Why Carbs are good for your Running

Source: active.com

Source: active.com

You’ve probably heard it enough – lose the carbs, lose the weight – that you’re thinking carbohydrates is your worst enemy. Most diets and diet-fads alike support the theory that carbs contribute to weight gain when in truth it is calories and consuming more than you burn that does that. On the other hand, carbohydrates are necessary for the proper functioning of your body. In fact, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates make up 45% to 60% of your daily calories. So, if you get 2,000 calories a day, between 900 to 1,300 should be from carbohydrates (The Mayo Clinic).

The Power to Choose (Wisely)
The problem is that not all carbs are created equal and so, it comes down to choosing your carbs wisely. Generally, nutritionists agree with choices that include whole grains and fruits and vegetables while watching your intake of naturally occurring sugar, and restricting foods with refined gains and added sugars. Particularly for the runner though, a diet rich in carbohydrates can help maximize training and performance; emphasis should be on the kind of carbs chosen, such as whole grains, beans, fresh fruit, milk and vegetables. The benefits of whole grain to your general health and wellbeing will be the subject of a later post, but suffice to say for now, your quality of life depends on it.

Power for the Run
Carbs are the brain’s main source of energy and the body’s preferred fuel source says dietician and strength coach Marie Spano R.D., C.S.C.S. It is the primary source for producing energy for all exercise including both long distance and resistance training. It follows that if you cut carbs, your energy will drop. Spano advises that decreasing the levels of your body’s stored carbohydrates will decrease your ability to produce force and power; we know the result of that.

A Running Times article on Runners World titled “Fueling the Runner: Carbohydrates –Battling a Bad Rep” by Jackie Dikos, R.D. and 2:45 marathoner, highlight a key issue that unsuspecting runners fall prey to – fatigue. She stipulates that further investigation of such a complaint may reflect a diet lacking in carbohydrates the cause of fatigue either purposely done, as part of low carb diet, or with the runner totally in the dark as to the amount of carbs needed to perform efficiently. As already stated, our bodies prefer carbohydrates as the main fuel source when we run. But did you know that if it is not present, the body will convert fat and protein into carbs for energy. According to Dikos, this is a very inefficient form of energy for an endurance athlete. When you don’t eat enough carbohydrates and continue training, your body snowballs into a state of mental and physical fatigue.

We Determine Carbs
We see then that carbohydrates are thus fuel for runners. For running efficiently and effectively we therefore need to throw away all our misgivings, all the misinformation and misrepresentation about carbs that we’ve sucked up for so long. No low-carb or no-carb diet can do the trick of making us the runners we wish to be, our responsibility is to make healthy food choices. Balance, variety and moderation should be our watchwords.

A Peek at my Running Diet

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It’s been said, you are what you eat; there maybe some truth to that.  Nine out of ten runners will tell you that food is a very important part of their lifestyle, it dictates how they are able to perform and even if they run at all in some cases.  Starting off the year on the right foot demands that we not only address the issue of exercise, but also that of our diet, as both are equally important in helping us achieve our health goals.  Rather than go the way of a long list of suggestions of do’s’ and dont’s, I’ve decided to give you a peek into what foods work for this runner girl.

healthy-breakfast-120516Breakfast: my best and most important meal of the day.  I get an early start at 5am but don’t get to have breakfast until about nine by which time I’m so hungry, I could eat the proverbial horse.  I tend to go a little cereal crazy here and generally have a bowl of some type of whole grain and granola mixed with oats and banana. A slice of toast with either peanut butter, cheese or margarine often follows with a glass of orange juice.

Snack: generally consists of yogurt with granola and nuts and fruit. Because I’m not a big snack person, I often miss this part to my detriment as I don’t have lunch until around 1pm. Of course by then I’m entering starving mode and a build up of gas threatens. This is a recent and very uncomfortable occurrence, which my doctor explains can be remedied by eating throughout the day. According to him, my high metabolism burns calories at a faster rate than most, therefore I need to eat at least six times a day – obviously not huge amounts – to make sure that I have the proper amount of calories my body needs.

l956566279Lunch: I love food. By which I mean home-cooked meals. A Caribbean girl at heart, I’ve inherited the practice of having full-blown meals for lunch and I generally walk with my lunch which would often include vegetables ( my favorite), chicken breast of some kind, or ground beef or turkey, some type of grain such as cous cous or brown rice, or whole grain pasta or soup ( a Caribbean soup consisting of a multitude of roots, vegetables, seasonings, meats and dumplings) now that it’s winter, peas or beans or a combination of any of the above and salad.

9-10_9999_54hummus-sandwich-appleAfternoon Snack: Most times this includes a fruit such as banana and part-skimmed mozzarella cheese or apple and humus or, sometimes and, an organic peanut butter and jelly whole wheat sandwich.

fotolia_1607767_XSDinner: may include whole grain spaghetti and meatballs with veggies or some variation of a pasta dish with either a seafood or type of meat or even salami and a fresh salad.

images (2)Quick Snack: I usually have an apple or trek mix on my way home from the gym or from running.

 

Supper: consists of cereal and milk or hot chocolate, now that it’s cold, with crackers and margarine or cheese.

Of course I’m not perfect and so this is a typical day. There are those crazy days, which happen far too often for my liking, when I fall off the wagon and have to make do with some version of the above; but for the most part I stay on course during the weekdays. On weekends, I allow myself to go off schedule somewhat to satisfy the party animal in me but never to the extent that I’m left with consequences to deal with. As a runner and health enthusiast, I try to always make healthy choices, fully aware that those choices are the reasons why I look and feel great, and perform so well.

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