How to Eat Well While Training for a Marathon Slideshow
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Eat to Run, Don't Run to Eat
During his physical transformation, Joe stopped looking at food as a reward for a job well done and started seeing it as fuel for athletic pursuits. That mentality allows him to eat in moderation, despite being surrounded by gourmet food all day.
Don't Give Up Foods That Taste Good
“For me, it is about eating what I always loved, the beauty and bounty of the Italian table,” Bastianich explained. That includes carbs. “I am always eating pasta, The simpler the better.”
Italian dishes, for example, lend themselves to an athlete's diet because they are usually composed of three to four fresh ingredients warmed up, like a delicious spaghetti in a delicate sauce of San Marzano tomatoes, a splash of oil, and shards of Grana Padano. In it, you have carbs, protein, little fat, and a lot of flavor.
Real Foods Can Be Nutritional Alternatives to Supplements
On Bastianich's training rides, he prefers to keep it real and eschews supplements. “When I’m biking, one of my favorite jersey snacks is Grana and almonds,” he explains. “If I’m going long, like on a 60- to 80-mile ride, I’ll take two peanut butter sandwiches.”
Bust Out of the Pre- and Post-Race Pasta Rut
When Bastianich has a big run the next day, his energy meal is Arborio rice drizzled in olive oil, honey, and a little soymilk. It's a welcome, carb-heavy respite for those looking for something different than noodles. Afterwards, he likes to fill up with a steak served over an arugula, olive oil, and shaved aged cheese salad.
Cut Back on Alcohol Leading Up to the Race
While Bastianich eats what he wants, he still makes a few diet sacrifices leading up to marathons. “Normally, I drink a bottle of wine a day, a glass of wine with lunch, and two glasses at dinner,” he said. “When I’m getting close to a race, I don’t cut out wine completely, but I might only have one glass — that seems reasonable, right?" Replace the vino with agua to properly hydrate all the way to the starting line.
What to Eat When Training for a 5K
You've committed to a 5K, and you've started the training process. Luckily, you know that what you put into your body will influence your ability to go the distance.
What you eat when training for a 5K isn't terribly different than any other well-balanced meal plan. If you're an elite runner knocking out dozens upon dozens of miles per week, you may need a little extra of certain nutrients. Otherwise, aim for mix of quality carbs, proteins and fats for maximum performance.
Meal plans for runners
Running a marathon is a great time to improve your overall nutrition to support your training and race performance. By applying some performance nutrition principles to your daily meals, you can fuel your body correctly in order to help you get fitter, and perhaps, also reduce your body fat along the way.
Eating properly around your training can be daunting, so we’ve included some tips and meal plans below for guidance. Like training, good nutrition is also about building confidence – both in preparing different meals each week and seeing how food can affect your training.
Our recipes provide a ‘food-first’ approach to meet your daily nutrient targets. Sports nutrition products (such as drinks or gels) can help support your preparations towards the race itself.
Many of these recipes are nutrient-dense (meaning they provide a range of nutrients, including important vitamins and minerals) to keep the body healthy as your training increases.
There are several key elements of performance nutrition that are important to consider to maximise your performance. The main focus with endurance training is to match your daily fuel intake to the volume of training – this is known as ‘periodised’ nutrition.
This means that what you eat should be different depending on your training demands for that particular day – there will be some trial and error to learn what feels right for you.
Getting your fuelling right on different days means that you can have sufficient energy during training, whilst also reducing body fat (if that is your goal) over the course of your training programme.
Plan 1: What should I eat on rest and light intensity training days?
Plan 2: What should I eat on normal (moderate intensity) training days?
Plan 3: What should I eat on heavy (high intensity) training days?
How to use the nutrition plans
There are lots of free training plans for different abilities and distances available online from trusted sources such as Runner’s World and The Virgin London Marathon.
To give you an example, we’ve included a beginner’s week training plan from The Virgin London Marathon, from week 11 of your training. We’ve marked which diet plan you should be following that day in relation to the volume of training you’re undertaking.
Example training plan
|Training||Rest||10 min easy run, 5 x (5 min interval run, 2.5 min easy run), 10 min easy run||Rest||40 min easy run||Core & stretching||Rest||Run a half marathon|
|Meal plan||1||2||1||1 or 2||1||1||2 or 3|
More training & nutrition tips for runners
- Now you’ve perfected your training nutrition, make sure you eat right in race week with our marathon meal plans.
- Get to grips with eating before, during and after running with our guides.
- Our marathon nutrition hub will teach you how to hydrate properly, carb-load and even how Mo Farah fuels for training.
These meal plans were last updated on 20 February 2020 by James Collins.
James Collins is recognised as a leading Performance Nutritionist through his work with Olympic and professional sport. Over the last decade he has worked with Arsenal FC, the England and France national football teams and Team GB. He has a private practice in Harley Street where he sees business executives, performing artists and clients from all walks of life. He is the author of the new book The Energy Plan, which focuses on the key principles of fuelling for fitness.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.
Are you training for a race this year? What have you found most challenging and do you have any top tips to share with other runners? We’d love to hear from you below…
Protein in a Runners Diet is Very Important
Eating higher protein helps maintain muscle mass when you&rsquore in a calorie deficit, really important for endurance athletes who are almost always going to be low on calories after massive workouts. And LADIES listen up that post workout 30 minute window is really important for you!!
Protein expert Stuart Phillips, PhD from McMaster Univeristy says runners need a minimum is 1.6 grams per kg of body weight per day (2.3-3.1 for muscle building).
- 1 gram per lb of body weight often works as easy math for women
- Eating enough protein helps manage the hunger from marathon training
- Eating enough protein helps keep hormones in check and prevent muscle loss
- Protein can absolutely be a combination of plant and meat sources
- Try not to rely just on protein powders, you want the full range of nutrients from food, plus it’s more filling
It’s also important to remember that you need to get in ENOUGH calories to prevent muscle wasting.
A consistent period of being in calorie deficit means your body will begin to use muscles, not fat, to provide the energy you need for those long workouts.
The night before
The key to that final pre-race dinner is to give your body something easy to digest, according to Linden. “I usually have white rice, a little bit of chicken, and maybe sweet potatoes to add some color,” she says.
Sure, it may sound kind of bland, but you don’t want your body to still be processing food when you wake up the next morning. Besides, your next dinner will be a celebration meal&mdashand it’s less than 24 hours away.
Photo: Jeff Wasserman
How to Eat During Long Runs
If you're new to midrun fueling, try a bunch of brands and types of fuel to find what works for you.
I&rsquove run two half-marathons, and now I&rsquom training for my first full marathon. I log a long run&mdashanywhere from 10 to 20 miles&mdashevery Sunday. But I run out of steam almost every time, even though I drink water and Gatorade while I run. Should I eat during the run too? &mdashJenny
First of all, congratulations on making the jump to the full marathon! On the day you finish, you will be a member of a courageous and distinct club!
I remember my first marathon all too well, and when I think about my fueling plan (I didn&rsquot have one) and how hard I hit the wall (early and often), I realize that I ran on empty, which led to a slow finish time and painful memories. But don&rsquot worry&mdashyou have time to learn how to fuel on the run, even for one that&rsquos 26.2 miles long.
During your half-marathons, you may not have used any fuel. Some runners don&rsquot&mdashthey may not know they need to, or they may rely on the sports drink at the aid stations to hydrate and fuel them along. The latter method can help a runner crank out a decent finish, but even a half-marathoner might be surprised at the improved finish time and overall experience if they were to add in a little bit of what I call &ldquohigh-octane fuel.&rdquo
High-octane fuel is essentially more concentrated it&rsquos the energy gels, blocks, beans, and chews you may have seen some long-distance runners carrying as they set out for a long run. These sports nutrition products are engineered to supply badly needed carbohydrate, which fuels your muscles and keeps blood sugar levels steady, and electrolytes, which help retain fluids to maintain hydration, prevent cramping, and perform a host of other functions in the body.
You can find high-octane fuel at your local grocery store, sporting goods store, running store, or online. There are many different options and in a future post, I&rsquoll review them. But for now, I would recommend you ask training buddies what they use or simply go shopping, pick up a few different brands and types (gels, chews, etc.), and try one during your next run. Or, check with the race to see what brand and flavor they will provide on race day. If you train with the same brand and flavor that will be handed out on the course, you&rsquoll eliminate the need to carry a lot of fuel with you. But we&rsquoll get to that in a future post!
For now, I&rsquod like you to start simply adding in at least some high-octane fuel as you run long. Start slow you need to train your gut (and your palate) to handle fuel on the run.
In general, runners need to add in 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate each hour that they are running longer than 75 minutes. But you&rsquoll need to start fueling earlier than 75 minutes into a run by that time, your tank will be empty, and once you hit empty it is very hard to recover. Start taking in fuel within 30 minutes of hitting the pavement.
I personally take a little bit of fuel every 15 minutes. I&rsquove found that this method keeps my energy levels steady, and I don&rsquot get any GI distress. Some runners find that when they add in too much fuel&mdashlike an entire gel at one time&mdashtheir digestive system is upset. Since you are new to fueling on the run, eat maybe half a gel or a few blocks or a few beans every 15 minutes.
Be sure to follow your high-octane fuel with water. Your stomach can only tolerate a certain percentage of carbohydrate so you need to dilute your fuel in order for it to go into circulation (rather than sit like a stone in your gut!).
As you try out fuel during your training runs, keep track of how much you took in and how your body responded. Keep track of answers to questions like: Did you feel totally energized? Were you able to keep your pace constant but then hit the wall towards the end of a run? Did your stomach not agree with the fuel?
The answers to these questions will help you form your race-day fueling plan. The answers will help you learn whether you have the perfect fueling plan in place, need to add in more fuel towards the end of a run, or try a different brand/type of fuel, respectively.
Jenny, I hope this introduction to fueling on the run helps your runs go a little smoother. Stay tuned to learn more about what brands to try, exactly how much fuel to consume, alternate fueling options, and to learn about how much fluid to drink while you are running long.
Check out our gear editor's tip on how to best store mid-run fuel:
Overall Calorie Needs
Before getting down to the nitty gritty of what meals to eat and when, think about the bigger picture of what you need calorically. Consult a registered dietitian for a specific nutrition plan, but as a general guideline, base the number of calories you eat per day on how much running you do. If you run 30 to 60 minutes a day, aim to eat 16 to 18 calories per pound of body weight, says registered dietitian Brooke Schantz for Loyola Medicine. If you do one to 1.5 hours of activity a day, bump that up to 19 to 21 calories per pound. Up to two hours of running needs 22 to 24 calories per pound, while two to three hours requires 25 to 30 calories per pound, or more.
14 Delicious Meals in Less Than 30 Minutes
Recipes from the latest Runner's World cookbook.
Not sure what to eat on race morning? In need of some tasty midrun energy? Want to ensure you properly kick-start recovery? Do it all with the latest Runner's World cookbook&mdasha collection of more than 150 recipes ready in 30 minutes or less.
Before You Run
If you've ever woken up early for a race or long run (and every runner does, eventually), you know how difficult it can be to eat well in the predawn hours. Maybe you simply aren't hungry when you first get up. Or race nerves leave you feeling queasy. If you're staying at a hotel (without your go-to foods readily available), you risk eating something that upsets your stomach. Happily, these quick breakfast ideas will fuel you up for a tough training run or race without weighing you down&mdashand if you pack a few ingredients, you can even make some of these meals in a hotel room, too.
&ldquoBaked&rdquo Granola Apples
The secret behind getting these &ldquobaked&rdquo apples on the table fast? Cooking them in the microwave, which quickly steams the fruit until perfectly tender. Braeburn, Cortland, or Rome varieties work just as well as Gala. Use a spoon or melon baller to core the halved apples. Top the finished dish with a dollop of yogurt for a protein and calcium boost.
2 large crisp apples, such as Gala, halved and cored
2 tablespoons chopped dried tart cherries
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 teaspoons butter
½ cup granola
In a microwavable dish, arrange the apple halves cut side up.
Top each apple half evenly with the tart cherries and brown sugar. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and nutmeg. Dot evenly with the butter.
Cover the apples with a microwavable dome lid or microwave-safe plastic wrap. Microwave on high for about 4 minutes, or until the apples are tender.
Transfer the apples to serving bowls and sprinkle each apple half evenly with the granola. Drizzle any juices remaining in the cooking dish over the top. Serves 4.
Calories per serving: 181
Carbs: 29 g
Fiber: 5 g
Protein: 2 g
Total fat: 7 g
Saturated fat: 4 g
Sodium: 38 mg
Good Morning Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes for breakfast? Absolutely. These carb-packed vegetables are loaded with runner-friendly nutrients&mdashand provide a welcome break from typical morning fare. &ldquoThe flavors in this recipe will remind you of Thanksgiving,&rdquo says Mark Bittman, Runner's World contributing food writer.
1 medium sweet potato
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Pinch of salt
Pierce the sweet potato all over with a fork. Microwave on high for 5 to 10 minutes, turning over once or twice, or until the center is soft.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the walnuts, maple syrup, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat until the nuts are coated and fragrant.
Slice open the top of the potato lengthwise, leaving the bottom intact. Mash the nut mixture on top. Serves 1.
Calories per serving: 355
Carbs: 44 g
Fiber: 6 g
Protein: 7 g
Total fat: 19 g
Saturated fat: 2 g
Sodium: 220 mg
Gingered Winter Greens Smoothie
As a cruciferous vegetable, kale contains compounds called glucosinolates that have been shown to have anticancer properties. Adding fresh ginger and a kiwi&mdashwhich provides more than a day&rsquos worth of vitamin C&mdashhelps soften the natural bitterness of the leafy green.
1 cup unsweetened coconut water
½ cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 kiwi fruit, peeled
1 large kale leaf, center rib removed
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon honey
Pinch of salt
½ cup ice cubes
In a blender, combine the coconut water, yogurt, kiwi, kale, ginger, honey, salt, and ice. Blend until smooth. Serves 1.
Calories per serving: 188
Carbs: 38 g
Fiber: 3 g
Protein: 8 g
Total fat: 2 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Sodium: 272 mg
RELATED: Prep great meals (in less time!) with Meals on the Run.
Fuel up the night before your long run or big race with one of these energy-packed meals.
Kara Goucher&rsquos Kitchen Sink Pizza
Two-time Olympian and marathoner Kara Goucher cooks up these easy flatbread pizzas at least once a week. If you&rsquore planning to grill, set aside one grilled chicken breast (about 6 ounces cooked) to use for this recipe. Otherwise, you can use a rotisserie chicken breast. You can also substitute leftover grilled vegetables for the fresh bell pepper, tomatoes, and mushrooms.
4 whole wheat naan flatbreads
½ cup marinara sauce
4 teaspoons pesto
1 cup shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese (4 ounces)
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ red onion, sliced
½ cup sliced mushrooms, such as cremini (about 2 ounces)
1 grilled chicken breast, diced
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
8 large fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Arrange the naans on 2 baking sheets. Spread a thin layer of marinara across the breads. Top each with a teaspoon of the pesto and swirl into the sauce. Sprinkle the naans with the mozzarella. Top with the bell pepper, tomatoes, onion, and mushrooms. Add the chicken and finish with a sprinkle of Parmesan.
Bake the naan pizzas for 12 minutes, or until the breads brown, the vegetables are softened, and the cheese melts.
Serve the naan pizzas garnished with the basil. Serves 4.
Calories per serving: 506
Carbs: 52 g
Fiber: 7 g
Protein: 30 g
Total fat: 19 g
Saturated fat: 7 g
Sodium: 877 mg
Spaghetti with Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce
This no-cook sauce comes together quickly in the blender while the pasta cooks on the stove.
½ cup almonds
1 box (1 pound) bucatini or spaghetti
1 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 anchovy fillets
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
½ teaspoon chopped fresh oregano or a pinch of dried
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.
While waiting for the water to boil, place the almonds in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Toast for 7 minutes, stirring or shaking the skillet occasionally, until fragrant and slightly golden. Set aside.
When the water boils, salt it and add the bucatini. Cook according to the package directions.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the toasted almonds, sun-dried tomatoes, oil, anchovies, garlic, basil, oregano, and salt and process about 1 minute, until just blended.
Reserving ½ cup of the cooking water, drain the pasta in a colander and return it to the pot.
Add the ½ cup pasta cooking water to the sauce in the food processor. Pulse a few times until combined. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss well to coat. Serve topped with the Parmesan. Serves 6.
Calories per serving: 497
Carbs: 64 g
Fiber: 5 g
Protein: 16 g
Total fat: 21 g
Saturated fat: 3 g
Sodium: 606 mg
Pizza doesn&rsquot get simpler or more delicious than this. Fresh mozzarella melts beautifully and, thanks to its high water content, is naturally lower in fat than many hard cheeses. If you don&rsquot want to make tomato sauce and don&rsquot have any on hand, substitute 2 fresh plum tomatoes, sliced crosswise.
1 pound homemade or store-bought pizza dough
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup homemade or jarred tomato sauce
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, patted dry and torn into ¾-inch pieces
6 large basil leaves, roughly torn
¼ cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Roll the dough into a 12 x 9-inch rectangle no more than ¼ inch thick. Brush 1 teaspoon of the oil over a 1-inch border all around the rectangle.
Spread the pizza sauce over the dough, leaving the 1-inch border uncovered. Lay the mozzarella pieces on the sauce. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden and crisp and the cheese is bubbling. Top with the basil. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and pepper. Serves 4.
Calories per serving: 387
Carbs: 49 g
Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 14 g
Total fat: 17 g
Saturated fat: 5 g
Sodium: 473 mg
This classic Italian pasta is as satisfyingly delicious as it is easy to make. While not traditional, sautéed onions add a note of sweetness, and peas provide a pop of color and nutrients.
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 box (1 pound) spaghetti
½ sweet onion, chopped
3 large eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 cup frozen peas
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.
While waiting for the water to boil, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the bacon is browned and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Set aside.
Meanwhile, when the water boils, salt it and add the spaghetti. Cook according to the package directions.
Meanwhile, return the skillet to the stove over medium heat (if there is more than 1 tablespoon of bacon fat in the skillet, drain it first). Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes, or until the onion is softened and translucent. Set aside.
In a bowl, beat the eggs well with a fork. Season with salt and pepper.
Two minutes before the spaghetti is done, add the peas. Reserving ½ cup of the cooking water, drain the spaghetti and peas in a colander and return to the still-hot pot. Immediately add the eggs, reserved ½ cup cooking water, and the onions. Toss well to coat the spaghetti (the residual heat from the pasta will gently cook the eggs as they coat the spaghetti). Sprinkle with the Parmesan, bacon, and parsley, and toss well again.
Serve with additional ground black pepper, if desired. Serves 6.
Calories per serving: 443
Carbs: 61 g
Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 21 g
Total fat: 12 g
Saturated fat: 4.5 g
Sodium: 494 mg
Soba Noodles with Peanut-Sesame Sauce
You can serve the noodles slightly warm or at room temperature. If you make it ahead and chill it, let it come to room temperature to serve. You can also use this no-cook peanut-sesame sauce in a stir-fry.
Quick tip: While buckwheat is a gluten-free whole grain, many brands of soba noodles are made with wheat as well. Gluten-free runners should be sure to read labels closely.
1 package (8 ounces) buckwheat soba noodles
1 cup (3 ounces) snow peas, halved
¼ cup no-sugar-added creamy peanut butter
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 clove garlic
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. When the water boils, add the soba noodles. Cook according to the package directions, adding the snow peas during the last minute of cooking.
While the noodles cook, in a food processor, combine the peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger and process for 30 seconds, or until smooth.
When the noodles are done, drain them along with the peas in a colander and rinse them well under cool water until the water runs clear. Drain well again and return the noodles and peas to the pot. Add the sauce and scallions to the noodles and toss well to coat.
Serve garnished with the sesame seeds. Serves 4.
Calories per serving: 391
Carbs: 52 g
Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 14 g
Total fat: 17 g
Saturated fat: 2 g
Sodium: 952 mg
Pasta with Peas and Prosciutto
&ldquoThis is an easy pasta to whip up when short on time,&rdquo says Runner&rsquos World contributing chef Nate Appleman. If you can find fresh, in-season peas, use them here. Otherwise, frozen peas will work just fine add them 1 minute sooner in the recipe.
1 box (1 pound) cavatappi or other spiral pasta
1½ cups fresh spring peas
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon ground black pepper, or more to taste
½ cup grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese
Juice of ½ lemon
4 ounces (about 8 thin slices) prosciutto, torn into bite-size pieces
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When it boils, salt it and add the pasta. Cook according to the package directions. Two minutes before the pasta is cooked, add the peas.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until slightly browned.
Reserving ¼ cup pasta cooking water, drain the pasta and peas in a colander. Add the peas, pasta, and reserved cooking water to the skillet, toss, and heat through, about 1 minute. Add the pepper, cheese, and lemon juice and toss to combine.
Serve the pasta in shallow bowls and place the prosciutto over top, letting the heat from the pasta warm the meat. Serves 6.
Calories per serving: 403
Carbs: 63 g
Fiber: 4 g
Protein: 20 g
Total fat: 8 g
Saturated fat: 2.5 g
Sodium: 654 mg
ON THE GO
Anytime you run longer than an hour, you should pack some fuel to power you through your workout. Energy gels and chews are a convenient choice, but sometimes you want something more substantial&mdashand satisfying. These energy bars and balls are quick to make, really delicious, and offer a good amount of energizing carbs.
Honey Energy Bars
These sweet, crunchy, and slightly chewy bars are the perfect prerun pick-me-up. Honey provides simple sugars (fructose and glucose) that are quickly absorbed and will energize your workout. Honey also contains oligosaccharides, a type of sugar that may promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the intestinal tract. Studies show that these carbohydrates serve as fuel for immune-boosting bacteria in the gut.
Consume Carbs for Fuel
If you're having a hard time finishing your workout, you might not be getting enough carbs in your diet. Carbs are your muscles preferred source of energy, so you'll want to consume 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories as carbohydrates, according to the current dietary guidelines for Americans.
For example, if you consume 2,000 calories each day, 900 to 1,300 of them should be from carbs. And since each gram has 4 calories, you'll aim for 225 to 325 grams of carbs per day.
When you're out for an intense training session, though, you'll need 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates per hour (or 0.7 g/kg of body weight) in order to maintain your blood glucose levels, according to a January 2011 article from the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Ideally, these carbs should come from real food, such as whole grains, fruits, beans and vegetables. These foods not only supply your body with energy, but also provide essential nutrients your body needs for recovery and health.
Here is what Ms. Platt recommends:
Before: Fuel Up!
Not fueling up before you work out is like &ldquodriving a car on empty,&rdquo said Platt, an American Heart Association volunteer. You also won&rsquot have enough energy to maximize your workout and you limit your ability to burn calories.
Ideally, fuel up two hours before you exercise by:
- Hydrating with water.
- Eating healthy carbohydrates such as whole-grain cereals (with low-fat or skim milk), whole-wheat toast, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, whole grain pasta, brown rice, fruits and vegetables.
- Avoiding saturated fats and even a lot of healthy protein &mdash because these types of fuels digest slower in your stomach and take away oxygen and energy-delivering blood from your muscles.
If you only have 5-10 minutes before you exercise, eat a piece of fruit such as an apple or banana.
&ldquoThe key is to consume easily digested carbohydrates, so you don&rsquot feel sluggish,&rdquo Platt said.
During: Make a Pit Stop.
Whether you&rsquore a professional athlete who trains for several hours or you have a low to moderate routine, keep your body hydrated with small, frequent sips of water.
Platt notes that you don&rsquot need to eat during a workout that&rsquos an hour or less. But, for longer, high-intensity vigorous workouts, she recommends eating 50-100 calories every half hour of carbohydrates such as low-fat yogurt, raisins, or banana.
After: Refuel Your Tank.
After your workout, Ms. Platt recommends refueling with:
- Fluids. Drink water, of course. Blend your water with 100% juice such as orange juice which provides fluids, carbohydrates.
It&rsquos important to realize that these are general guidelines. We have different digestive systems and &ldquoa lot depends on what kind of workout you&rsquore doing,&rdquo Platt said.
So do what works best for you. Know that what you put in your body (nutrition) is as important as you what you do with your body (exercise). Both are crucial to keeping your engine performing at its best.