As runners, we're pretty good at following a physical training plan to prepare for a race. Most of us plan our runs, log miles, and do additional strength and mobility training to make sure we're preparing our bodies for those big endurance efforts. But how many of us give equal attention to our nutrition needs? As we increase our mileage and activity levels, do we adequately bolster our diets to match the increased exertion? Often, people fit into one of these camps:
- I did my research and I have a thoughtful nutrition plan.
- I try to just eat more and better when I increase my exercise levels.
- I don't do anything different.
- I never thought about my nutrition needs.
Do you have an established nutrition routine?
If you've followed us for a while, you've probably heard about Gnarly Nutrition. You know that we carry their hydration products on all of our courses, and you may also know that we sometimes co-host nutrition clinics with them. In 2022, we've co-hosted two clinics:
We recommend going back and listening to the conversation because Gnarly covers a lot of important and informative facts. Everyone can learn something!
To round out race season, we're recapping some of the things we learned this past year.
Everyone needs electrolytes and you always hear that you need to "replenish your electrolytes" after exercise. But why? And what the heck is an electrolyte anyway? To start, electrolytes are essential minerals like sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Our cells use electrolytes to conduct electrical charges. This conduction is what allows our muscles to contract. Electrolytes also help with chemical reactions and the balance of fluids inside and outside of cells; hence, they're important for cellular hydration. Because our muscles do more work during exercise, we need to have electrolytes available to help with muscle contraction and to aid in cellular hydration.
Okay, so now we know a little bit more about why electrolytes are important, but how much do you really need? Whenever we talk about nutrition and fitness, the most true answer is often "it depends." The amount of electrolytes that you need is different from your neighbor's and may even vary day-to-day. That said, the average amount of sodium in sweat is 500 mg of sodium per pound of sweat. We look mostly at sodium (rather than other electrolytes) because sodium is the main molecular "currency" that our bodies use to regulate electrolytic processes. Though, the actual range of sodium that we lose through is quite large: 220 to 1,100 mg of sodium. This variability is based on these factors:
- Ambient temperature and humidity
- Acclimatization (is your body acclimated to the climate?)
When exercising, it is important to replenish your electrolytes to stay within a healthy range. Gnarly Nutrition recommends consuming 300-500 mg of sodium per hour during training and recovery. This sodium can be consumed through fluids or foods.
For reference, Gnarly Hydrate contains 250 mg of sodium per serving.
Did you know?
The National Academy of Sciences
recommends men drink 3.7 liters of fluids per day and women consume 2.7 liters of fluid.
Should you carb load?
Here's another topic that you always hear about in the running community. Should you carb load before a race? If so, with what and when? Before you plop a big helping of spaghetti onto your plate the night before your big race, take a few minutes to learn about the importance of type and timing of carbohydrate consumption.
Not all carbs are created equal. Heck, our tastebuds know this already! We all know that a teaspoon of sugar tastes a lot different than a spoonful of plain oatmeal. We'll simplify things by breaking carbs into two groups: high glycemic index carbs and low glycemic index carbs.
Low GI foods should be the foundation of our carbohydrate consumption. They are best consumed throughout the day and in days leading up to larger endurance efforts. Low GI foods are essential for building the base of our bodies' glycogen storage. They also offer access to micronutrients and fiber. Low GI foods tend to be more well-rounded which is why they are good to consume regularly and in the days leading up to endurance efforts. Common low GI foods include:
- Basmati rice
- Wholegrain bread
High GI foods deliver energy fast and are available "on demand." These foods quickly elevate your blood sugar and should be consumed around efforts. Before and during a workout, high GI foods can be consumed to keep glucose levels elevated (giving your body more available energy to use). After a workout, high GI foods can be consumed to quickly replenish spent glycogen (glycogen is the stored form of glucose in our bodies). Common high GI foods include:
- Ice cream
- Jasmine rice
- Processed food
- White bread
As you prepare for a race, go ahead and enjoy your pasta in the days leading up to the big day, but don't eat so much that you give yourself a stomach ache! Additionally, make sure you have some high GI foods to consume during your race. You'll want to have a good set of "safe foods" that give you energy but that don't upset your stomach while running.
The amount of protein you should consume depends on your muscle mass and your fitness level. Do we sound like a broken record yet? Generally, endurance athletes should consume at least 1.4g of protein per kg of body weight, and power endurance strength training athletes should aim for at least 1.6g per kg of body weight.
These quantities roughly equate to 20-30g of protein for each meal or snack you consume throughout the day. The goal is to eat every 3-4 hours to help maintain energy levels and to maximize muscle protein synthesis (an important part of muscle repair and recovery).
What does 20-30g of protein look like?
- 4oz fish
- 2⁄3 can of tuna
- 8 medium shrimp
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 4 eggs
Gnarly Nutrition further discusses protein needs in their Recovery Nutrition clinic. We recommend reviewing it to get a fuller picture of your unique protein needs.
Fat: good or bad?
Good! Don't fear the fat. Fat often gets a bad rap without substantial claims to back up the hate. In reality, we need fat for a lot of vital functions in our bodies. While it's true that some fats are better than others, there's no reason to avoid it all together.
Fat is needed so that our bodies can process fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamins A, D, E, and K. As a general rule of thumb, at least 20% of your calories should come from fat to ensure adequate supplies. If not, you may have trouble absorbing vitamins and micronutrients.
As a bonus fun fact, there is research that suggest that women are actually better suited to use fat as energy than men. This is because women have more type 1 muscle fiber than men and these fibers are best adapted for using fat as fuel. Thus, research also suggests that women may be physiologically better suited for endurance activity than men. Cool, huh!? If you're a woman, we highly recommend the Nutrition for Women clinic. It is full of awesome information tailored toward women to help them make informed nutrition plans for running.
If you found this information helpful, keep an eye out for future Gnarly Nutrition clinics. And, if you've only tried their products on our courses, take a few minutes to see what else they offer. With Gnarly, you can build your whole arsenal of protein, greens, and hydration needs. Plus, you can feel good knowing that everything is designed to work together. Vacation Racers get 15% off their online purchases with code Vacation15. Happy training!