“What do I need to know about nutrition when I’m training for my first running race?”
— Said every first-time runner before she started training!
Answer by Nutritionist and Skirt Ambassador Donna Giovenco
All runners need to understand that good nutrition should be an important part of training, as hydration, what to eat and when, can all be factors in performing our best.
I will briefly outline some key components to good nutrition in the training phase. Attention to these three can ensure you make it to the starting line of your first race, ready to go.
Our bodies are made up of 60% water. Hydration plays a role in our metabolism working properly, lubricating our joints and maintaining our body temperature. Proper hydration throughout training will lead to increased energy. The best source of hydration is water. Hydrate consistently, but don’t get caught up in drinking a certain number of glasses per day. Rather, the hydration goal is pale yellow to clear urine. Once hydrated, keep drinking to maintain a hydrated state. If you stay hydrated, you will notice a difference!
If you are a heavy sweater, running in hot temperatures or running for longer than 75 minutes, you may benefit from an electrolyte drink.
Signs of dehydration are:
- rapid heart rate
- increased body temperature
- muscle cramps
- low energy
What to Eat
A focus on your everyday nutrition will improve your performance as a runner. Lets take a look at what a healthy training plate should include:
- 50% Carbohydrates
- 20-25% Protein
- 25-30% Fat
Runners should remember that a calorie is a measure of energy. Runners who restrict their calories in hopes of running faster can have reduced energy, and even wind up sick or injured.
To figure out how many calories you need on a daily basis and to get an individualized nutrition plan, please consult a Registered Dietitian.
- Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for runners. Carbohydrates can be found in whole grains, rice, pasta, breads, oats and cereals, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Don’t be scared of carbohydrates!
- Protein: Proteins build and repair muscle. Excellent sources of protein include greek yogurt, cottage cheese, turkey, chicken, lean meats, seafood, nut butters, nuts, beans and lentils, and some soy products.
- Fats: Fats are essential for vitamin absorption, they also add some calories and flavor to our meals and fill us up. Sources include nuts, avocados, olives, olive oils, etc.
Eating every 3-4 hours throughout your day will keep your energy up and your hunger at bay. As you increase your miles, you will need to increase your calories. Don’t be scared to do this! Your will perform better when you feed your body.
What you eat prior to a workout, how much, and when, will depend upon the time of day and duration of your work outs.
For instance if you will be running longer than an hour, be sure to eat 200-300 calories about an hour before your workout, and don’t forget the water.
There is a lot that goes into nutrition. Do not wait until the week before your race to decide to eat better.
Nutrition is as important as training! Learn to fuel properly.
More about Donna Giovenco, RDN, LD, ACSM-CPT
I have been a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for 25+ years and a Certified Personal Trainer for 6 years.
I see clients for Sports Nutrition, Healthy Lifestyles, Diabetes, Weight loss to name a few.
My passion for health and wellness started as a teenager when I started running at the age of 16. I am proud to say I am still a runner today, 38 years later. I have competed in multiple running races and triathlons. My greatest athletic accomplishment is completing Ironman Lake Placid in 1999.
I am married to John and we have two kids, Lance, 18 and Isabelle, 16.
I love motivating others to live a healthy lifestyle. My hobbies include spending time with the family, running, weight lifting, SUP, and hiking.
I have been a Skirt Sports wearer since the TRIKS days. (editor’s note: THAT’S LEGIT!)