Healthy Blog

The Basics of a Good Runners’ Diet

Monday, July 04, 2016

Runners need a diet that maintains good health and promotes peak performance, so your diet should include these essential components:

Carbohydrates

You should have a diet that has carbs as about 60 - 65% of your total calorie intake.  Carbs are the best source of energy for athletes.  Research shows that for quick and long-lasting energy, carbs are better than proteins or fats. 

Whole-grain pasta, boiled or steamed, potatoes, fruit, starchy vegetables and whole-grain bread are good carb sources.

Protein

Protein should make up about 15% - 20% of your daily intake as you need it for some energy and to repair tissue damaged in training.  In addition, protein makes you feel full longer, which is good if you're trying to lose weight.

Runners, particularly long distance runners, should get 0.5 - 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day.  Eat protein sources low in fat and cholesterol such as lean meats, fish, low-fat dairy products, poultry, whole-grains and dried beans/legumes.

Fat

Make sure that no more than 20 - 25% of your diet comes from fat and only eat foods low in saturated fats and cholesterol.  ‘Good’ fat foods include nuts, olive oil and fish rich in vital Omega-3 oils.  Most experts recommend you get about 3,000 mg of Omega 3 oils daily.  Fish oil supplements are an easy way to get these.

Vitamins

Exercise produces compounds called free radicals, which damage cells.  Vitamins C, E and A are antioxidants and can neutralize free radicals, so include foods with these vitamins in your diet. 

Minerals

Calcium: A calcium-rich diet is vital for runners. Good sources of calcium are low-fat dairy, calcium-enriched juices, dark green leafy vegetables, beans and eggs.  Aim for a daily intake of 1,000 to 1,300 mg of calcium.

Iron: If your diet lacks iron, you'll feel weak and fatigued, especially when running.  Men need about 8 mg of iron a day and women need about 18 mg. 

Good natural sources of iron include lean meats, leafy green vegetables, nuts, shrimp and scallops.

Salt and other electrolytes: Electrolytes are lost through sweat and are replaced naturally, if you eat a well-balanced diet. But if you start to crave salty food, your body needs more sodium. 

Don’t reach for a packet of crisps - your best bet is always to have a sports drink after exercise.  Anyone running longer than 90 minutes should replace their lost electrolytes with a specially-balanced sports drink.

Looking after your body and giving it the best high-performance fuel can definitely be the factor that transforms you from a loser into a winner!