As a distance runner, nutrition plays a crucial role in providing the body with the appropriate energy required to meet exercise demands.
Having a better understanding of the nutritional requirements of a distance runner will assist in personal progress and aid in overall health throughout the season and year-round.
This is not the time to be counting calories! Total calories should not be restricted in any way:
When in doubt, eat! The following information will provide the distance runner with a nutritional foundation to perform and train at his or her best.
Nutrition for a distance runner can be described best when broken down by macronutrient. Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary energy source and for the avid distance runner should represent approximately 55-60% of the athletes’ nutritional composition.
The typical intake of carbohydrates is 4-5 grams/kg/day, but a distance runner should aim to consume approximately 7-10 grams/kg/day to ensure endurance needs are met. Carbohydrates can be broken down further into simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates often contain a lot of sugar and should be avoided in a distance runner’s diet.
Examples of simple carbohydrates are:
Keep in mind, some foods with high sugars should be consumed in a distant runners diet – such as:
Alternatively, distance runners should focus on providing the body with a good source of complex carbohydrates like grains, breads, vegetables and beans. Complex carbohydrates are stored within the liver and muscles, to be used for energy when called upon during bouts of high intensity exercise.
Protein contributes to energy both at rest and during exercise, however only a very small percentage of protein is expended while exercising. Protein plays a key role in supplying blood sugar when exercise duration increases and stored complex carbohydrate levels fall.
The typical intake of proteins is .8 grams/kg/day, but a distance runner should aim to consume 1.2-1.4 grams/kg/day.
The increase in protein consumption is especially important during the first 3-6 months of training to coincide with strength training. Strength training aside, this increase in protein will also aid in microtrauma healing associated with endurance training.
Despite the increased demand for proteins, distance runners should be cautioned to maintain a protein composition of 20-25% of one’s daily intake and not allow protein intake to displace carbohydrate intake.
Dietary protein can be found in many different kinds of foods – such as meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, nut butters and milk.
Fat is the final macronutrient essential to distance running and should only account for approximately 20% of the athlete’s total nutritional composition.
Fat is an energy source used through a wide range of exercise intensities and is found to be increased after about 15-20 minutes of exercise. As exercise intensity and duration continue to increase the body will limit the amount of fat used for energy and stored complex carbohydrates begin to take on the main energy source once again.
Very low to moderate intake of fats has shown no performance benefit and athletes should not restrict fat within their diets. Other than meeting energy needs, fat maintains body temperature and protects vital organs. The best sources of fats can be found in meats, poultry and fish. Milk and some vegetables will also provide the distance runner with sources of fat.
A unique benefit of fats many endurance athletes like is that fats are much more calorie-dense than other macronutrients; therefore this allows the endurance athlete to consume more calories without as much food “volume.”
Stay tuned for more tips from the team at Excelsior!
Want to learn more about Excelsior and our STRIDES program? View the program here, or if you experience a training injury please contact us at 716-250-6539. Be sure to let our Patient Contact Specialist know that you’re registered for the Buffalo Marathon and we will get you in to see a member of our STRIDES program ASAP.