Nutrition is one of the most important part of an athlete’s training. It is also, often, one of the part that get neglected. Since, every sport has different requirements in terms of strength, endurance, power, stamina etc., the nutritional requirement of every athlete too vary vastly.
A balanced approach to food is must for all athletes. However, runners have a higher need for carbohydrates. Also, since running is a catabolic activity, protein should be taken in sufficient quantities. Hydration is a must for all athletes; and especially so for runners since running is an especially dehydrating activity.
One must remember that micro nutrients are as important as macro nutrients. Fruits and vegetables give plenty of fiber while also providing the body with essential minerals and vitamins. Also, nuts and seeds give essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins while also providing one with fiber. Nuts and seeds, however, should be taken in moderation.
Some of the important things to remember are:
All athletes need a good amount of glycogen stored in their system, and this is obtained from carbohydrates. The total calories needed and the carbohydrates are determined depending on BMI, BMR, TDEE etc.
- One should attempt to get the required carbohydrates through whole grains, fruits, vegetables etc.
Slow releasing carbs are the best to fuel an athlete.
- Avoid the temptation to reach carbohydrate requirement through unhealthy processed food.
- It is essential to consume sufficient carbohydrates pre- and post-workout to ensure your glycogen stores don’t deplete.
- Once or twice a week, undergo carb-fasted training under a coach.
- It should be noted that while runners need high amount of carbs, it is not a free pass to binge on carbs.
- The diet should be wholesome, well balanced and well rounded with majority of carbs coming from healthy sources.
Runners generally need to maintain a slim physique to give them speed; and for this reason they do not train for hypertrophy.However, running is a highly catabolic activity and preservation of lean muscle mass should be a priority.
- One should try to get sufficient protein from lean sourced like chicken, fish, tofu, milk etc.
- Protein shake can be supplemented post run.
- Take BCAA during training if training for long periods.
Fats, though they have a bad reputation, are very important in an athlete’s recovery. Essential fatty acids, are necessary for the body. They help keep the joints healthy, cellular regeneration, hormone production, healthy working of brain and nervous system etc. While most fatty acids can be created in the body, we need certain essential fatty acids that can not be synthesized by the body ie. omega-3 and omega-6. One must make sure that the fats consumed are of high quality and not trans-fats found in packaged and junk food. Plenty of good fats can be found in nuts, seeds, milk, healthy oils like canola, rapeseed, soya etc.
When you run, you sweat. When you sweat, your blood density decreases. This means your heart has to work much harder so it can pump the blood that it needs to supply to the muscles and organs. Drinking sufficient water while running will ensure that the runner is hydrated throughout so the negative effects of dehydration can be avoided. Amino Acids and Electrolytes can be added to the water depending on the needs of the runner.
It is important to get sufficient fiber in your diet. This can be easily obtained from a runner’s diet which contains plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, milk products etc. However, a pre-workout meal high in fiber can negatively impact a runner’s digestion,causing symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, cramps etc. Meal plan should be designed in such a fashion that this is not a problem for the athlete.
An essential part of an athlete’s diet is the micro-nutrients. Vitamins and Minerals can be easily obtained from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. If the required amount of fruits and vegetables is not being met, one can add these to smoothies to increase the intake. These micro-nutrients are extremely important in the recovery of muscles, bone health, skin health and tissue regeneration, all of which are impacted during running.