Now that running has become such a hit all around the globe, thousands of people hit the streets to bust stress, get fit and, in many cases, compete in fun runs. As well as being well kitted out, runners also need to get the proper nutrition to ensure optimal performance. Did you know that a runner’s diet should include nuts, for example?
We asked the dietitian, nutrition and food technology expert Blanca Esteve, director of Aleanutri food and nutrition safety consultancy, for more details. She says that to improve performance, you need more than the balanced, varied diet we should all be following every day, runners and non-runners alike: “A runner’s nutritional requirements vary depending on the intensity of the physical activity, their age and their sex, but there are a series of general guidelines for boosting performance.”
“Runners always need food to give them energy: carbohydrates and calorie-rich foods with lots of proteins and high in unsaturated and polyunsaturated fat.” Nuts above all are runners’ key allies. “Pine nuts and almonds provide the most energy,” she adds.
Complex carbohydrates (pasta, rice, bread, potatoes) are vital because they provide energy in the form of glucose (our fuel) and this provides an energy reserve in our muscles in the form of glycogen. “Our body always has energy reserves to use when needed. They should never be allowed to run out, because then we’d become exhausted and our performance would drop off, which is why provisions are so important.”
Provisions, which should also form part of any diet designed to improve performance, should be taken as follows: “You should eat them before you start to feel tired in order to get a proper energy boost: once you’ve collapsed, it’s too late. You should eat energy bars with cereals (complex hydrocarbons), nuts and a simple sugar such as honey. A simple sugar provides fast energy and cereals and nuts are a powerful source of energy, thanks to their high-quality complex proteins, high fibre content and plenty of healthy fats.”
That’s not all. You also need to keep yourself hydrated. “Before, during and after physical activity. But don’t just drink water; you also need to take in mineral salts lost in sweat. You need to take them to keep up your performance and avoid fatigue. Isotonic drinks are ideal for keeping yourself hydrated and recovering mineral salts such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, chorine and zinc. They also contain other energy-boosting substances like sugar. However, you should be aware that isotonic drinks contain the additive aspartame, which makes you thirstier. Take note.”
A few last hints for a runner’s diet. “Once you’ve finished training, as well as stretching to avoid injuries, and drinking liquids, you also need to restore your nutritional levels with foods like nuts. They’re great for recovering after a long, intense workout. Another good food would be toast with avocado spread, or just avocado on its own, although it might not be that practical after doing physical activity.