Diet Affects Running Performance

Have you ever heard the saying "You are what you eat"? There is some truth to this statement especially when it comes to runners and other athletes. What you eat can strongly affect the outcome of your daily runs. Not eating enough can leave you lacking energy and feeling fatigued early in the run. There are a couple of things to keep in mind about how much and what to eat before a run.

If you run in the morning, make sure you eat something before your run because the food you digested from the night before is mostly gone by the morning and won't provide with you with the energy you need to sustain you through your workout. If you are not a big breakfast person then consider eating something that is easily digestible and over 200 calories about 30 minutes to an hour before your morning run.

Men and women runners both need to make sure they are getting enough calcium in their diets, but this is especially true for women. When you run you put stress on your bones which cause them to need to remodel. If there is not enough calcium in your body then stress fractures may form. Some foods that are great options to make sure you get an adequate amount of calcium in your diet are dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheeses. Although taking a calcium supplement may be a good option for some, the best way to get calcium is from food.  This is because you also require Vitamin D to absorb calcium into your body. Calcium and vitamin D tend to be found in many of the same dairy products.

The types of food you eat also will affect your running performance. In our society, there is a negative stigma against carbohydrates. For runners, however, carbohydrates should be your best friend. When you exercise your body creates fuel by breaking down the food that you eat. Carbohydrates are the most readily accessible food group to be broken down to use as fuel. After carbohydrates, the next most important food group to make sure you get enough of if you are a runner is protein. Running puts a lot of strain on your muscles and causes micro tearing in the muscles to stimulate muscle growth. Protein is needed to repair the micro damage to muscles in order to allow muscles to grow.

Of course, it is important to stay hydrated.  Especially in warm climates, such as Houston, the body cannot function properly if you do not consume enough water.  Be sure to drink throughout the day and during your run.  If your urine is not pale in color, you are not drinking enough fluids.

All runners need to pay special attention to what they eat. Having a healthy and balanced diet that is tailored to running can really help boost the performance and energy of a runner.
Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.
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