As the volume of training, or numbers of miles per week, can be quite large for runners, ensuring a suitable energy intake throughout the day is crucial to any sports nutrition strategy. The basis of this is a platform of regular meals. It is normal for many to have three regular meals throughout the day, but for those training hard, it might be advisable to look at opportunities to increase energy intake further through the use of between meals snacks.
Classically, much information refers to a specific percentage of carbohydrate, fat and protein that is required in the diet. This is hard to do, and more current guidelines prefer to suggest amounts of carbohydrate and protein based on individual body weight. Unfortunately, these guidelines are not easily transferred into practical meals, so for the majority, it is much easier to emphasise that they should be consuming carbohydrate and protein with all meals. Low glycaemic index carbohydrates are better consumed at main meals, whilst high glycaemic carbohydrates are best consumed in the immediate periods before, during and after training.
Endurance athletes are traditionally sensitive to protein in their diet, based on the myth that it will make them ‘big’. In reality, it is specific training methods (resistance training) that will increase muscle mass, rather than protein intake per se. Protein is crucial in the diet and should be consumed regularly throughout the day to help aid repair, regeneration and general protein balance. Although, the overall protein requirements are unlikely to be as high as strength based athletes, a focus on protein in recovery from training is an area most runners can make improvements.
Hydration is another area that requires focus for runners. The amount that any individual will sweat is highly individual and dependent on several factors e.g. weather, intensity, duration. Dehydration is known to reduce training intensity, so maintaining a regular fluid intake throughout the day is something that should be maintained. Urine colour is the simplest way to monitor hydration status, with urine that is yellow/colourful suggesting a dehydrated state. Electrolytes (or sodium) are another area that have received significant press in the running world. Consuming a sports drink with electrolytes is recommended practice, whilst for longer events (Ironman) and/or in hot climates higher electrolyte drinks may be appropriate.
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