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Our energy can be used in many ways, including running.


When we have a lot of energy, we can do well in races. However, low amounts of energy can cause you to be tired and unable to complete workouts, and stay on goal. Energy is the fuel for your body, for your race; the more you have, the better you can run. But what fuels your energy?


Food provides a source of energy that you have throughout the day. The amount of energy that you have depends on if your food has nutritional value and the right ratio of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. “Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats all matter, and vary depending on intensity, duration and training status of the athlete.” says Erin Gorley, clinical dietitian, Spring View Hospital in Lebanon, KY, and CEO & founder, Wellness with Erin.


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Carbohydrates, or carbs for short, are sugars, starches and fibers. “Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients found in the foods we eat. Carbohydrate intake is crucial to young athletes, especially runners.” said Gorley. Carbs are important because they should take up 55-65-percent of your diet. They can be found in foods such as fruit, pasta, vegetables, and whole grain breads.


“Some people like to carb-load, however fueling your system with more carbs than it can handle can often leave you feeling bloated and increase the likelihood of GI disturbances come race day. You don’t need to gorge yourself on extra calories or extra foods,” said Gorley. “Simply shift more of your total calories toward carbs (about 60 to 65-percent) in the weeks before your race. You’ll effectively boost your glycogen stores without incurring those unwanted negative side effects.”


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Lean protein, takes up to 10-35-percent of your diet, and includes foods such as chicken, sirloin, tofu, nuts, and seeds. Proteins can help repair injuries. If you become injured, a balanced diet that includes protein, can help repair your hurt tissues. Proteins can also help with the growth of muscles in young athletes. When you grow, your muscles can become stronger, making you a better runner.


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You may have heard that fat is not good for you. However, the right amount of healthy fats can be all the difference. Healthy fats should be about 20-35-percent of your diet, and can include foods such as olive oil, walnuts, and avocados, hummus. Instead of having snacks like chips or cookies, you can choose healthier options like hummus and pita, Greek yogurt, or a strawberry smoothie. Fats can bring nutrients into your body, when used in the right amount and the right kind.


Eating Before a Run:

It is always best to keep hydrated to avoid dehydration. Drink 8 to 16 ounces of water at least one hour before a run. Runner should intake about 200 calories of low-fiber carbs 30 to 60 minutes before a run. Gorley suggested foods such as low-fiber cereal with skim milk or oatmeal, pretzels, bagel or toast with light jam, fig bar or energy bar, sports drinks, fruit like apples, raisins, applesauce, dates, grapes, melons, etc. She says crackers like animal crackers or graham crackers are also good pre-run snacks options.   


Eating After a Run:

After a run, athletes always need to remember to rehydrate, and intake carbohydrates to help with recovery, and add protein to your diet to rebuild muscle. Gorley suggests that athletes consider small snacks of 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein to help recover more quickly from high intensity exercise of long duration (more than an hour). Other recovery options include low-fat chocolate milk, energy bars, pretzels and peanut, ham sandwiches, and fruit smoothies with added protein.



“Nutrition is FUEL. I often use the analogy of a race car when talking about athletes and diet and FUEL. Just as a race car or sports car requires high performance gasoline to function, so does the human body and athletes. Without FUEL they will not be able to perform at optimal levels.” said Gorley.