Improving Your Performance Through Diet

Whether you’re a competitive runner or just run for fun, one thing is certain. With the arrival of summer, the number of races taking place and our desire to run will increase. So we thought we’d give you some nutritional tips around macros to help improve your performance.

How do carbohydrates act in our body?

Carbs, the first of our macros, are our primary food source to obtain energy, so a runner’s diet should be primarily carbohydrate based (40-70%) such as pasta, rice, legumes, potato, etc.

Our body breaks down carbohydrate into glucose and uses glucose as fuel to power our cells. We store excess glucose as glycogen in our muscles and liver. This glycogen can be converted back to glucose when energy is required.

Therefore we will need to eat a high carbohydrate food about 2 hours before a race. Our oatmeal with blueberries and raisins is a good option to eat before running.

Important things to know about carbohydrates

If you are going to run a long distance (+10 km), it’s important to try eating whole grains instead of regular grains, because you will have a slower, steadier release of energy.

However, as an endurance runner you will need simple sugars throughout your long runs in order to replenish glycogen and blood glucose levels quickly.

When should you eat protein?

Our body breaks down protein into amino acids. These are essential for muscle function, synthesis and repair.

During a race, we break muscle fibres and we need these amino acids to repair these fibres from the damage caused by training.

It’s advisable to moderate protein intake before running because it can slow down the gastric emptying and cause a heavy feeling.

Protein intake is more important after running to allow our muscle tissue to recover from the damage caused by the race/training.

So you can take our protein brownie bite as a healthy snack just after running and once you arrive home you can take a bigger meal like our vegetarian bolognese with brown basmati rice  

How much protein should I eat?

The amount of protein needed is different depending on a person’s weight, gender and activity level,. The normal recommended amount of protein is 0.8g per kilogram of bodyweight per day.

However, endurance athletes can take about 1.2g to 1.6g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight to reduce injury risk and maximise results.

Should runners include fat in their diets?

Fats are essential to our health and are very important for runners, because in endurance sports the body uses both carbohydrates and fats as fuel.

For this reason, our daily fat intake should be about 20-30% of our daily calories, mainly from unsaturated fat.

When is the best time to consume this fat?

Not before running because it can slow down the gastric emptying and cause that heavy feeling, and for the same reason we shouldn’t take it just after our running session when we need quick absorption of nutrients.

It is therefore highly recommended to consume healthy fatty food around 2-3 hours after running in order to reduce inflammation through Omega 3 fatty acids. Our Flaked cajun salmon orzo salad is a great option for this.

After running (↑↑ Carbs ↑ Protein ↓ Fats)
Recovery (↑ Carbs ↑ Protein ↑ Fat  )

Water is essential in a runner’s diet

In addition to considering macros, we need t think about hydration. When training, we lose a lot of water through perspiration, so it is very important to replace this lost fluid by drinking water. If not we can suffer cramps due to the lost salts in sweat called electrolytes.

So it’s best to make sure you have a continuous intake of water during your run.

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Emma Buckley

Emma Buckley

Emma is the Director of Nutrition and co-founder of GourmetFuel®. She has developed an entire range of health meals and meal plans to compliment healthy living and fuel performance. Emma Buckley B.Sc RNutr, is a Registered Nutritionist with the UKVRN through the Association for Nutrition, from Dublin, Ireland. A UCD graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and Biochemistry a Graduate Certificate in Food, Nutrition and Health and a Higher Diploma in Diet and Nutrition. In almost two decades as a nutritionist she has worked with some of Ireland’s most well known food and health brands. She is an international keynote conference speaker on nutrition and health. She has worked closely with professional and Olympic athletes and coaches covering all track, field and combat sports at the highest levels. Her understanding of how food and the body work together along with a team of gourmet chefs, helps GourmetFuel create a beautiful range of healthy, delicious meals. Emma specialises in weight management, sports nutrition and maternal/postnatal and infant nutrition.

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