Nutrition plays a significant role in your overall physical health and athletic performance. Nutrition is also one of the most commonly overlooked considerations among novice and intermediate runners who wonder why they feel fatigued, fail to make any real progress or remain susceptible to injuries and ailments like shin splints.
Make no mistake about it – the nutrients and energy you put into your body has a positive correlation with what your body performance is capable of.
It is generally recommended that an adult should consume a diet composed of 40% of carbohydrates. However, for active runners, the proportion of carbohydrates increases to around 60%. As a primary source of energy for the body, carbohydrates are converted into glucose which powers the muscles.
Complex carbohydrates (whole grains, cereals, bread, pasta) provide a slow-release fuel source for the body, while simple carbohydrates (sweets, sugary drinks, etc) are good for short-burst energy releases. As a rule of thumb, a runner should consume 3g of carbohydrates per day for every 1lb of body weight.
For active runners, fats should contribute approximately 25% to their daily diet. However, it is important to focus on heart-healthy fats from approved sources, avoiding saturated fats wherever possible. Omega-3 sources and supplements also come highly recommended for athletes.
Healthy protein helps the body repair and rebuild the muscle tissue, while at the same time enhancing general muscle stamina. Up to 20% of a runner’s diet should consist of healthy proteins, primarily from fish, eggs, beans, nuts, low-fat dairy products and grains.
The importance of a consistent hydration simply cannot be overstated. Dehydration can have a devastating impact on the body’s general capacity to perform at its best. Research suggests that the vast majority of runners do not drink as much water as recommended by experts. An adequate hydration means to never allow yourself to become thirsty as well as consume plenty of water before, during and after a physical activity.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins A, C and E – recognised antioxidants – are all noted for their potential benefits for runners and active individuals. Iron helps to optimise oxygen delivery throughout the body, while calcium contributes to the growth and general development of strong bones. While vitamin and mineral supplements can be helpful, it is always better to reach your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) through your dietary choices.