We caught up with sports nutritionist, Tamara Madden to go over some of the common errors most runners (including ourselves) make. For more amazing nutrition advice, visit her at Mad on Nutrition
Not eating enough
Running is a demanding sport and burns a high level of energy. It is important to fuel your body accordingly to ensure that you are able to train consistently, and avoid illness and injury. It is important to eat a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein and fat. The right ratio for you depends on your body composition, your training and your goals. Focus on unprocessed carbs like vegetables, fruit and wholegrains (brown rice, buckwheat, oats), lean protein sources such as eggs, fish, meat, legumes, beans, and dairy, along with healthy fats such as oily fish, olives, nuts, seeds, and butter. There has been a trend towards low-carb diets in recent years, whilst these have a place, they are not the answer for all runners, and are not the magic pill to improve performance. In most situations, a very low carb diet it is detrimental to running performance.
Eating whatever they want
Running regularly is not a license to eat whatever you want. I see many runners become frustrated that they are not able to maintain a healthy body weight. Running is a very physically demanding sport, and your body requires a high level of nutrients to support it – this means you need to eat nutrient dense foods. This requires you to be organized and allocate time for food preparation so that you can provide your body with the nutrition is deserves. Opt for the JERF principle – Just Eat Real Food, rather than packaged and processed foods. When you are in the kitchen, think about what else you could be making at the same time - if the oven is on do a batch of roasted vegetables - awesome to have in the fridge for meals and snacks. Do a variety of above and below the ground veg – my favourites are sweet potato, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, beetroot and fennel.
Not paying enough attention to recovery nutrition
Always eat a meal / snack within 45 minutes of finishing training. This is the best time of the day to include quality carbohydrates, be it fruit, vegetable or starchy carb, or whole grains. Not eating enough carbohydrates after training will compromise glycogen replacement, result in fatigue, potentially immune system issues and weight gain. You will also benefit from a small amount of protein post training – around 15-25gms, depending if it’s one of your meals or a snack.
Not drinking enough water
You need to drink 2 Litres of water per day, plus replace anything lost from exercise. In Summer this loss will be greater than in Winter, on average the loss in 600mls for every hour of exercise. If you are constantly fatigued, pay attention to your fluid intake for a few days to see if you improve. Sparkling water and herbal teas are a great way to boost intake.
Eating too many packaged snacks such as protein bars and energy bars
I see many runners rely on packaged items for their snacks – often a protein bar, a paleo bar, or an energy bar (Clif bar anyone ?) These items are fine from time to time, but ideally your snacks should be real food like fruit, nuts, seeds, eggs, veggies, yoghurt, cheese etc. or even leftover dinner. Meal planning is an important step, not to be overlooked, plan for your meals and snacks for the week, then shop and prep accordingly. If you are time poor utilise services such as online shopping, weekly delivery options or even meals services like Hello Fresh.
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