Nutrition is your fuel, no one can complete a long marathon training period without a proper food intake. One of the best ways to keep the body fit as a long-distance runner is the right nutrition and diet. How to benefit from marathon nutrition the best way, is about running many times per week, so we have to pay attention to our specific nutrition needs since we develop a bigger “engine” than the average person and want to perform our best based on our preconditions.
Everything we do physically requires energy. This energy produces by the metabolism of foods. Without the right amounts of nutrients, the body’s ability to perform physical activity decreases. Energy supply to the body is the main function of the diet we eat.
In the diet are three kinds of energizing substances: Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates. The first two are directly included in the energy supply, while proteins is primarily used for the construction and maintenance of the body’s cells.
We may also need an extra supply of certain vitamins, minerals and trace elements. Our fluid need also increases when we run.
Fluid is not only used in heat regulation, it’s also an important precondition for the various nutrients to be transformed and used in the body. To prevent a decrease in performance and optimize your training, you need to be aware of how what and when you eat i.e. to plan an appropriate diet according to your running program.
Your need for energizing substances and other nutrients does not only depend on training intensity and volume. You also have to look at other things like whether you have a normal weight, smoke, take medications or suffer from chronic diseases. Long-distance training is important when we want to run far.
But diet is so crucial to the performance ability that training, season planning and mental preparation can be wasted if you have not been aware of your body’s need for certain types of food and meals.
The diet is so critical for performance because all physical activity, particularly running requires fuel, which just comes through the daily diet. If you run out of fuel during training or competition decreases your performance dramatically. Through proper nutrition before, during and after your run, you can prevent running out of fuel, but there are other benefits of eating optimally:
The body recovers faster after the training loads, muscles strengthen and the body is supplied with essential vitamins, which are important for the energy supply and the oxygen uptake. Before nutrients absorb into the bloodstream they go through various decomposition processes in the digestive system.
This decomposition is both chemically and mechanically and is necessary for the body to absorb nutrients and vitamins. Below is the new food pyramid with nutrition group types.
Carbohydrates are the muscles’ best fuel
The main source of energy during training and competition is carbohydrates. The harder you train, the more carbohydrates you combust. Carbohydrate is both the muscles and the brain’s preferred fuel and is the body’s primary energy supplier on the condition that enough glycogen is stored in muscles and liver.
Unlike fat, we are only able to deposit about 800-1000 grams of carbohydrate in the body and it is not always enough when we run with high intensity during a training session. It’s therefore important to eat copious amounts of carbohydrates daily at the best possible time concerning the training.
For hard-trained runners, the requirement of the carbohydrate can be as high as 8-10 grams of carbohydrate per. Kilogram of body weight. This is equivalent to 60-65 percent of the total daily energy intake. It’s a significant amount, there has to be spread out throughout the day, so you can get the most out of it. Carbohydrates are primary energy sources.
They decompose in digestion and stores as glycogen in muscle and liver. Physical activity releases glycogen and converts it to glucose, which circulates in the bloodstream and delivers energy to the working muscles. The consumption of glucose during running depends on intensity and duration.
The consumption of glucose increases with increasing intensity since glucose is the only energizing nutrient that can supply the muscles with energy when there is not enough oxygen. At lower running intensities the body uses fat a lot more as an energy supplier. Well-trained long-distance runners, have achieved greater fat combustion and can hereby save more on the glycogen.
Since the body only has limited carbohydrate depots, it’s necessary to ensure constant replenishment to get the most out of the training. Glycogen depots are also of importance as fluid depots. Every gram of glycogen stored in the liver and muscles ties 3 grams of water, which releases by the combustion of glycogen. So we also have an important fluid depot here, which we can use during training and competition.
Carbohydrates categorizes into simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are simple in their molecular structure. They consist of a single glucose molecule or two connected glucose molecules;
it means that none or only a single chain must be broken. Therefore, the absorption of simple carbohydrates goes faster than the complex carbohydrates that are composed of many chains that must be broken.
Carbohydrates will be absorbed in the bloodstream when they are broken down into a single molecule. Simple carbohydrates come mainly from honey, sugar, jam and candy. Often we call them “empty calories” because they give energy, but no vitamins, minerals or fibers.
These simple carbohydrates have a disadvantage because the easy absorption has a rapid effect on the blood sugar level and hereby gets the blood sugar to fall by high intakes. The result is that fatigue occurs.
This is because a large release of insulin from the pancreas ensures that the glucose goes into the cells away from the circulating blood, which hereby may cause low blood sugar. Simple carbohydrate sources are among others dried or fresh fruits and they are preferable because they also contain useful vitamins, minerals and fibers, and thus have a higher nutritional value.
Complex carbohydrates are more complicated in their molecular structure and transform slower in the body, as there are more chains to be broken. The complex carbohydrates come mainly from potatoes, cereals, vegetables, rice, pasta and fruit.
Unlike simple carbohydrates, large amounts have no negative effect on the blood sugar level that remains almost unchanged by the intake of complex carbohydrates. Most of the daily intake of carbohydrates should be complex carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables also have the advantage that they contain many vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber.
Fiber is a general name for certain carbohydrates, usually parts of vegetables, plants, and grains. Unlike the other carbohydrates, fibers have a chemical bond that the organism cannot decompose. Therefore, they give us no energy, but they promote the peristalsis in the intestine and prevent constipation.
Besides, they help by reducing blood cholesterol levels, thereby helping to prevent cardiovascular diseases. Fibers also have the advantage, that it is filler.
It gives the food a larger volume and the stomach more work to do, which lengthens the absorption and thus exposes the sense of hunger. That is why so many diets offer to eat many vegetables and coarse cereal products, which have high fiber content and take up more space on the plate and in the stomach. The result is that you can eat more and you lose weight without feeling hungry.
As you see, there are many sources of energy and foods we need daily to perform our best as runners. Sometimes we don’t think about it because “food is food” and we are not used to being aware of the specific benefits and needs when we want to perform our best.
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