Are you eating the right nutrients, according to your training plan, races, and lifestyle? For runners, providing your body with the right nutrients according to your training, running distance and intensity, as well as your lifestyle can help balance your body and protect it, maintain good energy and stamina, recover well from runs and races, and even prevent some illnesses.An easy way to provide our body with all the proper nutrients is to break it down in three categories.
Three Food Categories
Energy Food– Energy food is very important to eat a few days before a race or before a longer run. You want to make sure that your body doesn’t get depleted of healthy carbs, to make sure your body cells stay balanced, your brain stays sharp, and your energy level is strong. Carbohydrates like healthy grains such as oats, quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, whole rye, whole wheat, barley, spelt, sprouted bread, and starchy vegetables like sweet potato, squash, root vegetables, pumpkin, are the best type of grains. Another healthy type of carbs are fresh fruits, especially berries, bananas, apples, watermelon etc. Eating healthy carbohydrates according to your body type and training will keep you healthy and strong.
Recovery Food– Protein is an important nutrient for recovery and muscle building. After long runs or races or intense training, to eat some more protein will help with recovery and protect your muscles and joints. Some healthy carbs combined with protein will balance the recovery process. Anti-inflammatory foods are also crucial for recovery, Omega 3’s, salmon, tuna, sardines, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, nuts and seeds, beets, berries and fruits, tart cherries, olive oil, spices like turmeric and ginger. If your body can tolerate dairy, to add some unsweetened yogurt, will help with calcium supplements.
Protection Food– A wide variety of vegetables and fruits. Focus more on non-starchy vegetables and less-sweet fruits like berries, apples, pears. Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals and antioxidants, which will supply your body with all the micronutrients it needs to protect and replenish it. On a normal day, you should include protection foods (vegetables and some fruits) in half of your meal plate, and one quarter each of recovery (protein), and energy foods (healthy carbs). A few days before a race, to include one third of each food type in your plate will provide you with more energy. On the non-training days, you can reduce the healthy carbs, and add more protein and healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds).
Meal Plate Nutrients
Basic nutrients like healthy carbs, protein, healthy fats should be part of your daily regular meal plate. You just have to make sure that you adjust the nutrient portions according to your training plan and intensity, races and lifestyle.
Symptoms of Carbohydrates Deficiency
Activity Level Carbs-grams/kg/day
Low to moderate intensity training 45-60 mins/day 4 -8
Moderate to intense endurance exercise 60-120 mins/day. 5-10
High-intensity endurance exercise. Over three hours a day. 8-16
Symptoms of Protein Deficiency
The recommended daily protein intake
Activity Level Protein grams/kg/day
Sedentary Level of activity 0.75
Regular activity > 1 hour day 1.0-1.2
Endurance athletes 1.2-1.4
Strength athletes- Ultra-Runners 1.6-2.0 (max)
Eating the right amount of nutrients according to our body type, training, having access to healthy meals and snacks will make a huge difference for our overall health, performance, happiness for our whole lifetime:)