Posted on March 12, 2019 by Kate Gordon
It’s fast approaching spring, with light and favourable weather conditions coming back to greet us after the cold, dark nights of winter. Spring, for the runner, can mean only one thing: the start of marathon season. Training is obviously very important, that’s a given, but diet and nutrition are areas that are often left unattended. No matter how much you train, or however hard, if you’re not eating well and training your stomach, you will find that all the physical efforts have been in vain. Whether you’re running a race or just happy speeding through the hills, try and eat in a way that will complement your training plan.
Carbohydrates are your best friend before a run, giving you the fuel and energy to power on through to PBs or race day. Potatoes, grains, fruit and vegetables are all amazing sources of energy. Make sure you implement them into a balanced meal plan to support all the training you’ve been doing.
For runners, it is important to maintain a carbohydrate-rich diet in order to keep up with the amount of energy you will be using over whatever distance is being run. It is common, for example, for long distance runners to carbo load before a big race, ensuring they eat plenty of meals in the days leading up to a marathon in order to start building up fuel reserves. It is the key part of your workout diet that will mainly take place before runs or exercise.
Proteins will enable your body to repair the muscles that have been working hard post-run. Without them, muscles will start to feel sore, ache and become weak. Proteins are the foundations of our tissues and are needed for recovery. Eating fish, dairy, eggs, pulses and legumes ensure we are getting enough protein to where it’s needed.
Protein intake for runners will be slightly different than a diet based on the workout of a body builder, for example. The function of a protein meal plan can help build up some serious muscle if that’s what you’re after. For runners however, it’s more about becoming as lean, light and efficient as possible. It is important then that it is used for recovery post-workouts and used sparingly everywhere else, because if you start eating too much protein, your body may start to put on unneeded muscle and weight rather than just leaning up what you have already.
Fats are an extremely important aspect of our diet that must be used correctly, especially for running. Eating small amounts of the right fats will give us essential vitamins and fatty acids, used for energy reserves. Fats are commonly used in the running world as they offer powerful fuels for endurance athletes.
As mentioned previously however, fats should be implemented in the correct way. There are two main types, saturated and unsaturated. In our daily lives, saturated fats are everywhere (sweets, chocolate, dairy) and are detrimental to the body when consumed in large amounts. Unsaturated (if replacing saturated) fats can have beneficial effects on the body when consumed in small amounts. Fish, nuts, and plant oils are all great sources. Make sure you add the necessary amounts of fat into your running diet and try to avoid the unhealthier options.
Last but by no means least, we need water. Probably the most important area of all, drinking plenty of water has the most noticeable and vital benefits on the human body. The recommended daily intake for an adult male is around 3.7 litres and 2.7 for women. For running, you should have water with you before, during and post workout. Drinking enough in the hours before will keep the body hydrated for the exercise before and during (when you are thirsty or if you are losing a lot through sweating) will top up hydration levels and keep you plateaued. Drinking after a run will be mainly about replenishing the fluids lost through physical output. For an in-depth guide to running hydration, check out this Runner’s World article.