Eat to Run for Life - Page 2
Don't Count Calories, but Make Calories Count
Though runners don't typically need to worry about the scale readout, in your mid-30s your metabolism starts to slow. Keep your waistline from expanding by choosing foods low in, or free of, refined flours and sugars that have no nutritional value. "Runners often feel hungry because they burn so much energy," says Tara Gidus, RD and team dietitian for the Orlando Magic. Balanced meals that include a variety of nutrients will provide "calories that fill you up instead of filling you out," says Gidus. A sample meal: a whole wheat tortilla with two to three ounces of grilled chicken, a half cup of pinto or black beans, lettuce, tomato and a half cup of brown rice and side of fruit.
Fiber does more than simply make you feel full. Digestion becomes more difficult as we age, so fiber helps maintain digestive regularity. While the recommended daily amount decreases slightly for people over 50 (to 21 grams from 25 for women, and 30 grams from 38 for men), the number assumes a lower overall caloric intake.
Soluble fiber (found in oats and beans) also removes cholesterol from the bloodstream by absorbing it like a sponge. Insoluble fiber (from bran, fruits, vegetables and whole grains) helps move waste through the bowels. "Plus these foods are satiating, providing feelings of fullness," says Gidus.
Pump Some Iron
"Iron is an essential mineral for making healthy red blood cells and moving oxygen to working muscles," says Lona Sandon, RD and associate professor at the University of Texas Southwestern. Strenuous exercise, like running, breaks down red blood cells that are then expelled in the urine. Endurance athletes also lose small amounts of iron through sweat.
But iron-rich foods, such as meat, replenish your red blood cells. Vegetarian iron sources include pulses (the edible seeds of legumes) like lentils and beans, and leafy green vegetables. These are less easily absorbed than meat sources, so pair them with foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, bell peppers and tomatoes.
Power Up With Protein
Running increases your protein needs for muscle and tissue repair. "Replenish protein 15 to 20 minutes after running, or at least within an hour," says Gerbstadt. "This can reduce muscle loss and replace glycogen most efficiently." The enzymes responsible for making glycogen are most active immediately following a workout, which means the longer the gap until you eat protein, the slower your muscles refuel and repair themselves. Studies show carbohydrate-to-protein ratios of 3:1 or 4:1 to be most beneficial. You can find these pre-measured ratios in recovery drinks or Gerbstadt's favorite, low-fat chocolate or soy milk.
But protein is not just a post-run necessity. If you take a long time to recover from hard runs or heal from injury, you may be protein deficient. Research has shown that the body cannot absorb more then 30 grams of protein per meal, so spread your protein intake throughout the day. Consume one gram of protein per kilo of body mass from sources such as fish, chicken, beef, whey and eggs. Therefore, a 160-pound person should aim for three 25-gram servings of protein daily.