A registered dietitian offers five fueling tips for runners new to the sport.
Being a new runner can be challenging, exciting and overwhelming. You’re just trying to make your body run for longer than a mile without giving up, and you’ve also got to worry about properly fueling and hydrating. Well, we are here to set your mind at ease with some newbie fueling tips. Knowing these five fueling rules will help you go from couch to 5K in no time.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Even experienced runners don’t always hydrate properly. That being said, hydration is one of the most important parts of your training plan, since dehydration can cause muscle weakness, cramps and fatigue. Most people don’t drink enough water throughout the day, and the Dietary Guidelines don’t specify a minimum fluid intake, making it difficult to give general fluid recommendations. The best way to tell if you’re properly hydrated is to check the color of your urine after a run. If it’s dark yellow, you need to drink more water during your run. If it’s a pale yellow, you are properly hydrated.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Carbs
Carbs have a bad reputation for making people fat, and this is partly true for sugary treats and drinks. But it’s not the case for fruits, vegetables, dairy and whole grains. Not only do these foods have vitamins, minerals and antioxidants: they’re also the primary fuel source for exercise. Eating a well balanced diet with healthy carbs allows your body to store carbs in the muscle and liver, which are the primary fuel source during the first 10 to 15 minutes of exercise. After that, the body relies on any carbs you ate recently to provide energy for your run. Before exercise, it’s best to eat easily digestible carbs, like those found in a piece of fruit or a few handfuls of cereal.
Don’t Overdo The Protein
Just like carbs have an unwarranted bad reputation, protein is often sensationalized as the miraculous macronutrient. While it’s absolutely necessary to eat protein after a workout, you don’t need as much as you might think. The average runner should eat about 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Basically, that’s your weight in pounds divided by 2. For example, a 130-pound woman needs about 65 grams of protein in a day. It’s best to space out your protein intake throughout the day. You can only absorb 30 grams of protein at once, so there’s no need to drink protein shakes with more than that. Instead, eat a 4-ounce serving of chicken with some rice and veggies.
Know When You Need A Sports Drink
Its pretty common knowledge that sports drinks contain a decent amount of sugar. For any newbie runner, adding one into your diet can be scary–but rest assured that sports drinks were developed for a reason and with a specific formula. They contain fluid and electrolytes to replace those lost in sweat and sugar to provide fuel to working muscles. Any run that lasts longer than an hour, is really high-intensity or is completed in a hot environment may require the addition of a sports drink.
Your Stomach Needs Training–Just Like Your Muscles
Unfortunately, it’s normal for your stomach to feel weird when you first start running. Just like you need to train your leg muscles to handle running, you also need to train your stomach. During exercise, the blood is diverted away from your stomach and towards the part of the body that is doing the most work–the muscles. Any food left in the stomach will be jostled around and can cause an unpleasant feeling. Even without food, the physical shaking of the stomach during running is enough to cause agitation. Just like your legs and lungs have to build endurance, your stomach and intestines have to acclimate to running. Train your stomach to handle the up and down motion of running by not overeating before exercise and gradually increasing intensity, distance and speed.