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.
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:
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.
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).
Here’s a good hydration plan:
Consume enough fluids after exercise to make urine pale – generally 12-24 oz. within 30 minutes.
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.