Sports Nutrition for Runners

You’ve purchased those running shoes and all the other necessary gear for taking on those trails and running paths, but one component that can’t be overlooked is nutrition.  Quality nutrition plays a huge role when it comes to performance and overall enjoyment.  The key is having a plan.  Running is a great way to lose a few pounds, enhance your mood, build muscle and strong bones, maintain weight, or improve your cardiovascular fitness level. 

The average person burns 100 calories per mile, so it’s important to have a great plan in place that consist of proper hydration, meal timing, pre and post run meals, along with healthy snacks. 

Post Workout Meal
Your post run meals should consist of a lean protein source for muscle repair, a complex carbohydrate such as baked white or sweet potato or vegetable of your choice (besides corn) to refill your fuel tank for the next run, a low fat dairy source such as fat free or skim milk to keep those bones strong and finally some fresh fruit for antioxidants to help keep the inflammation down.  

Pre Workout Meal
The pre workout meal needs to be something that your body can handle, we don’t want any upset stomachs during the run.  This can take some trial and error but the key is to consume the snack or meal at least 60 minutes before your run to allow for digestion.  I like to use the ratio of 1 gram of protein to 4 grams of carbohydrate.  Try to stick to low fat and low fiber foods as they can cause GI stress during physical activity.

Healthy Snacks and Energy
Healthy snacks play a role in maintaining energy throughout the day so that you’re ready (not tired) for that running session.  A healthy snack is one that contains a small amount of protein (5-10 grams) and some carbohydrate.  Examples include a piece of fruit and cottage cheese, granola bar, grapes and 2-3 oz low fat cheese, 1 sheet of graham crackers and some peanut butter, or a protein bar. 

When it comes to hydration, runners need to up their level of intake over the average person.  Just as calorie and food needs vary from person to person, fluid needs vary from person to person.  In general, the amount of sweat that is produced can vary from 1 pound up to 4 pounds per hour.  That is a large difference!  Best course of action is to drink throughout the day and to drink 16 oz of fluid (water is best!) 2 hours before your run and consume 5-10 oz every 20 minutes which is usually 3-4 small gulps.  Now, for after that long run a safe bet is to drink until your thirst has been quenched, recommend at least 12 -16 oz of fluid.  For the more experienced runners, we recommend consuming fluid based off your sweat rate. 

Remember, we need to eat to train and not train to eat!

Sean Vander Veer, RD, LD
Registered Dietitian
Elite Nutrition and PerformanceSports Nutrition for Runners


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