Like a car, a runner who wants to operate at his or her most optimum potential needs his or her particular set of fuels. He or she needs the right combination of carbohydrates, proteins and fats to fuel his running.
Each of these food groups has a specific function to fulfill in the body. Getting the right amount and mix of these important nutrients is the right step onwards to success in your sport.
The primary fuel for exercising muscles and for high-intensity exercises are carbohydrates. The athlete’s body needs around 50 to 65% carbohydrates in their food intake to support training.
Lacking enough carbohydrates causes the body to under-perform and cannot burn fats as effectively as it should during workouts. It should be the staple of your diet before, during and after each exercise, including intervals throughout the day.
Carbohydrates abound in such food as whole grain breads, pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, corn, beans, and low-fat dairy products.
These days, many people make do with easily digestible carbohydrates from sports drinks or gels. Consult your sports nutritionist for the exact amounts of your carbohydrates requirements.
Proteins are important because they build and repair muscles, ligaments, and tendons – all essentials in becoming a strong athlete.
You can get your proteins from such sources as egg whites, poultry (with the skin), fish, ground turkey or chicken breast, lean ground beef, game meat, nuts, tofu and soy milk and low-fat dairy products.
They are more important after workouts than before or during. This is because proteins help the body repair itself after strenuous activities like exercises and workouts.
The more you run (or train as an athlete) the more you need proteins to a point. Your needs depend on how many hours a week you run, or if you are trying to lose body fat or if you are lifting weights.
The last food group, fat, helps sustain prolonged exercises at lower intensities. Our bodies have enough stored fat to fuel prolonged exercise.
However, fat is difficult to use for quick energy. This is why carbohydrates are the choice fuel during most exercises.
Athletes need about 20 to 30% of calories from fats. Healthy sources of fats include fatty fish (salmon for omega 3 fatty acids), nuts and natural peanut butter, avocado, olive oil, and canola oil.
Unfortunately, most people get too much fat in their diets. What is worse is that too much of these fat come from unhealthy fats (saturated and trans-fats from sausages, burgers, French fries, donuts, sweets and many more).
For an athlete, achieving the right balance of these three all-important food groups is the first step to fulfill your potential. Your day-to-day diet had to be adjusted accordingly to support your training.
Since everyone is different from the next person, it is important that your diet is suited to your exact personal body needs. You can only get these exact data from a nutrition professional how can develop and plan a personalized nutrition plan for you.
Remember, running (especially competitive running) can be as strenuous as any other energy use-intensive sports. Your body fuel should not be taken lightly.