Nutrition misinformation is rampant. Unfortunately, some of the worst nutrition advice I’ve heard has come from elite level runners. This advice is not meant to be detrimental, but typically comes from a lack of knowledge of evidence-based sports nutrition guidelines. This can be misleading to the fans of these athletes, who take this advice as a performance and health enhancing way to eat. However, there are some Registered Dietitians with expertise in sports nutrition that are also speedy runners. Read on for their top nutrition tips.
Nutrition tip: Periodize your nutrition intake
Just like training is periodized throughout the year, nutrition should be too. For example, on a hard training day your plate at meals should be half filled with carbohydrate containing foods like grains, starchy vegetables and fruit. Those days should also include more frequent eating with protein paired with carbohydrates for snacks. If a person gets used to eating the exact same food and quantities each day, they increase the risk of having low energy availability (not enough fuel to sustain their basic needs plus exercise).
Nutrition tip: Refuel post-workout
Consume a recovery drink/food within 30 minutes after a hard or long workout, then eat a meal. This will help you not only recover from your workout, but also help to offset being hangry later in the day.
Nutrition tip: Don’t fear carbs
Despite popular belief in mainstream media, carbohydrates are not inherently fattening. At the end of the day, it’s excess calories that are fattening. As a runner, if you’re looking to make body composition changes, recover better and improve performance, carbohydrates should be the foundation of your diet. Runners who restrict carbohydrates pay the price: “dead legs” and inability to exercise at their best. In addition to their direct impact on performance, recovery and body composition, quality carbohydrates like fruit, vegetables, whole grains and beans, also promote a healthy gut. The fibre found in many of these carbohydrate foods feed the billions of microbes that live in your gut. These microbes have an incredible influence on your mood, weight, immune system, and overall health.
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Create a personalized in-race fuel plan
Individualizing your nutrition and hydration is really important. What works for one athlete may not necessarily work for you and the amount of carbohydrates needed increases with speed and running intensity. My suggestion is to experiment with this during training. As a general guideline, it is recommended to take carbohydrates every 15-20 minutes during a moderate to high intensity run that is greater than 60-90 minutes; for any run less than this, I suggest having just water. An athlete running for 1-2.5 hours would need 30-60g/hour, if running over 2.5 hours, 60-90g/hour and at higher volumes over 4 hours, such as in an ultramarathon, a runner can take up to 90g/kg. The longer and more intense a running session is, the more important nutrition and hydration become.
Eat like an athlete
While I’m no longer a competing athlete, I still love to get out there and train. My tip is to eat like an athlete. Far too often, I see runners under-fueling as they incorporate inappropriate nutrition strategies into their lifestyle. Much of this comes from nutrition advice that is meant for sedentary individuals, not athletes. While this nutrition advice may be appropriate for an inactive person, it is not necessarily health and performance enhancing for a runner. More often, it will have the opposite effect of compromising health and performance. Seek nutrition advice that is tailored to you personally and your training schedule. To follow me on Instagram, click here.
There is no shortage of nutrition information, so be sure that you seek nutrition information meant for athletes, from qualified individuals.