Running puts a lot of wear and tear on your body. Which, combined with the right nutrition (and running technique) is actually a very good thing as it drives continuous renewal – making your body fitter, fresher and stronger.
At the most basic, reductionist level of nutrition, our bodies need to convert fuel into energy in order to run. Having supped a glucose gel three-quarters of the way through a sub three hour marathon, I can tell you that nothing fuels running more effectively than glucose or other simple sugars. But when it comes to proper nutrition I’m really not a fan of carbo-loading and low fat diets, which risk overloading your body with insulin spiking sugar and empty calories.
Refined carbohydrates – white rice, pasta, bread, refined sugar – are all different forms of pure sugar. For sure you need an adequate supply of carbohydrates, but I get all of these from whole foods such as vegetables, fruit and wholegrain (ok, topped up with an energy gel but only after a half marathon or more of running).
The other two key macronutrients are protein and healthy fats, and it’s these – combined with the optimal balance of key vitamins and minerals – that power healthy, successful and enjoyable running. Runners need fat to lubricate and protect joints and organs, to aid recovery and absorption of nutrients, and to act as a key fuel. Low fat diets for runners are damaging – be sure to include nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil, coconut butter and dairy butter as integral part of your diet.
Whilst there are plenty of supplements available for runners, I’m not a fan of Frankenfood and scientifically engineered meal replacements – wherever possible try to get all your body needs from whole foods, by following a fairly simple diet. Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables; lean meat, fish and dairy; beans, nuts and seeds; fruit, wholegrain and spices.
Over the next few posts I’ll be introducing you to (in my opinion) the ten most important nutrients for runners and how you can use them in a recipe.