NUTRITION FOR RUNNERS
If you are planning to take up running regularly, which is most likely if you are reading this page, then the importance of proper nutrition cannot be overemphasized.
Running requires energy in direct proportion to time and mileage. Though many energy bars and energy drinks are available in the market they only serve a short term need at best. To train and build up your fitness and stamina you need to eat the right kind of food and eat it regularly. And choosing the right kind of food is not difficult. Just follow some general rules.
SEEDS such as whole grains, beans and nuts are a rich source of proteins and essential fats as well as antioxidants. Seeds have been shown to help maintain a healthier body weight. They also lower the risk developing adult onset diabetes and some cancers. Also people who eat them regularly have lower cholesterol levelsthan those who do not.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES are a good source of vitamins and minerals required by our body. Of equal importance are the various pigments that give them their colours. The Anthocyanins ( rich red color of pomegranade), Lycopene(deep red ofTomato), Beta-carotene(bright orange of sweet potato) etc.lower the risk of cancers,heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease and help to improve memory. They also help reduce inflammation caused by disease or heavy exercise. Various pigments provide various beneficial effects. So it is advised to eat as many different coloured fruits and vegetables as possible.
MILK AND DAIRY PRODUCTS are essential part of runner’s diet, these provide calcium for strong bones, and proteins for muscles and both are very important for runners. ‘whey’protein found in dairy products help to strengthen the immune system. Fermented dairy products such as yoghurt and curd contain live bacteria which improve immunity and improve symptoms in bowel diseases.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLE SKINS help to protect fruits and vegetables from UV light and parasites. They are rich in resistant starches and various types of fibres. They help in the growth of healthy bacteria in the intestines, relieving constipation, in curbing appetite and in weight control . High fibre diets also decrease calorie absorption by 3-4 percent.
FISH AND SEA FOODS are not only an excellent source of proteins for non-vegetarians but also provide important minerals such as zinc, copper and chromium. Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish have a lower risk of heart attacks , vascular disease and stroke and also help to counter the exercise induced muscle soreness.
MEAT, POULTRY AND EGGS are not only good sources of protein but also of iron and zinc which are necessary for our red blood cells and for a strong immune system.
So we know that fruits and vegetables and seeds and fish and meat are good for general health. But how much do we need? In what proportion? And how much is too much? In the next section we will discuss the specific requirements.
Proteins : Proteins provide us the aminoacids which are the basic building blocks of our muscles. They are also required for antibodies to fight disease, for digestive enzymes and for repair after Injury. While our body is capable of making most of these from glucose molecules, some of them , called essential amino acids must be obtained from diet. Further if dietary protein is less ,your body will breakdown muscle protein to get the aminoacids for vital life processes. That is why dietary proteins are so important for runners.
An average person requires 0.8 gms protein /Kg/ day. For Endurance athletes estimates vary from 1.29 to 1.37 gms/kg/day depending on the intensity of activity. Female athletes require somewhat less. But don’t just overload yourself. Protein breakdown products are excretedthrough kidneys and too much protein can cause renal damage in the long run.Those who already have renal disease must consult their nephrologist for protein Intake.
Another way is to consume enough calories to maintain your Ideal body weight(appendix 1) ensure that 15% of these come from proteins ( counting 1 gm protein for 4 Kilocalories).
Calories : This is a measure of energy provided by the foods we eat. About 4 Cal/gram of carbohydrates and proteins and 9cal/gram of fat. An active adult female requires about 2000-2400 Calories/day while it is about 2400-2800 Calories/day for males. According to merck manual of medical information running requires an additional 6-8 Calories/min. According to university of Minnesota the resting needs of an average male is his body weight in Kg multiplied by 1.0 per hour and body weight in Kg multiplied by 0.9 per hour for females. This needs yo be multiplied by 1.4 for sedentary lifestyle, by 1.7 for moderately active(regular walking during work) and by2.0 for active lifestyle. Then Add to this 6-8 Calories per minute of running and it will give you a fair Idea of your daily needs
However there are many other formulas and calculations are, at best, estimates which vary according to height ,weight, climate,age etc. So these must be used only as a rough guide.A runner must weigh himself daily and increase his calorie intake if he is losing weight regularly, unless loosing extra weight id the intention behind running.
Composition: Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for runners and should form the bulk of their diet(45-65 %) , fats about30-45 % and proteins about 15-25 %
Fluid Intake : This is a very important consideration if you are planning to run as even deaths have resulted from acute kidney failure caused by dehydration. It is suggested that daily fluid intake (when not training) should be about 2.7 to 3.7 litres or about one litre per 1000 Calories consumed. Half of this should come from water and the rest from juices, milk, soup, energy drinks and fruits and vegetables with a high water content. Caffeinated drinks should be restricted to about 4-5 cups a day. It is important to keep us well hydrated always and not just before or after training.
Fears of dilutionalhyponatremia (low body sodium resulting from excess water) are unfounded as it takes about six litre of excess water to cause any serious hyponatremia.
How to check if we are getting enough water. Thirst is a poor indicator as wnen we feel thirsty we are already 15-20 % dehydrated. Urine color should be light lemon yellow in well hydrated people but it may be dark in the morning and with some drugs and supplements. Volume of urine is better and we should be voiding about four full bladders every day.
Iron :Iron is an important constituent of our hemoglobin, the blood pigment that distributes oxygen throughout the body beside many other important functions and is therefore of vital Importance. Normal requirement is about 11mg/day in males and 18 mg /day in females. This increases with exercise and though significant anemia is uncommon in athletes it is by no means absent.
Good sources of Iron include green peas, green leafy vegetables, broccoli, kidney and black beans, lean meat, dark poultry etc.
Vitamin C increases its absorption- so ornges and lemon are also helpful.
Coffee or tea with meals should be avoided as their polyphenols decrease its absorption.
However , if you feel you are eating enough iron-rich food and are still low on hemoglobin, don’t go for iron supplements but consult your doctor. There are many other causes of anemia other than diet and Iron overload has its own serious consequences.
Calcium : Being a very important constituent of bones is just one of the many functions that this element performs in our body. As athletes train, their requirement increases as more of calcium is deposited in their weight bearing bones (provided we have adequate Vitamin Dlevels) making them stronger. If our daily intake is reduced our body maintains our blood calcium levels by borrowing from our bones making them weak and therefore susceptible to stress fractures or severe pains when you run.
Average dietary requirement of this mineral is 1000-1300 mg/day depending on age, sex, activity level etc. with requirement decreasing slightly towards old age.
About 500 ml of fat free milk or yoghurt will meet your daily needs. Other good sources include orange juice and green leafy vegetables. And remember to get some sun otherwise you won’t be able to use your calcium.
Again don’t overload, ashyper-calcemia hasit’s own disadvantages.
Vitamin E : A fat soluble anti-oxidant it is extremely useful in combating disease, inflammation and reieving muscle soreness induced by running or heavy workout. Daily requirement is about 15mg. 30 mg of almonds or hazel nuts meets20-40 % of this need. A tablespoon full of sunflower or safflower oil will meet the rest.
However too much of Vitamin C or E has been shown to limit the beneficial increase
In insulin sensitivity that diabetics get from running
Vitamin B : The requirement of B group of Vitamins in athletes is almost double of that required by average population. However if athletes concentrate too much on high carbohydrate diet to make up for increased caloric requirement they are likely to fall far short of their need. So when training for a run it is important to pay attention to overall quality of food. Folatedeficiency in female atheletes of child bearing age are a special concern.
Vitamin D : Helps to maintain aconstant level of calcium in blood, important in insulin release and therefore carbohydrate utilization, and vital for bone Recommended dietary allowance is 6000-8000 IU. Sunlight is required for its synthesis. Deficiency is common ,especially in vegetarians. Food sources include cottage cheese, salmon and fortified foods.
Zinc : Zinc is an important element for numerous enzymes involved in digestion and metabolism, It is a component of Insulin and boosts immunity.It also has a role in function and structure of cell membranes and therefore inmaintainance of cardio-respiratory function, muscle strength and endurance. Female athletes are at greater risk.Therecommended dietary intake is 10 mg. The chief sources include potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, nuts, almonds, chicken, sardines and tuna fish.
Training and Nutrition
CARBOHYDRATES : Training for long distance running requires a high carbohydrates diet accounting for about 65% of your calorieneeds.It helpsto increase muscle glycogen stores which can be utilized during the later part of a prolonged run.
The actual amount of carbohydrate required will depend on the time spent on training everyday.
30- 45 min 3-4 gm/Kg
46-60 min 4-5 gm/Kg
61-75 min 5-6 gm/ Kg
76-90 min 6-7 gm/Kg
90-120 min 7-8 gm/Kg
>120 min 8-10 gm /Kg
On the morning of the race it is important to load oneself with about 75-100 gms of carbohydrates about 3 hrs before the race
ROLE OF HIGH FAT DIET : Though it is recommended to have a high carbohydrate diet during regular training, it is useful to train on a high fat diet for a short term, a few days before the actual run. One of the recommendations is to train on a high fat diet for 10 days followed by a three day high carbohydrate training period. This helps the muscles to make physiological adaptations which help them to utilize fats for their energy needs spring the glycogen stores for the end. A ten day period is considered adequate for this purpose and attempts to prolong the low-carb-high-fat diet may limit the ability to train harder thereby decreasing performance.
HYDRATION AND SPORTS DRINKS : It is important to stay well hydrated before and during atrining session but too much reliance on sports drinks may be counter-productive as it limits the adaptive responses of the body. It is desirable that training sessions lasting 60-90 minutes be accomplished without sports drinks. For hard training sessions between 60-120 minutes, at least half of them should be attempted without sports drinks, though for sessions lasting more than two hours sports drinks may be almost mandatory.
BUT WHAT TO EAT
Now after having gone through all this jargon of nutritional facts, one may still be at a loss to know – what should he or she eat ?
The answer to that question is that there is no single diet menu for every person as they differ in weight, age, sex, amount of physical activity, eating habits etc.
However, if you are planning to participate in a marathon, you are probably a moderately active person and we have accordingly prepared a sample non-veg. menu for a “Moderately active 70 kg. man who is practicing one hour every day” who would require approximately 3000 calories per day.
Caution : While this menu will be sere table for most moderately active people, those suffering from diabetes, hypertension or heart disease, should consult for individualized menu. We would be happy to help if required.