You must have heard the phrase, “You are what you eat”? If that holds true, a runner needs to turn into a huge carbohydrate, which is the most crucial fuel for them. A good diet really does make you perform better and if you follow the basics we have discussed, you may find yourself running faster, longer and more efficiently.
Does Eating More Fat Make You a Better Runner?
Actually no – there is nothing like a specialized runner’s diet. The type of diet that is good for runners is the same healthy diet as that generally recommended for everyone. Though runners generally maintain a better diet than others, we all need to be aware of the general proportions of our diets. A healthy diet is one that is high in carbohydrates, low in fat, and sufficient but not excessive in protein. That translates to about 60 percent of your calories coming from carbohydrates, 25 percent from fat, and 15 percent from protein. But every person is different and could respond better to slightly different proportions. For instance, if a person is insulin resistant, a diet of 60 percent carbohydrates will create big swings in insulin levels and too much fat storage. In that case, a diet of 50 percent carbs, 25 percent fat and 25 percent protein is a more practical option.
Fads are prohibited
Don’t get caught up in fads like the Atkins or 40/30/30 diet. Quite a few might have lost weight by following these diets, but they aren’t suitable for runners because they would find themselves sluggish from the diminished energy stores of such a low-carbohydrate diet. A high-energy, high-carbohydrate diet is a must for runners. Carbohydrates should form the cornerstone of your diet. Since carbs are the most important energy source for long-distance running, it isn’t surprising that so many runners eat hefty portions of pasta, rice, bread and potatoes. Some even find that as they exercise more their tastes change to prefer these foods.
Why consume more carbs?
Carbohydrates are stored in the muscles as glycogen, the primary fuel to keep you moving. When this efficient source of energy wears out, so do you. You hit the wall and can go no further.
Complex – They are absorbed slowly into your system and give you a steady energy supply. They are usually found in cereal, pasta, vegetables and bread – these foods are also generally high in fiber.
Simple – These are basically sugars, and are tasty and good for a short-term energy boost since they are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Unfortunately, the “sugar high” wears off quickly and usually leaves behind a sugar low, complete with reduced performance and energy. Even so, these sugars do have a place in your diet when they come from natural sources like fruit or juice. The problem is with refined sugars — those typically found in candy, soda, doughnuts, etc. This is literally junk food due to plenty of calories and fat, but no essential vitamins or minerals.
Lose the fat
Cutting back on fat is a must, but it isn’t all bad. It is a necessary part of the diet, offering up both energy and flavor. Fat should account for only 20 or 25 percent of caloric intake and while everyone deserves a treat at times, please try to avoid fatty foods like whole milk, red meat, ice cream, mayonnaise, egg yolks, chocolate, butter and cheese.
Some fats, however, can actually do you some good, particularly monounsturated fats like those in olive oil, peanut oil and avocado oil. Unsaturated fats can actually reduce blood cholesterol. While margarine is made of unsaturated fats, it is also hydrogenated which negates the cholesterol-reducing benefits. But then again, both margarine and butter should be used sparingly. When it comes to fat, the saturated form causes the most damage. They are derived from animal sources such as red meat and milk, but also from coconut, palm and vegetable oils. Such fats are connected to heart disease, obesity, diabetes and some cancers. Try to keep saturated fat down below 10 percent of your total calories, or around a third of your total fat intake.
It helps bone and tissue to grow and repair, and they’re the stuff that blood, skin, hair, nails and organs are made of. Proteins are literally body builders, and it’s important to get a sufficient amount. But it should be 10 to 15 percent of total calories as your body stores excessive protein as fat. If you really overdo it, you could even damage your liver or kidneys.
Thus you can see that more fat isn’t directly proportional to improving your times as a runner – nutrients should always be eaten in regulated amounts. But don’t get so caught up in the specifics that you forget to satisfy your palate. Indulging in burgers and fries or desserts once in a while isn’t a mortal sin, as long as you don’t overdo it.