helps, as they tend to weaken the immune system. Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep and hand washing to avoid interruption to training.
- DON’T OVERDOSE ON GELS AND CHEWS. Runners who are out for 2 hours or more racing or training need gels to prevent fatigue and muscle tissue damage and to replace electrolytes lost through sweat. The number of gels you need depends on your body weight. Too often I see runners taking gels as part of a shorter run and it’s just not needed!
- PORTION SIZES. Just because you run, doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to overeat. Be conscious of portion sizes. Adjust these numbers accordingly if you are less active on certain days or if you are injured. Keep your weight in check and you will run faster and be healthier in the “long run”.
- RECOVERY FOODS. It’s all in the timing. Ensure you replace your glycogen stores as quickly as possible (aim for within 30 minutes) after a hard effort or long run by choosing foods with a 3:1 carb and protein ratio. That’s about 30-60 grams of carb and 10-20 grams of protein. Don’t forget to hydrate with water or an electrolyte drink like eload, especially in warmer climates.