Food and Nutrition

Love to Run? Here's How to Eat for Max Performance

| by Fit Bottomed Girls

You already know that we’re huge fans of goal-setting, like signing up for a 5K or triathlon, but training for any endurance event doesn’t just take time working out—it also takes time eating and planning a diet that is perfect for your exercise routine! We recently got some tips from Elisa Zied, registered dietitian, author, and founder and president of Zied Health Communications on how to improve your running and walking performance with the right tasty eats!

5 Ways to Improve Your Running & Walking Workouts

As we step into the heart of running and walking season, many are lacing up to train for races. Before hitting the trails, it’s important to hit the kitchen. Runners and walkers use more carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals than couch potatoes.

1. Carbs are fuel. Because carbohydrates are the best source of energy for all of us—especially athletes—about 45 to 65 percent of total caloric intake should come from carbohydrate-rich foods. Carbohydrates provide both quick and long-lasting energy, and our bodies can use them more efficiently than proteins or fats. High-fiber whole grains (such as oatmeal, whole wheat pasta and breads, and brown or wild rice), fruits, beans and other vegetables are all healthful sources.

2. Fat Is Your Friend. Twenty to 35 percent of a runner’s or walker’s diet should come from healthy fats. During exercise, muscles rely on fats for fuel after the energy from carbohydrates has been depleted. Try to limit intake of foods high in saturated or trans fats, or cholesterol, as they can contribute to a host of health problems. Cold-water fatty fish, some oils (like canola and soybean), walnuts, flaxseeds, and tofu provide essential omega-3 fats that have been linked to disease prevention.

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3. Protein up! The body uses protein to repair tissue damaged during training, and protein-rich foods supply us with much needed energy. Protein should comprise about 10 to 35 percent of a runner’s or walker’s daily intake. Use caution with protein rich foods: They can be high in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol! Choose lean meats and poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, beans, nuts and seeds.

4. Get Your Vitamins. Vitamins and minerals don’t provide energy, but they are still vital to the health of runners and walkers alike. Eating a well-balanced diet that provides a combination of foods and beverages from all the food groups should cover dietary needs for most people, though some may need to consider supplementation depending on their specific needs, age and stage of life.

5. Hydrate Smart. It’s critical to stay adequately hydrated, especially before, during and after your run or walk. Don’t use thirst as your guide. If your urine is pale in color, that’s one indicator you’re adequately hydrated.

A big thanks to Elisa for the tips! Be sure to check out her latest book Nutrition at Your Fingertips! What do you like to eat before, during and after races? —Jenn