Diet and nutrition for runners

Posted: 3rd October 2010 by Darren in Diet and nutrition
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Diet and nutrition for runners can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. I have listed four simple nutrition tips that will help to make you healthier, fitter and a faster runner at whatever distance you choose to run.
1. Plan your diet
Develop a sensible eating plan that you can stick to. It should be one that will suit your lifestyle. Don’t set yourself unreasonable targets for what you eat. Unless you’re seriously overweight, it’s unlikely that you will have to make too many changes.
The first thing to do is record what you are eating now. Then sit down with a pen and paper and ask yourself some questions about your eating habits. Do you have breakfast? Are you hungry by mid morning? Do you feel tired and hungry by the time you run in the evening? If your diet is repetitive and boring you may not be getting the variety of foods necessary for adequate nutrient intake. By recording what you eat you will find out if you are being too repetitive with your diet. Also studies, such as that conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services in America, have shown that people who record what they eat, tend to eat less than people who don’t keep a record.
2. Snacking
Frequent snacking throughout the day is a good way to avoid low blood sugar levels and tiredness by the time you get home for your run. Research shows that eating little and often is best for runners as long as you’re eating the right things. Take high- carbohydrate snacks to work with you so that you aren’t caught out. Avoid high-fat snacks such as crisps and chocolate.  Go for high-carbohydrate and low-fat snacks such as fruit or cereal bars.
3. Main meals
Whilst it is good to have regular snacks through the day it is important not to skip on your main meals. Pasta is the number one choice for runners. Other options are baked potatoes, rice, lentils, beans, pulses, and muesli. Watch out for pre-packed meals as they often contain high levels of saturated fats and salt which you want to avoid.
4. Supplements
If you are eating a well balanced diet there should be no need to spend lots of money on supplements. Some people do benefit from supplements in certain circumstances, for example, taking Vitamin D tablets during the winter months. However, most people should be able to get the vitamins and minerals from the food they eat. Do not think that a supplement will completely satisfy your nutritional needs. Taking a pill might give you the recommended daily amount of a particular vitamin, but you also need protein, minerals, fibre and energy in the form of calories. Pills will not give you this.

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