Proper Nutrition for Runners

Nutrition can be complicated. For runners, food is more than just nutrition – food is fuel. Running is an exercise and sport with particular nutritional requirements. To achieve optimal performance, runners need to concentrate on what they eat and when they eat. At Island Sports Physical Therapy, we’ll help tailor a program that suits you and your running needs to help you become the best version of yourself! Please continue reading to learn more about recommended proper nutrition for runners. 

Nutrition for Runners 

As a runner, diet and nutrition can make or break a workout or race. Eating a healthy and balanced diet can help you maintain good health and promote peak performance. One of the main concerns that new runners have is what they should eat before, during, and after running. 

Before you begin a run, you do not want to eat immediately before. This can lead to cramping in your abdomen. On the other hand, running on an empty stomach can cause you to run out of energy and leave you feeling fatigued. It is important to note that every individual is different, but as a general rule, some experts recommend eating a light meal about one and a half hours before you start running. You can also have a small snack an hour before running. To see what works best for you and your body, you can experiment during your workouts and training runs. 

Here are some foods we recommend avoiding before your workout:

  • Sugary drinks (soda).
  • Vegetables high in fiber. 
  • Spicy food. 
  • Legumes. 
  • Foods rich in lactose. 

Healthy eating can provide you with the energy you need during your runs. Healthy runners should eat a balanced diet that includes protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals. 

Protein

Protein can repair tissue that gets damaged during training. It is an essential nutrient that can keep you feeling full longer. If you are a long-distance runner, you may need more protein. We recommend concentrating on protein sources that are low in cholesterol and fat, such as the following:

  • Lean meat. 
  • Eggs. 
  • Fish. 
  • Whole grains. 
  • Poultry. 
  • Low-fat dairy products. 

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are arguably the best source of energy for runners. Carbs should make up around 60 percent of your total caloric intake. If you are a sprinter, you may need to up the percentage. Long-distance runners may only need as little as 50 percent. Our bodies work more efficiently with carbs for quick and long-lasting energy than they do with proteins or fats. Fruits, starchy vegetables, potatoes, and whole-grain foods are excellent sources of carbohydrates. We recommend whole-grain foods because they retain more nutrition and contain more fiber. 

Fats

Fats should be eaten in moderation, as a diet high in fat can pack on unwanted pounds. Nuts, cold-water fish, and oils can provide essential omega-3s that prevent certain diseases and are vital for good health. 

Vitamins and Minerals

While you won’t get energy from vitamins, they should still be a part of your diet. Exercise can produce free radicals that damage cells. Vitamins E and C can help combat this issue. Minerals are particularly important when it comes to running. Here are some minerals you should consider incorporating into your diet:

  • Iron – Iron delivers oxygen to your cells. If you have low iron, it can cause you to feel fatigued and weak. 
  • Calcium – Calcium is essential for runners because it can help prevent stress fractures and osteoporosis. 
  • Sodium – Sodium and other electrolytes leave your body through sweat when you exercise. If you find yourself craving salt, your body may be telling you that you need more sodium. You need to replenish electrolytes after exercise. 

Our team would also like to stress the importance of staying hydrated. The amount of water you should drink depends on your sweat rate and how long you will be running. It is crucial to maintain good hydration levels during exercise to avoid dehydration. 

Contact Island Sports Physical Therapy

There are several diets out there for runners, but you need to find the one that works best for you. At Island Sports Physical Therapy, we are here to help guide you through your wellness journey and can provide you with the resources you need to fuel your body in the best way that you can. Contact us today to learn more! 

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