Running efficiently requires not just a healthy but a training-specific diet plan that fuels and supports your body during your training schedule. Unless you are eating foods that increases your strength and running endurance, a heavy training schedule can cause fatigue, exhaustion, injury, slow recovery times and an overall reduction in fitness.
Carbs are an important source of energy for the body, particularly for runners, who should be getting plenty of carbohydrates to build energy reserves and provide them with sustained power while running. Complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice, whole grains or whole wheat bread, are preferable in this regard.
Aside from low-fat meats, such as fish and skinless chicken, yogurts and low-fat milks are also an important source of protein and amino acids. Naturally-flavored, low-sugar yogurt and milk should be consumed in moderation for best results, while eggs are also a great way to get protein into the body as they are easily digestible and help to build muscles effectively. Boiled eggs are preferable to omelets or fried eggs, as these may contain saturated fats due to the frying process.
Aside from being packed with protein, salmon also contains Omega 3 fatty acids which are one of the body’s best forms of energy. The nutrients found in salmon help to stimulate the body’s metabolism. Other foods which contain high amounts of HDL are avocados and olive oil.
Vitamin B12 is important as it helps the body to repair itself when injured or fatigued. If not enough vitamin B12 is being consumed, it can, over time, cause exhaustion and a reduction in running efficiency. Our bodies are unable to produce vitamin B12 independently, so we must take it via the food we eat. This vitamin can be found in fish, beef and chicken, eggs and and dairy products. Good sources of vitamin B12 intake for vegetarians or vegans are nuts, grains and soy.
Iron deficiency is a major cause of fatigue and a decrease in endurance capabilities as iron plays a crucial role in the production of red blood cells, which are used to transport oxygen around the body. High iron foods include beef, liver and green vegetables.
Oats are famous for being high in fiber, but they also contain complex carbohydrates, protein and numerous vitamins, which help to maintain muscle strength and endurance when running. The large amounts of fiber found in oats slows fat absorption as well as eases bowel movements. Other types of food that are also high in fiber and therefore suitable for runners, include sweetcorn, carrot and broccoli, all of which should be boiled or steamed for best results.
Berries are especially helpful. Strawberries, raspberries, cherries and blueberries all contain high levels of vitamin C, which is responsible for helping the body to recover and feel refreshed. Bananas are another great option because they provide energy and potassium, key to reducing muscle tightness. Watermelon is also beneficial and it can be eaten between 30-60 minutes prior to a run as it contains fructose sugars that the body can use for energy, ensuring that you feel fresh and that your muscles are capable of working well over a long period of time. Overly sweet fruits should be avoided.
The protein, carbohydrates and high density lipoproteins (HDL) found in nuts and dried fruit help the body absorb these nutrients quickly. Therefore, eating a small handful of nuts and dried fruits around 30 minutes before going on a run will increase endurance. Be careful not to eat too much because over consumption of high energy foods could result in excess body fat.
Drinking 1-2 liters of water a day is essential. Approximately 200-300cc of water should be consumed 30 minutes prior to exercise, while small, frequent sips of water should be taken during exercise to prevent dehydration.
Drinking the right amount of caffeine before exercise can help you feel energized and allow you to run for longer. For best results, drink some black coffee in the mornings to ensure the caffeine doesn’t interrupt your sleep at night.
Eating foods that provide sufficient energy stores alongside drinking the right amount of water 30-60 minutes prior to a run can ensure that your body has the necessary energy for exercise. It can also reduce muscle stress and fatigue, meaning you’ll be able to run for longer, and have a higher chance of reaching your target time.
Faculty of Medicine Vajira Hospital, Navamindradhiraj University , 2012