Sports nutrition is a nutritional strategy designed to optimize athletic performance. It also helps chubby runners prepare and recover from both training and marathon running. It isn’t just for elite athletes. Anyone who wants to elevate their fitness can benefit from it.
Consuming the right balance of food nutrients and drink is important for everyone. Runners need to eat more calories than the average person. A good nutrition plan is a key to your running success.
Role of Sports Nutrition
Sports nutrition plays an essential role in optimizing the beneficial effects of physical activity. Maximizing your nutrition and hydration can improve performance, prevent injury, and accelerate recovery.
It can help with a variety of things from tips for post-workout snacks to nutrition plans for training and running events.
Basics of Sports Nutrition
The energy required for living and physical activity comes from the food and drinks we consume. It comes from macronutrients, which are the components of the foods and drinks we consume.
The Goal of Sports Nutrition
The goal of sports nutrition is to eat the right foods and fluids at the right time. This ensures you get all the vitamins and minerals you need. This helps to optimize running and fitness performance, and recover in a healthy way. Let’s jump right in.
Food as a Fuel Source
Food provides the body with the power to enhance performance through endurance, strength, focus, and clarity. Fueling your body with the right foods is essential for sports performance and everyday living.
For your physical and mental health to remain strong and healthy, we need to consume a balanced diet of macronutrients that fuel you through training. The three pillars of macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Here is more information about each.
Carbohydrates are the fuel of the body. There are two key forms of carbohydrates – starchy or complex, and simple sugars.
Simple sugars are in refined products like white bread, crackers, and sugary cereals. They’re in ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, etc. And they occur naturally in dairy products (lactose), fruit (fructose), and some vegetables.
The body uses simple carbohydrates (whether natural or added ingredients) in the same way. The body burns them quickly for fuel. From a nutritional standpoint, it is better to get your simple sugars from natural foods. This is because they also contain fiber which is an important nutrient.
Complex carbohydrates, or starches, include things like grains such as bread, pasta, and rice. Similar to simple carbs, there are some complex carbohydrates that are better than others. Processed refined grains like white rice and white flour aren’t as good as whole wheat because of the lack of nutrients.
Protein is integral in building and repairing muscles and tissues. It’s also part of the production of enzymes, hormones, and a variety of additional body chemicals. It is one of the main building blocks of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.
Protein-rich foods include meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, some dairy and soy products.
Fat is an essential component of any diet. It helps the body absorb nutrients. Fat is also a great source of energy. Even though fats are integral to your diet, eat in moderation. Eating large amounts of fats can lead to excess weight gain. And overconsumption increases the likelihood of serious health concerns. There are two basic kinds of fat, saturated and unsaturated.
Saturated fats are in animal products and processed foods such as meat and dairy. Some experts consider saturated fats as unhealthy for the heart. They also raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.
Unsaturated fats are in foods like avocados, olives, nuts, and certain oily fish. They are considered heart-healthy. They can also lower your LDL cholesterol levels and raise your HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Sports Nutrition and Hydration
Getting adequate hydration and electrolytes is essential for your health and athletic performance. Your body depletes water throughout the day through perspiration and waste. Runners lose additional body water (and a lot of sodium) through sweat during intense training.
Proper hydration prevents fatigue while optimizing muscle performance.
Hydration is essential for living and for sports performance. Moderation is key. Too much or too little of anything is not a good thing. Not getting enough hydration is as much of a problem as too much hydration. Here are a few hydration deficiencies.
Dehydration is the process of losing body water. Fluid deficits greater than 2% of body weight hurts both athletic performance and cognitive function. Elite athletes use fluid replacement strategies as part of their sports nutrition to maintain optimal body function. A lack of sufficient hydration for athletes may lead to the following conditions.
- Hypohydration (dehydration)
- Hypovolemia (decreased plasma/blood volume)
- Hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels/water intoxication)
Overcoming dehydration is accomplished through rehydration. Drink water and sports drinks containing sodium, potassium, and magnesium to stay hydrated appropriately.
Recovery is eating and drinking the right things to replenish, hydrate, and recharge your body after an intense workout.
Sports nutrition for new runners
For a new runner, recovery is different than a runner training for a marathon. If this is you, the “traditional” macronutrient breakdown is a good place to start.
- 50% carbohydrates
- 30% fat
- 20% protein
After your workout, eat within two hours, a mix of carbohydrates and protein to help the body recover. The carbs will replenish spent energy stores (glycogen) and the protein helps repair muscle fibers.
These are guidelines for the average new runner who trains 3 – 4 times a week.
Sports Nutrition Recovery for Marathon Training
For a runner in marathon training, the principles of sports nutrition are slightly different. Marathon runners need to eat more calories because they’re training more frequently and at a higher intensity. You’ll need to eat more carbs to increase carbohydrate stores (glycogen) for energy.
In this training scenario, your diet might look like this:
- 65% carbohydrate
- 20% fat
- 15% protein
You should drink more fluids because you’re losing water and sodium through sweat. To avoid muscle fatigue and increased injury risk, proper hydration is essential.
Optimizing recovery is vital, so you’re ready for the next training run. Within 30 minutes after your training run, eat a carb/protein-rich snack, like greek yogurt with fresh fruit, a protein shake, or a slice of whole-wheat toast with almond butter. This is crucial because the first two hours after a training run is when your muscles are most receptive to refueling.
Marathon training runners should take advantage of this 30-minute window. And then within two hours, eat a balanced meal, of carbs, proteins, and fats.