Nutrition for RunnersBy IsoWhey Sports Nutritionist Belinda Reynolds
Like any athlete, runners have some specific increases in nutritional demands, and this demand increases further if it is endurance events you partake in. Nutrients are responsible for keeping the body functioning at its peak on a daily basis, supporting muscle recovery, growth and adaptation, fuelling energy synthesis and maintaining bone, joint and cardiovascular health. They also provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune support that will minimise the negative impact the stress of training and competition can place on the body.
For this reason, throughout training, runners should focus on consuming a diet that is nutrient-dense rather than one full of over-processed, nutrient depleted foods. Brightly and deeply coloured fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, eggs, lean meats and foods rich in healthy oils (e.g. oily fish, avocado, coconut oil) should make up the bulk of a runner's daily diet. This is because these foods are rich in the nutrients that support a healthy body, and you will not perform at your peak if your system is suffering.
Research shows that intense exercise puts strain on the body and contributes to chronic inflammation that affects the health of the gut (resulting in symptoms of diarrhoea and cramping), causes suppressed immune function, slow recovery and compromised performance. Small muscle tears occur during training, and when a session lasts over an hour, or is conducted in high heat, significant amounts of electrolytes are lost which are essential for healthy nerve conduction, focus, muscle function and energy. Consequently, supplementation may be useful to provide an easily accessible source of key nutrients to support the body during the pre-workout and recovery stages, and throughout long sessions as well.
Whey protein has an ideal amino acid profile for supporting muscle recovery and synthesis post training. It is rich in the branched chain amino acids L-leucine, L-isoleucine and L-valine, that are the key building blocks of muscle and that stimulate muscle protein synthesis. L-glutamine found in whey protein, also supports muscle recovery, plus it is essential for gastrointestinal health, liver detoxification and immune function. Studies show protein, and these amino acids, consumed after training can support healthy muscle recovery.
The muscle, joint, and whole body inflammation which occurs due to intense, high impact running training is shown to compromise performance in subsequent training sessions, and many athletes turn to anti-inflammatory medications to manage this. There are, however natural alternatives available. Tart cherry contains potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that reduce muscle soreness and enhance recovery, plus being naturally rich in melatonin may also help you achieve better quality restorative sleep.
Beta-alanine and L-ornithine help to clear lactic acid and ammonia respectively, suppressing muscle soreness and resultant muscle fatigue during and after training, whilst attenuating the compromised ATP synthesis ammonia build up can cause. Furthermore, probiotics will support healthy digestion and immune function. Ensuring your immune defenses are armed leading up to competition is essential for preventing colds and flus creeping in that may interfere with your training schedule.
Magnesium is a useful mineral to you include in your electrolyte replenishment (along with sodium, potassium and calcium). Magnesium levels are often depleted after an intense training session, and this can lead to symptoms you wish to avoid such a muscle cramps and spasms, inflammation, low energy and headaches.
Some tips for competition:
- Don't try any new supplements right before or during a race. Trial them during your training sessions so you know what to expect.
- High fibre foods are great to include in your daily diet, however for the 24 hours before you race, especially a long distance, it may be worth minimising fibre intake, especially high fructose foods.
- Beginning your race well hydrated is just as important as re-hydrating afterwards. Try sipping an electrolyte drink that provides a source of glucose over the 1-2 hours before competition to ensure your body is hydrated and muscles are fuelled.
- New research shows that during intense training consumption of a small amount of protein, in combination with carbohydrate, can minimise reductions in performance and support better recovery.
This guest post was written by IsoWhey Sports Nutritionist Belinda Reynolds. Find out more about IsoWhey Sports at http://www.isowheysports.com.au/