How You Can Run or Walk Safely This Season

Are you one of the thousands of people who will take on the fun and challenge of a local run/walk event this season? Maybe you want to set a personal best at the upcoming 5K or you want to challenge yourself with a 26.2 mile marathon.

Taking on an endurance challenge requires you to prepare and fuel your body for the effort. Your nutritional preparation should begin during training well in advance of your event. Here are some guidelines.

Planning Your Nutrition

Since you’ll be running and burning energy, you’ll want to plan for the right amount of fuel/food. While running, you’ll burn about 100 calories every mile. (The figure will vary depending on your size and pace.) That’s the calorie equivalent to one small potato, so don’t assume you’re burning lots of calories.

You will want to eat enough to avoid feeling faint at the end of your work out. Here’s a suggestion for how to plan your meals:

  • Get 60 to 70 percent of your calories from carbohydrates such grains and pasta.
  • Get 20 to 30 percent of your calories from fats such as oils, avocados or nuts.
  • Get 10 to 15 percent of your calories from proteins such as fish, chicken, meat or beans.

What you eat is just part of the nutrition equation. The other component is when you eat. Along with your regular meals, plan to eat just after your training runs — within a half hour works well.

Have a snack that includes carbs and protein at a ratio of about four to one. Foods such as a slice of whole-grain toast with peanut butter and jelly or fruit with a half cup of yogurt are good choices.

The food will restore your glycogen — a substance your body uses to store carbohydrates, which can be broken down later to provide energy. When this energy store is low, your muscles won’t work as well.

Avoid high-fat foods. They can make you feel sluggish.

Keeping Hydrated

Hydration is important, too. Dehydration will prevent you from reaching your full potential.

Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Thirst is a sign that you’re already becoming dehydrated. Plan when you’ll drink so you get your fluids before you’re thirsty.

A gauge to tell if you’re getting enough fluids is if you go to the restroom every 2 – 3 hours and excrete clear urine. Although you want to stay hydrated, be aware that you can drink too much water, but that does take a fair amount of water.

If you’re running less than an hour, water is a good choice. If you’re running longer, consider a sports drink. It will replace your electrolytes (such as potassium, sodium and chloride — minerals that do important work in your body).

Guidelines for Hydration

Here’s a good hydration plan:

  • 16-24 oz. fluids 2-3 hours before exercise.
  • 4-8 oz. as possible 5-10 minutes prior to exercise.
  • 6-12 oz. every 15-20 minutes during exercise (beverages such as Gatorade, Powerade or Propel are recommended for events longer than 1 hour.)

Consume enough fluids after exercise to make urine pale – generally 12-24 oz. within 30 minutes.

Keep Track of Your Food and Fluids

As you train, carefully keep track of what you eat and drink and your running distances. Make a note of how you feel. This will help you find the optimal food and fluid level for your physiology.

There’s lots of helpful information online that can guide you as you train. Take advantage of that other runners and walkers and health care professionals have to offer.

Meet the Author

Amanda Motl, RD, CD, CDE is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes counselor at Aurora Medical Center in Summit, WI.

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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