I am training for a half marathon and I'm up to three miles a run. However, I've never been a runner before and suddenly I've been getting incredibly hungry. So far I've gone down a size since I started training! I've been wondering if I should increase my food intake, but I'm not sure by how much and which type of foods (protein, carbs, etc). Any suggestions?
— Running on Empty
Fueling your body well is an essential part of training for any endurance event. When it comes to running, carbs are king. Carbohydrates turn most readily into the glycogen, aka muscle fuel. But just eating pasta won't cut it, a well-balanced diet it key. To learn why just
- Carbs: Since carbs are the ultimate source of fuel they should make up 45-65 percent of your daily caloric intake. Carbs should come from whole grain sources (they're higher in important vitamins and minerals), fruits, veggies, and even dairy offers carbs. High fiber snacks are best avoided as pre-run snacks since they can be difficult to digest while you're in motion.
- Fats: As long as you're avoiding saturated kind, fats are a healthy source of muscle fuel for the endurance athlete. This macronutrient can be oxidized for muscle fuel during a long workout longer than 90 minutes. Your diet should consist of 25-35 percent of fat derived mostly from plant-based sources. Think walnuts and avocados instead of bacon.
- Protein: Long associated as the food of muscle heads, protein is important when you're logging miles too. Adequate protein helps reduce the breakdown of muscle and helps rebuild the fibers. Since protein doesn't play a huge role as a fuel when running, the daily recommendation is only 10-35 percent. This may sound low, but it is rare that Westerners suffer from lack of protein in their diets. Protein does seem to keep hunger at bay, so you can use lean proteins to help keep you feeling full.
As you build your mileage you will want to increase the amount of carbs you add to your daily diet. And don't discount adequate hydration. Keeping your water tank full, even the day before a run, will help your run, and rehydrating after will help you recover too. Remember, sometimes the body confuses the signs of dehydration for hunger.
If you're running to lose weight, be careful not to over do it when refueling. Running can increase the appetite, but you want to stick to the old equation that calories in should not exceed the calories you have burned. When training for an event and watching your waistline, every calorie that you eat is important and you want to make sure you're making healthy choices. Lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbs are your best bet.
If you can, make an appointment with a dietician that specializes in sports nutrition. He or she will be able to tailor a plan to suit your individual needs.
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