There is a huge amount
written about nutrition for athletes. Much of the advice is dauntingly long and
complicated, and some of it is contradictory. As a new runner, you won't go far
wrong if you stick to these general principles.
If you exercise regularly, you need to
eat and drink more. If you start exercising but go on eating the same
amount, you will lose weight. (This may be what you want, in which case see the
article on Running To Lose Weight).
Running, jogging or walking a mile burns about 100 calories; and if you run
regularly, your resting metabolism will increase. If you run 40 miles a week,
you'll need to eat about 600-700 calories a day extra.
Eat plenty of a wide variety of fresh
or unprocessed foods. Your body
needs carbohydrate, protein and fat, as well as vitamins, mineral, trace
elements and water. If you deny it those things, you are likely to become
lethargic, ill or get injured.
Drink lots of water.
Try to consume at least 2 litres a day. Always have a bottle of water on your
desk at work, and sip regularly during the day. Put a bottle on the kitchen
table and sip whenever you walk past. Being properly hydrated will improve your
running and your complexion! Tea and coffee don't help: they are diuretic (ie
they make you urinate more) so they increase the need to drink water. (Herbal
tea is OK.)
Eat more carbohydrates.
About half of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. This means
lots of potatoes, pasta, bread, cereals and fruit. Where possible, try to eat
unprocessed foods. Unfortunately, most pasta (the runner's staple) is refined:
try wholemeal instead.
Eat a low fat diet.
You should not eliminate fats altogether, but they should not form more than
about 15 per cent of your calorie intake each day. This is not much fat.
Replenish your carbohydrates within
two hours of exercise. Your muscles
will recover much more quickly, and your body will increase its capacity to
store glycogen, if you eat easily digestible carbohydrates (eg bananas) or drink
a recovery sports drink soon after exercise - preferably within half an hour,
and certainly within two hours.
Keep a food diary.
You might be surprised by what you are really eating, even if you think you have
a healthy diet. For a week, keep track of everything you eat, and break it down
into carbohydrate, fat and protein.
You probably don't need vitamin
supplements. If you eat a varied diet and you ensure that your fruit and vegetables are fresh, you should get all
the vitamins and minerals you need. However, some women runners on a heavy
training schedule may find it beneficial to increase their supply of calcium and
iron through a multi-vitamin tablet each day and if you are prone to infections
you may also wish to consider Vitamin C and Zinc supplements as well.
Eat little and often.
Ideally, start the day with a big breakfast
with plenty of carbohydrates, such as muesli or toast. This will give you more
fuel for the day, and help to increase your carbohydrate intake. Then eat every
4 hours or so. It is better to keep your body topped up than to let your blood
sugar levels swing.