Thinking about running as a way to stay in shape?
Then you better start thinking about how to fuel your body to better the odds of meeting your objectives. Whether you are just going for a short jog in the park or gearing up for a marathon race, research shows even slight changes to your diet can make a significant difference in your running performance.
Of course, eating a balanced diet that includes more vegetables and fruit and less fats and processed food will provide you with the best foundation for good health and enhance your ability to participate in any physical activity, including running.
But there are ways to tinker with your diet to get a bit of an edge for working out or the big race itself. For example, research suggests loading up with carbohydrates, which can be stored as energy in your muscles, can help increase your endurance by up to two to three per cent. This has been proven to be effective in moderate to high-intensity exercise over long distances, such as the marathon, where most of your energy used comes from carbs. As you might expect, there is a right way and a wrong way to load up on carbs.
For runners, it is suggested the right way is to strategically increase carb intake for one to three days leading up to your big race by consuming a variety of food. The wrong way is eating large amounts of pasta the night before.
All things being equal, runners should aim to consume about eight to 12 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight for up to three days before running a race. For a recreational runner weighing 60 kg (132 pounds), that would amount to about 480 grams of carbs over three days.
A daily amount of carbohydrate-containing foods to achieve your goal could look like this:
125 mL 100% juice (15 g); two slices bread with 30 mL jam each (30 g); 175 mL yogurt (12 g) with 15 mL dried fruit (15 g). Total carbs for meal: 102 g.
250 mL canned fruit (30 g); two cereal bars (30 g). Total carbs per meal: 60 g.
One large tortilla (30 g) with 325 mL vegetables (15 g); 250 mL flavoured milk (27 g); one large banana (30 g). Total carbs per meal: 102 g.
Four rice cakes (30 g) with 30 mL honey (30 g). Total carbs per meal: 60 g.
250 mL rice (30 g); 375 mL vegetables (15 g); 250 mL milk (12 g); 250 mL chocolate pudding (60 g). Total carbs per meal: 117.
250 mL 100% juice (30 g); one small muffin (15 g). Total carbs per meal: 45 g.
Total carbs for the day: 486 g.
It is important to remember only carb-containing foods are mentioned above (water, meat and alternatives, and fats and oils are not mentioned).
Janelle Vincent is a registered dietitian with the Winnipeg Health Region.