By: Dr. Sarah Vincent, ND
You get out of your body, what you put in, so the focus here should be on nutritional quality. In order to achieve your personal fitness goals you should be on good quality, clean, whole foods.
When preparing for your run, you should place emphasis on high carbohydrate, low fat, low protein, low fiber, eaten 2 hours before. The timing here is strictly dependent on the state of your digestion and speed of your overall metabolism, so this will be different for everyone. Ensure what you eat is easily digested and absorbed. Cooked, steamed, or liquids are easiest to digest.
A few examples of what you could have, are:
1) A berry/shake with a little protein (half a scoop)
2) Oatmeal with yogurt and berries
3) Quinoa with chicken and veggies
4) Turkey sandwich/wrap with veggies
5) Almond butter and banana wrap
This is useful for long bouts of endurance exercise, meaning 60 plus minutes and is only useful if muscles are already trained to store and use extra carbs.
The majority of a runner’s carbohydrate intake should come from fruits and vegetables because they are nutrient dense and of higher quality. Foods such as refined grains (and for some people even whole grains) and processed carbohydrates, such as pastas, breads and cereals will give “more” in terms of volume, but are not as nutrient dense and will likely drain your energy.
Depending on estimated energy expenditure of each person, ideal carbohydrate distribution is illustrated below:
1) Fruit (1-3 servings)
2) Vegetables (4-8 servings)
3) Beans/legumes (1-2 servings)
4) Whole grains (1-2 servings)
Generally avoid high fat, high fiber foods as they require more energy to digest and will likely sit heavily in your stomach throughout your run. Also avoid coffee because it can stimulate digestion and possibly cause diarrhea in the middle of your run.
Fueling During Your Run
For most people somewhere between 30-60 grams of carbs per hour are necessary during runs, that go longer than 60 minutes. Fueling can come in the form of gels, chews or bars and is necessary to keep you energized! Sports drinks are not enough!
If you’re new at fueling during your runs, start small and have half of a gel pack the first time and see how your body feels. If you give yourself too much, too fast, it may produces undesirable digestive effects such as diarrhea or cramping.
Hydrating for winter running
How much water do I need? Weight (lbs) / 16 = # cups daily
For example: 130lb person will generally need 8 cups of water a day. That being said, if you’re active and sweating it out everyday, then your water requirements will be increased. You should also add 1 cup of water for each caffeinated and alcoholic beverage that you consume.
*Tip: you can assess hydration by looking at the colour of your urine. It should be clear to pale yellow. If it is dark yellow, you are likely dehydrated, unless you are taking certain vitamins and medications.
Is it possible to drink too much water?
Yes! Although this doesn't happen often, it is a possibility, especially if you are exercising in intense heat as you can deplete your electrolytes. Low sodium (hyponatremia) can cause muscle weakness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and even death.
What should I be drinking?
Main source of hydration should be pure, filtered water. Add electrolytes.
In particular any run beyond about 60 minutes, requires refueling and the focus should be on both carbohydrates and proteins, post-run.
Research shows that there is a 45-minute window, post workout, where it seems to be optimal time to replenish the body of its resources, in order to efficiently repair, as well as to maintain a strong immune system! A carbohydrate to protein ratio of four to one (4:1) is ideal.
What should you eat?
Put your emphasis on nutritious carbohydrates (100g) & clean source proteins (20g). What does this mean? Consider the following:
In terms of healthy carbs, say YES to: fruits and veggies, squash, sweet potatoes and whole grains that include brown rice, oats, quinoa, buckwheat. Stay wheat and gluten free, as wheat and gluten tends to rob most people of energy. Say NO to: Refined & processed carbs . Those being sugary cereals, and “whites” which are considered to be flour, rice, pasta and even whole wheat flour.
In terms of healthy proteins, whey protein isolate is the best for muscle recovery. Organic or New Zealand sourced, as it comes from very clean sources that do not contain added hormones, antibiotics or pesticides and are fed a clean diet. Protein powders also exist, that are not dairy based, for those who need them and include sources such as rice, hemp, yellow pea and other legumes. Low fat animal protein sources such as poultry, fish, eggs, and wild game. Vegetarian sources of protein include beans, lentils, chickpeas, and soy, smaller amounts of protein are also found in whole grains quinoa, brown rice, oats.
Protein requirements: Protein content of your overall diet, should fall somewhere between 15-20% . More specifically tailored to the person, for non-athletes that ends up being somewhere between 0.8-1.0g/kg. Requirements for endurance athletes (runners) are 1.2-1.4g/kg body weight and strength athletes require roughly 1.4-1.8g/kg.
Protein powders are another great alternative to help with muscle recovery and run fueling.
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