Nutrition Tips for Endurance Run Training

Nutrition Tips for Endurance Run Training

Being a plant-powered athlete, I feel my training is better than ever.  I’m stronger, have more endurance, my recover is quicker and I don’t suffer from GI issues on long runs. Here are some guidelines for to help you achieve your nutrition goals while training for your event.

  • Not  all simple carbs are bad. Fruit has fructose, a simple carb, and helps fuel your body with an easily digestible carbohydrate while also providing a plethora of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals.
  • On average, most adults need about 64 ounces of water per day. Some may not realize this water need can be satisfied with food sources as well as beverages. For example, fruit is about 80 percent water and contributes to your overall daily needs.
  • Running does not mean you get to eat or drink anything you want without consequence. Every calorie should be packed with nutrients to keep you as healthy on the inside as you look on the outside.
  • Ensure you are getting all of your nutrients by eating a rainbow of colors every day. If you have purple grapes with breakfast, tomato soup and a green salad with lunch, and a black bean, brown rice, and yellow corn burrito with dinner, you know you are getting a variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals based on color alone.
  • Meeting protein needs as a runner is easy. Most Americans consume far more protein than necessary, so the slightly elevated needs of an athlete are probably already being met. In addition, as calorie intake increases so does the amount of protein.
  • Your body is always burning a mixture of carbohydrate, fat, and protein. The duration of exercise, intensity of exercise, level of physical conditioning, and initial muscle glycogen levels will determine which primary fuel your body will use. In general, carbohydrate is the primary fuel used during high-intensity exercise.
  • About 55 to 80 percent of calories in the diet should come from carbohydrate. Individuals who compete in endurance or ultra-endurance events need to be at the high end of this range (70 to 80 percent). Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are excellent sources of carbohydrate.
  • With prolonged exercise at lower intensities, fat (in the form of fatty acids) becomes the primary fuel source. The shift to fatty acids during exercise helps spare the carbohydrate (glycogen) stores in your body and allows for prolonged exercise.
  • Compared to carbohydrate and fat, protein is used only minimally for fuel, since its primary function is building and maintaining the tissues of the body.
  • Beverages containing caffeine, such as sodas, tea, and coffee, and those containing alcohol, such as wine, beer, or spirits, cause you to lose water. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics. Therefore, beverages containing these substances should not be counted toward your daily fluid intake.
  • Symptoms of dehydration range from headache, fatigue, heat intolerance, and dark urine with a strong odor to more serious effects, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Use following guidelines to stay hydrated:
    – Three to four hours before exercise: Drink 2 to 4 cups of water.
    – One hour before exercise: Drink 1 to 2 cups of water.
    – During exercise: Drink 6 to 12 ounces (or about 3/4 to 1 1/2 cups) of fluid every hour.
    – After exercise: Drink 16 ounces for every pound lost during exercise; weighing yourself before and after exercise can help you determine your fluid loss.
  • If you plan on exercising for more than 90 minutes, you should ideally fuel-up on a low-fat, carb source about three to four hours before you start. Some ideas include toast, pasta, a banana, and potatoes.
  • For the endurance run (running more than 90 minutes), you should have a snack within 30 minutes of finishing. Whole grains and legumes make ideal choices for a perfect carb to protein ratio (2:1 ratio for low-intensity and 3:1 ratio for high-intensity postworkouts).
Source: Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., is an avid long-distance runner and PCRM’s director of nutrition education.