Nutrition for Runners – Just in Time for the Vancouver Sun Run

| Nutrition

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Nutrition for athletes has been researched and explored since the origin of the Olympics. Athletes of this generation benefit from years of scientific explorations and the wisdom and experience of athletes and trainers who have worked hard for their own (and now our) benefit.

Healthy Foods for Runners

There isn’t really a specific diet for runners to follow. The key is to enjoy a balanced diet that includes three meals a day with snacks in between meals if you need them. In this case, ‘balanced’ means having three out of the four food groups present at each meal.

Examples of Balanced Meals

  • Salmon with Roasted Vegetables on Brown Rice
  • Lentil and Vegetable Stew with Whole Grain Roll & Skim Milk
  • Asian Beef and Vegetable Stir-fry over Japanese Noodles
  • Classic Tomato Meat Sauce Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Green Beans

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Whole grains, lots of vegetables and fruit, and lean protein are preferred to keep the cardiovascular system and gastrointestinal system healthy. Lean protein provides the amino acid building blocks required to build and repair muscle tissues, especially since running involves the largest muscle groups in the body – leg muscles. Healthy fats such as vegetable oil, soft margarine and those from nuts, seeds, and avocado are required as part of a healthy diet.

However, keeping the total amount of fat (from animal and plant sources) to less than thirty percent of your daily calories is best. Runners benefit from maintaining a healthy weight because it improves their efficiency and overall performance. When meal planning, keep in mind that eating foods high in fiber and fat before runs can cause digestive issues or lethargy because they take longer to digest.

Nutrition for Runners Marathon

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For those who have or are thinking about signing up for a marathon, half-marathon, 10K or 5K walk or run, you need to be a bit more specific about your food intake than the recreational runner who isn’t training for a planned event.  The following guidelines will help you schedule meals so you minimize undesirable side effects during your runs such as dehydration, cramping, and lightheadedness.

If Eating Two Hours or More before Running

Balanced meal with grains, vegetables and protein. This can be a lighter meal if you find two hours isn’t long enough for you to digest everything prior to your run.

If Eating One Hour before Running

Liquid meals such as a meal replacement drink or fruit and yogurt smoothie will be best because fluids digest quicker. This will reduce your risks of cramping, and nausea during your run. If you have what I like to call an “iron stomach,” you may tolerate a regular meal of solid food, but don’t leave it until race day to try something new.

If You Run First Thing in the Morning

Have a balanced meal the night before with grains, vegetables and protein. This is very important to help you build some glycogen stores. In the morning, drink either diluted sports drink or fruit juice (or if you prefer, water and an energy gel or shot bloc gummy). This will prevent low blood sugars (even if you’re not diabetic) and keep you from feeling lightheaded during a 30 to 45 minute run.

For additional information on Hydration for Runners and Vitamins for Runners, click here.

Angel Luk

Angel Luk

Angel is a Registered Dietitian w/ the College of Dietitians of BC & a member of Dietitians of Canada & SportMed BC. Providing nutrition counseling to over 2,000 clients using proven dietary strategies & is the author of a book which talks about achieving goals such as weight management & medical nutrition therapy for sports.