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!
This is a convenient and extremely helpful guide for anyone looking to: ease into running if you’re a beginner, return to running post-injury, build mileage, OR if you just want to keep running and prevent injury! Basically, in short, this guide is for ALL runners. No runner or jogger is exempt from this guide, and it is advised that you consult mine if you want to continue on the path to lifetime running 🙂
Family Medical History
Consult the family history. It is just a good pre-cautionary method for all beginning athletes and runners to know their family’s medical history. Make sure you know of any histories with joint issues, asthma, heart problems, etc. This is just good to clear the air with. Certainly if there are health concerns in the family, be sure to get all this straightened out and cleared with the doctor.
Personal Athletic History
Okay, now that we’ve moved on from that, you’re going to have to examine your own! Besides medical needs, I am talking about your own past injuries, weaknesses, vitamin/health deficiencies such as iron or calcium, nutrition overall, progression of activities, current state of activity, and weekly mileage. These are all areas that need to be examined. So now, I get to break these down a bit.
Your past injuries are VERY important! From a trainer/coach’s point-of-view, we have to evaluate why the athlete became injured in the first place. Was it caused by poor nutrition? Not even strength training? Or was it too much strength training in the wrong areas? Did he or she only run on hard surfaces including concrete and sidewalks? Is the runner involved in outside activites that caused the injury? Overtrain?
YEAH. Identifying the injury is not simple. This is not a one-time trip to the trainer’s office, they diagnose you, and you go home knowing exactly what it is and how to cure it. No way! There can be so many problems, and that’s why it’s extremely important that you make sure to be monitoring any signs of abnormal weaknesses, pains and to examine what you eat and how often you hydrate. More details on this later.
So keep a record of your injuries. Do they all seem similar? Repeated injuries? Probably. And the areas affected may be closely related like hips and knees. Keep records of what the diagnosis was AND the treatment given. Typically, once runners get injured, that injury is likely to happen again if the runner does not keep with the exercises continually, even when you are healthy!
Weaknesses and the Three R’s
This goes with injuries, because you typically become injured if joints/muscles have grown weak or tired. As mentioned earlier, examine your treatment given. If you run on your own and are not choosing to make a doctor’s appointment (which unless it’s a severe case, you really don’t need a doctor’s appointment.) then you just need to rest, re-evaluate, and research.
Rest- Clearly, your body needs to take some time off to allow itself to heal. If you are finding pain within just the first mile of the run, or worse when you simply walk everyday, then it’s time to hunker down for a bit and not do that same activity over and over.
Re-evaluate- Something went wrong under your radar, and we can’t all go injury-free no matter what. When it happens, examine where it hurts. This when you have to ask yourself a lot of questions: what surfaces were you running on, what does your nutrition look like, did you up your mileage too fast…basically the questions above in the Past Injuries section. Evaluate, and then evaluate a different option.
Research- Once you have come to a more definite conclusion of what your injury looks like (IT-band syndrome, patellafemoral pain syndrome, shin splints, stress fracture, etc.) Research it! Find exercises you can do to strengthen the affected areas. I will also spend more time explaining some research-backed exercises later on. If you can cross-train, then cross-train. Biking and swimming are usually the most recommended activities to do while injured.
Once you know your weaknesses, you HAVE to keep strengthening the areas that are likely to get worn down quickest. For example, my weak areas are my hips and glutes. I am constantly doing mobility and strength routines targeted for those each day.
I won’t go into all nutrition here because that’s for separate posts and would take too long. Eat healthy. 😉 But in regards to your actual health needs, any deficiency you may have could pose a problem. And it could not! Honestly, the main vitamins and minerals you need to be concerned with are: Iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, and Omega 3 is a fatty acid, but it is strongly advised to have this supplement taken around 3-4 times a week for optimal health as well. There are plenty of other supplements that you may need to be taking for joints or other needs. I would suggest going to a doctor if you have more questions with this. However, it’s also okay to discover as you go as I did 🙂
Here is what I highly recommend to all long-distance runners and especially female runners with high mileage: Get your ferritin levels checked. In other words, get a blood test to check and see how much iron you have in your body. You obviously do not want your levels to be too high as too much iron is not okay. So please get this checked before you begin your taking iron regularly. You want your level to be around 30-50, and one of the guys on my cross country team had his at a 100 and apparently, that was just fine for his case at 80 miles/week. Again, please talk to your doctor if you think you are at risk of being anemic as low iron has very negative effects on performance and causes fatigue.
Current State of Activity and Mileage
This is where the road diverts a bit. If you a beginner, you will want to ease into your first race through a run-walk or a jog program. And how active have you been normally? How much activity do you typically do? And even if you are a beginning runner, did you play a different sport like tennis or soccer? There are lots of elements to consider as you start to create a plan. Your plan might be having you run 3 days a week whereas another person may be walk/jogging the first few weeks. You have to be realistic with your goals and know your body. Know what jumps you can take and what progressions seem reasonable. Remember: progress is still progress.
If you are intermediate/advanced, creating plans shouldn’t be too difficult at this point. But as always, evaluate each race accordingly. A half-marathon will go for more tempo runs and mile repeats. A 5k will call for 400 repeats, 1000 repeats; shorter distances sprinted/exerted with vigorous effort and with a proper warm-up and cool-down.
Mileage is huge. I mean all of this is huge, but mileage you need to be cautious with. DO NOT MAKE DRASTIC JUMPS. Don’t run 20 miles the last week and 32 the next. That’s too big of a jump. Increase your mileage by 10% each week. If you did 20, go 22 next week. If you did 50, then 55 the next week. Slow and steady wins the race. And keeps you at less risk of getting hurt from over-training 🙂 Watch your other activities as well if you’re very involved. I’m talking even about the occasional soccer intramural game or basketball at the neighbor’s house. All I’m saying is, be careful. Because I have heard one too many horror stories of runners missing out on races because they got hurt in other activities! Not even in running! So…save the hardcore athleticism for the track and not in sand volleyball 😉 Your next race will thank you.
So that is my bit of a crash-course to getting the best out of running, plenty more details to follow. These are all things you should be evaluating your whole running career. We don’t just lace up and run, we have about a billion other things to tend to but it’s what separates us from the less dedicated.
You know you’re a runner/jogger when you have read this whole list and still nod and say yes to the miles ahead 🙂
Have a fantastic night and have a great run tomorrow! xoxo