How Proper Nutrition Can Boost Your Running Performance

Photo by Sherise Van Dyk on Unsplash

As far as runners’ diets go, everyone seems to have an opinion. However, this view is frequently predicated on what we may refer to as n=1, which is a single runner’s unique eating experience or oversimplified science that only takes into account refueling and recuperation.

But the human body isn’t a machine. Initially, one might reason that we require fuel to run and for life itself but this is not a very straightforward relationship, where one simply puts a set amount of fuel to run for a set distance. Human biology is the realm of the body where it is a web of processes that interact and cooperate within. This underscores why fueling is not always like calories in and calories out – it is about the nutrients’ composition in your diet, the timing of energy you take, and the quantities that meet the energy demands of running and fuel the biological processes.

Therefore, what are the right nutritional choices for runners? Here you won’t see rules you need to follow. We do not support rules about food, since when people live their lives by the rules, it may become an obsession. And, you are familiar with how crazy runners can be! However, here you’ll discover the information you require to optimize and personalize your running diet, both for nutrition on a day-by-day basis and race days.

Carbs as the Source of Energy

Carbohydrate is the most essential source of energy in any workout. It gets broken down into glucose, which is then pulled off your bloodstream by your body to serve as the primary fuel source. 

Your liver and muscles save glycogen as carbohydrates, which becomes the energy-releasing mechanism when depleted glucose stores are gone. The drawback is that, as you may know from long runs and the later stages of marathon, your muscles’ reserves of glycogen are the most easily accessible and rapidly released as energy. When the muscles aren’t sufficiently powered, it leads to fatigue and poor running performance and it may even increase your risk of injury. 

It takes about 500 grams of carbs to fill the glycogen stored in the body. Mostly, it will help to give you 60-90 minutes of working out in a setting where your heart rate ranges between 55-75% of your maximum rate. The faster you run, the fewer glycogen stores will be available to you. That being said, each creature, body, and set of demands is unique. As such, caution is essential. Accordingly, taking into account health and nutrition coaching is beneficial for each and every person. This will allow you to be absolutely certain that your body’s demands are being satisfied and that your training is working in harmony with it. 

To illustrate, consider your carbohydrate consumption, it must be in sync with your running routine – the amount you require would vary accordingly with the frequency, duration, and intensity of your training.

Learn How to Stay Hydrated

In discussing the topic of dehydration, runners should be especially cautious in making sure that their fluid intake is good enough. Research shows that proper hydration is fundamental during physical activity, long training sessions, and competitions. On top of that, water consumption during endurance running is advantageous to regulate body temperature (thermoregulation) and deliver blood volume (plasma) – both of which are interrelated with running performance. Dehydration will increase your core body temperature and as a result, you will see a reduction in plasma volume, an increase in heart rate, and fatigue will speed up.

Even just 1% of body weight loss from fluid loss causes such devastating psychological effects. Besides that, dehydration may considerably affect cognitive functions, decreasing your focus and making it difficult to make rational judgments.

Protein as a Main Theme of Athletes 

The sports and fitness community always has a lot to say about protein, and some consider it an indispensable micronutrient for physically active persons. Protein is more important to runners in the recovery process after exercise than as a fuel for running preparation.

Research on protein has been a crucial focus for many years. The latest findings further support the notion that protein plays a significant role during the recovery stage. Whether you do endurance sports like running or cycling, or you are part of a team or power sports like netball, football, or tennis, there is greater muscle protein breakdown during exercise than when you are resting. Although it is desirable to eat a lot of protein in the immediate post-workout period, you should, better still, distribute protein-rich foods in your diet throughout the day as this will assist in counteracting protein deficiency. For runners and other active individuals, the optimal daily protein intake is 0,4g/kg of body weight, which should be consumed at least four or six times a day, depending on training loads.

Runners’ Consumption of Salt

The majority of runners will sweat approximately 400ml and 2,400ml per hour of intense exercise. The quantity of sweat that one loses per hour is about 1,200ml on average. Yet, there are a number of mitigating factors such as your age, sex, weight, and the level of intensity of your workout along with the degree of temperature that also affect this rate. However, it is not just water that escapes through sweating but also electrolytes, with sodium being the main one. 

The sodium content of sweat can range from a low of 115 mg per 1000 mg to more than 2000mg. In general, a single electrolyte tablet or salt capsule from a sports drink contains 250-300 mg of sodium. If your electrolytes are diluted up to 750 ml then you will need to consume around 2,250 ml of fluid an hour, which is very challenging from the consumption and transportation point of view. A runner known as the “salty sweater” may even lose more sodium than the recommended intake. 

Include Good Fats

After all, not all fat is bad fat. You have to eat some fat so that it helps in the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and they can give you some fatty acids that the body cannot produce itself. These nutrients are essential for recovery and immune health and reduction of inflammation and fatigue. As such, fat should be an important part of a healthy diet for runners. 

However, not all fats are good to consume too. Eating lots of saturated fat increases harmful cholesterol levels, which makes you more prone to heart disease. The sources include cakes, pies, and biscuits, as well as fatty parts of meat such as sausages or bacon. Saturated fats go hand in hand with trans fat, which is normally present in heavily processed foods. Aim to incorporate the following into your diet to increase consumption of the good stuff:

  • Fish such as salmon and mackerel are rich in omega-3 
  • Olive or sunflower oils
  • Nuts and seeds, like their oils and butter, are also excellent sources.
  • Avocados

So, runners should go with good fats instead of saturated ones. Nevertheless, these fats are also high in energy value and should be eaten by taking this into consideration. In the same way, saturated fats cause digestion to be slower, therefore, should not be used as an immediate source of pre-run fuel.

Regarding runners, the consumption of a healthy and balanced diet, with enough nutrients categorized as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats is the common key to maintaining your energy stores and supporting preparation and recovery, consequently making your peak performance. If you strictly adhere to these simple rules, you will reach the top in the spare you are fond of.

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