| Erin Stokes | November 16, 2016 |
Starting to run, or increasing the mileage you run, requires an uptick in energy reserves. We can often forget that the energy to fuel all of our endeavors ultimately needs to come from the food we eat (and no, it’s not from coffee!).
What should we eat to optimize running?
Many people may avoid fat while beginning a running program in order to try to shed pounds. This is not a wise strategy for many reasons, especially in light of the current research. A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition investigated the relationship between dietary fat intake and lower extremity injury in adult female runners. Eighty-six female runners, who were running a minimum of 20 miles per week, completed a food frequency questionnaire. The findings showed that, “Over half the runners in this study sustained a running-related injury in the year following their initial assessment. These injured runners consumed a diet significantly lower in total fat and lower in percentage of total energy from fat.”1 It’s now known that not consuming enough fat can impact runners’ health and performance. When choosing the right fats to eat, the term “healthy fats” is widely used, but what exactly does that mean? Healthy fats include monounsaturated fats found in foods such as olive oil, nuts, and avocados, as well as the omega-3 rich foods salmon, sardines, walnuts and flaxseeds. Another healthy fat that’s gained recent popularity is coconut oil, which contains a certain kind of fat called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). One of the great benefits of cooking with coconut oil is that it can be heated to higher temperatures than olive oil without oxidizing.
What’s the skinny on eating protein and running?
Protein is a key component of every cell of the body and is an important building block for muscle tissue. Adequate protein intake speeds up both muscle growth and recovery. Similar to fat, it’s been shown that runners who consume the right amount of protein are less likely to get injured. But what amount is the right amount?
The USDA's Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is .8 grams per kilogram (or .36 grams per pound) of body weight, but people who run regularly usually need more. Generally it’s suggested to get closer to 1.0 grams per kilogram a day (or .45 grams per pound). This amount is consumed throughout the day. As always, these guidelines are meant as a starting point guide, and each individual will find the amount that is right for them. In my experience as a Naturopathic Doctor, the frequency of protein intake is just as important as the total amount per day. So, don’t run out the door in the morning without getting some protein in your body!
Beet root was first cultivated by the Romans. In Greek mythology, Aphrodite was said to eat beets to help her retain her beauty. It’s no wonder when you look at the gorgeous red color of the beet roots due to its naturally occurring pigment betacyanin.
Many runners have become fans of beetroot, and today it’s widely known as a superfood. Why?
Beets are a natural source of dietary nitrates, which the body converts to nitrite, and then to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide aids in optimal blood flow and delivery of oxygen to the muscles. In fact, recent research2 has shown that eating beets or drinking beet juice can help support optimal athletic performance*. Beets can be roasted in the oven, consumed in fresh juice, or added in a powdered form to a smoothie.
B-Vitamin Rich Foods
One of the most important groups of vitamins for a runner is the B vitamins, since these are needed to convert food into cellular energy*. When we look at whole foods that are a reliable source of B vitamins, dark green leafy vegetables are at the top of the list. Depending of the specific B vitamin, legumes, fish and chicken are other foods to include regularly, if appropriate for your personal nutrition plan. Yet, even when we eat all of the right foods, nutritional gaps in the diet are prevalent.
MegaFood’s Balanced B Complex supports your nervous system and assists in the conversion of food into energy with its balanced ratio of FoodState® B complex vitamins and nourishing whole foods from our family farm partners, like organic kale from Foxy Organic and brown rice from Lundberg Family Farms*. Finally, a favorite feature among runners and non-runners alike is that it can be taken anytime throughout the day, even on an empty stomach.
A Winning Combination
Ensuring that you eat a balanced diet with the right mix of healthy fats, carbohydrates and protein will support your body with the fuel it needs. Give your body an additional boost with nature’s superfoods (such as kale and beetroot) to feel your best. When in doubt, a B Complex vitamin supplement will fill in those nutritional gaps, leaving you vibrant and energized on the treadmill, pavement, or trail.
...What to consume, post-run? Here's one of my personal favorite post-workout smoothies!
* This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease