When it comes to keep your body happy and healthy, and continually improving your running performance, nutrition is a key component. Here are some of the important areas of nutrition to consider as an endurance runner.
Particularly during pre and post race nutrition, carbohydrates take centre stage for endurance athletes. This is because carbs are needed to build and then replace glycogen stores. Without sufficient carbohydrate intake, your performance and energy levels may suffer.
This is why endurance runners have a higher carbohydrate recommendation than the average runner. The goal is between 7-10g per kilogram in the days leading up to a race, as well as post-run.
During training season, you can tweak it down to the lower end if you wish. Monitor your performance and stick with the target that offers you the quickest recovery and highest energy levels. This will be different for each runner.
However, it’s important that your other macro-nutrients don’t suffer the effects of your higher carbohydrate intake. Both fat and protein are still incredibly essential nutrients for the endurance runner.
You want to make sure you’re consuming enough protein to repair muscles after a long run. Try to aim for at least 1.6g per kilogram of body weight every day as a starting point.
Your higher carbohydrate consumption means your fat consumption will be on the lower side. However, for the fat-soluble nutrients and essential fatty acids, you still want to make sure you include at least one serve with every main meal.
When you exercise for as long as you do as an endurance runner, inflammation and oxidative stress are inevitable. This is a side effect of the on-going oxygen consumption. To avoid injury and illness, your diet does need to counteract these through consumption of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory rich foods.
Fatty fish, olive oil, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables can naturally counteract inflammation’s effects on your body and reduce oxidative stress.
Endurance runners tend to have a lower body weight. This is due to their ongoing energy expenditure, as well as to protect their joints from the impact of long-distance running. However, for women, it is important to balance this out with the female body’s needs for sufficient fat stores.
Women naturally have higher levels of body fat and for good reason. Sufficient body fat supports hormones, particularly sex hormones, and bone mass maintenance. Women who are chronically underweight often become infertile and run the risk of early-onset osteoporosis.
If you calculate your BMI as 18 or lower, you may want to consult your health professional and make a plan to monitor your bone mass and hormone health. It may also be worth considering increasing your energy intake slowly to help support a healthy weight level.
Written by Samantha Gemmell
Qualified nutritionist (BHSc), health writer and wellness speaker, Samantha’s passion is sharing knowledge with women all over the world so that they can live inspiring, thriving lives.