Daily Nutrition for Runners

by Jana Peale

So, we spend all this time thinking about and planning what we are going to bring with us on the run. We count the grams of carbohydrates, milligrams of sodium, and ounces of water we take in… but what about the rest of the day?

What you take in during the run will help the quality of that specific run; but what you regularly eat affects how you feel and perform on every run,  and during everyday life for that matter. I am not going to get into specific foods or amounts because what you need depends upon your size, activity level, and a myriad of other factors.

As far as specific foods go, you are only going to eat what you want to eat, so use these guidelines to figure out what works for you.

Water: Water gets to go first because it is a huge deal. Most appreciate the value of water, but few actually follow recommendations on how much to take in on a daily basis.

You know that feeling in the mid-afternoon when you cannot think straight, have a headache, don’t want to do any work, or all you want is to do is just take a nap? Most often, dehydration is the cause of your problems. I dare you to drink a glass of water, instead of a cup of coffee. 

I know I promised I was not going to use numbers, but with water I am going to make an exception, just to put into perspective how much we need. The average, sedentary person needs 64-80 ounces of water a day. That is at least two of those giant Nalgene water bottles. Now, if you are a runner, you need so much more water than that. Just think about how much you sweat on a run. Add 16-24 ounces of water to your daily intake for every hour you exercise.

Almost no one counts exactly how much water they are drinking, so here is my advice: get a reusable water bottle. Take it everywhere. Just having water right next to you will make you drink more. If you have to go out of your way to the kitchen or a drinking fountain to drink water, chances are you will not make the trek. Depending on its size, you should be filling up your water bottle about three times a day.

Carbohydrates: Carbs are vital, that is why we take them while we run. They give us glycogen, which gives us long-term energy. Unfortunately, not all carbs are created equal. The stuff you hear about sugary, refined white carbs is true as much as we do not want to believe it. They give you short bursts of energy that prompts insulin production to use the sugar quickly, resulting in low energy.

We want the carbs that will give long-term energy. This means lots of starchy fruits and veggies, with some whole grain pastas and brown rices.

Protein: Protein is just as important as carbs. The body does not make amino acids (what makes up protein) so you absolutely have to get it from food. Protein does a lot for the body, but most importantly to runners, protein is the driving force behind muscle growth and repair. Always choose lean protein that is least denatured (not denatured = not cooked. Note: please only undercook meat that is safe to do so). Most runners also need to use a whey protein supplement to get enough protein after their workout.

Fats: Good fats are good and bad fats are bad.

This seems pretty obvious, but let me explain: we need fat, but I am not saying you can have a cheeseburger on the regular. I am talking about the essential fatty acids our body uses in every cell of the body, but does not make itself. These come from flax seed oil and fish oil. To get enough you need to use supplements.

Remember, you are what you eat. And what you regularly eat affects how you feel and perform on every run,  and every day of your life.

breakfast photo


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