Full disclosure, I am NOT a nutritionist. This is basic knowledge as a physical therapist that sees research on the role of nutrients in healing and performance, and as a running coach. Getting into very specific timing and meal plans and specialty diets SHOULD be done with a registered dietitian or a nutritionist/ sports specific nutritionist!!
Hello Loco RevRunners!!
I thought this week we should talk about fuel/ nutrition for us all. I think the first thing to convey is that our relationship with food can be varied and can be complicated. It is important that this is understood up front. With that being said, if we can understand why we as a species eat, it can help frame the rest of the context of this topic. We eat because much like a car, we can only go so far as the fuel we have in us. We require fuel just to idle, let alone to push the RPMs with a multiple mile, 60+ minute long run. If we can keep that in mind, it can help us rethink our relationship with food, at least as it relates to if we are going to exercise. Just as you would not see that your car has only 20 miles worth of fuel left and still try to get to Colorado Springs without filling up, so should we not try to get a max effort push of our body if we know the fuel gauge is close to E.
Calories are the main measurement we use to monitor how much fuel we have on board. Recommendations are all over the board, and vary based on daily activity level (maybe you have a very active job, or one that you sit all day… this will change your demands for fuel) as well as individual metabolic processes. That being said, it is pretty rare that anyone needs less than 1500 calories in a day, and pretty rare to need more than 2000 just to go through your day. Then we need to add in the fact that our exercise is going to need fuel. If you guess that you will use about 100 calories for each mile you run, you will at least be in a general ballpark of how much fuel you will need either before, or to fill up after, depending on what you do best on. With current technology you can dial this number in even more accurately by entering height, weight, etc. into fields like a Garmin app. They use algorithms to help dial in calorie expenditure that tend to be pretty decent. I would say that most, though certainly not all, of us tend to actually UNDER consume the calories we need to sustain our daily existence plus exercise. This can be one of the first things I would look at if you are finding it difficult to finish the workouts strong. It could simply be that you literally ran out of fuel.
Protein: This is probably the most important macro nutrient that I find runners, and really lots of people under consuming. Yes, we use carbohydrates and fats for our energy systems as endurance runners. However, it is protein that gives our muscles mass and provides so many important vessels to carry important chemicals through our body. It is also protein that is so crucial to regeneration of tissue after working out: aka “recovery” First some quick math: 1kg is the same as 2.2 lbs. Most recommendations are in grams/ kg of body weight, so knowing this can help you out with conversions, but I am about to make that rather simple for you. From the Mayo clinic:The recommended dietary allowance to prevent deficiency for an average sedentary adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight… note the word SEDENTARY!!! (emphasis mine)
This would mean that a 150lbs person would need 54g of protein (roughly ⅓ their weight in pounds) if sedentary. However, we are running. I recommend at least ¾ of your weight in grams of protein/ day. So this 150 lbs athlete would want to take in at least 100g/ day. If you are strength training, you want even closer to 1g of protein for every pound of weight, so 150g of protein for the 150 lbs athlete.
A few sources for you to reference:
A quick word about fats: Some amount of saturated fats are really good for us. In particular stuff similar to coconut and olive oil type fats, as these line the coatings of our nerves and help speed up transmission of neural signals and all the healthy stuff that we want for our brains. Of course do not go to town on twinkies, but having good fatty foods is essential to optimal health and performance.
I do not have the knowledge base to go in depth on micro nutrients, but know that getting a good mix of fresh, or frozen veggies is a really easy way to get a lot of those. (I recently learned that frozen veggies can be even better due to being frozen much closer to harvest than the “fresh” stuff sitting under the grocery store lights for however long before you buy them)
I encourage you to track calories and protein for even just 1 day that is most like a typical day for you to see if you think you are around the right amount of caloric and protein intake. From there the basic goal is to shop for a variety of foods throughout the grocery store, eating food rather close to its natural form as we can, and make sure to balance out getting enough protein and calories to fuel our effort and then our recovery.
Hit me up with questions or comments. And I know at least a couple of our members are well suited to chat about nutrition even more so than I am. Feel free to chime in if I am massively misrepresenting anything here!