Runners and Carbs: Let Us Eat Bread!

My notorious banana bread :) A favorite among runners and athletes alike.
My notorious banana bread 🙂 A favorite among runners and athletes alike.

Long-distance runners are known to carb-load. This is a fact; runners need the carbs in order to perform, plain and simple. But exactly how much do we need? And how much protein is needed for the muscles to recover? You’re in luck if you were wondering since that is exactly what we’re covering in today’s post 🙂

Check the research

Research states that ” if you regularly participate in heavy endurance training at high intensities, you require 0.7 to 0.9 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day” (Coleman). Coleman further states that runners require “2.3 to 3.2 grams of carbs per pound for light to moderate training that last less than one hour, 3.2 to 4.5 grams per pound for heavy training at high intensity,” and these statistics are based off The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. If I am only running 4 miles on a given day, I might want to take 2.6 grams of carbs per pound. Me weighing 113-114, we’re talking 296 grams of carbs! I’ve always been a huge advocate of cereal and energy bars, and one cup of Honey Nut Cheerios gets you nearly 30 grams of carbs already! Even then. This is a very difficult number to achieve and it seems like a lot. What does a healthy, satisfying day look like with around 300 grams of carbs?

Based off the assumption that I ran at 6 AM, without eating prior to run.

Post Run Breakfast- Oiko’s Vanilla Greek yogurt w/ package of Belvita crackers (36 g.) Banana later in morning (27 g.)

Lunch- Turkey sandwich with whole wheat Sara Lee bread (25 g.), medium banana (27 g.) OR tomato soup (16-20 g.), pita chips (20 g.)

Snack- Large honeycrisp apple (30 g.) with Cup of cantolope (13 g.)OR smoothie made w/ banana (30 g.)

Dinner- Grilled chicken w/ cup of brown rice; steamed veggies (45 g.)

2nd Dinner- 1 and a half cups of cereal (45 g.)

This brings me at about 250-270 grams of carbs depending on what I choose out of these options. I only counted carbs for grains/fruits/soup. I did not calculate for meat. As you can see, we might need to eat an extra energy bar at our afternoon snack! Or serve up a larger platter of fruit. I love fruit 🙂 Some people snack more; I really don’t. The only time I snack is on long run day when I’ve done my run that morning. I am starved all day and snack on a lot of fruit and definitely grab that extra energy bar. Because as you can see, the example given above is for a light to moderate running day. My runs that go than an hour, you better believe the day will look slightly different! At least a bigger breakfast or lunch.

So the above is what a typical day may may look like for me, however, as of lately, I upped my may protein intake. So I had been eating, due to all my pancake posts, more protein pancakes and more protein shakes! You have to tread carefully with upsetting the balance. Seriously use the ratios given above with grams/pound, and stick to only around those numbers. If you’re looking to build more muscle…focus on strength then for a week or two and ease back into your regular diet routine. Runners do not adjust well when they are eating MORE protein than carbs. If you truly are running long distances of at least 20 miles per week, then you must be consuming more carbs than protein. Or if your volume of cardio is greater than weights, then yes you need more carbs! Not only will we not have enough energy to run for long distances, the extra protein could block up your system. This is a very high possibility if you’re trying a high-protein diet while trying to run. not only that, but too much protein is horrible for your kidney’s health. And you don’t want that. You could even have the Gatorade after a hard run, and you can still have your protein shake/bar after your strength training. That is certainly advised 🙂

I wish you the best of luck in your nutrition and training 🙂 Ask me any more questions you have on this, and have a great FRIDAY!

Reference

R.D. Coleman, Erin.”How much Protein and Carbs Do Runners Need?” Healthy Eating. http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/