Carbohydrates or â??carbsâ?? are the bodyâ??s preferred and primary energy source for exercise and sports, especially activities of moderate to high intensity (effort level), such as running. Although carbs have gained a bad reputation over the years thanks to some high profile weight loss diets, they provide the perfect fuel for running and other endurance activities. How much and what type of carb to eat will depend on when you are going to eat relative to exercise and your goals for the training session (duration, expected effort level etc.).
Carbohydrate energy is stored as glycogen, in the muscles and liver, for use during exercise, but the body has a limited supply (1-2 hours depending on factors like exercise intensity, duration, body weight, and gender). And itâ??s not just your muscles that need fuel for stamina, your brain needs it to keep you alert and focused on your goal too. For Marc, Lauren and Anne, eating enough carbs, and at the right time, will be key to preventing early fatigue and lowering the risk of injury as they increase time, distance and speed during their Bayshore training program.
So just what are carbohydrates anyway? They can be simple or complex and the best â??whole foodâ?? carb choices come from fruits, vegetables, starchy veggies and legumes, whole grains and dairy (milk and yogurtâ??if tolerated)
Simple carbohydrates are quick to digest and absorb, great for when you need fast energy such as shortly before exercise or during training or the event if you will be running (or biking) at a high effort level for more than 60 minutes. Think naturally occurring sugars: fruits, milk, yogurt, honey, maple syrup are all examples of fast carbs that also provide valuable vitamins and minerals for supporting good health.
Complex carbohydrates are starchy and may be higher in fiber for slower digestion and a steady energy response. Eat complex carbs at each meal helps to fuel the body and brain throughout the day and make sure your muscles are fully loaded (with glycogen) for the dayâ??s training schedule. For long-range energy needs, choose whole grains. Look for the word â??wholeâ?? at the beginning of the ingredients on the list or the â??whole grainâ?? stamp on the food label (
). While all vegetables contain some carbohydrate, those highest in steady carbs are legumes (dried beans and peas) and starchy root vegetables or winter squash.
Anne running the 10K, Lauren the half marathon and Marc the full 26.2 miles will have different needs as they train toward their goals.
All 3 of the team members will want to focus on complex carbs at each meal to provide a steady supply of fuel regardless of the training time and type. This refueling will be especially important for Marc and Lauren as they are running days in a row and increasing distance (time training) each week.
If Anne, Lauren or Marc are planning to run first thing in the morning, some simple, easy to digest carbs before heading out will help fuel a stronger run after the overnight fast.
In addition to carbs throughout the day, Marc will benefit from a carb snack to â??top up the tankâ?? in the 30-60 minutes before running distances of 10 â?? 12 miles or longer.
Continue to follow the teamâ??s training program as I help guide them through making the best carbohydrate choices as well as other practical nutrition tips for eating before, during and after training in the weeks to follow.
To optimize your fueling strategy, consider working with a registered dietitian who specialized in sports nutrition for a carb plan that is personalized to your body, your sport, your stage of training, and your goals. Contact Miranda Monroe via firstname.lastname@example.org for a consultation to the science of sports nutrition on your plate with a personalized plan and practical meal planning strategies to help you achieve your performance goals.
Try some of these steady carbsâ?¦
Whole grain/high fiber cereals like shredded wheat, bran flakes, whole grain puffs (brown rice, millet, kamut®), quinoa, oatmealâ??rolled or steel cut, with fruit and low fat milk
Whole grain breads, English muffins, tortillas topped with nut butter and sliced fresh apple or pear
â??Whole grainâ?? breads and crackers, rye crackers, English muffins, tortillas, or pita topped or filled with hummus and veggies.
Whole grain salads of quinoa, brown or wild rice with garbanzo or black beans
Lentil or minestrone soup
Baked potato with Greek yogurt topping or bean chili
Whole grain sides, brown or wild rice, polenta, quinoa
Whole-grain or corn tortillas, whole-grain pasta or couscous
Steamed green peas
Legumesâ??lentils, black-eyed peas, kidney, pinot, cannellini, black beans, stir into pasta, chili, and soups
Roasted or mashed parsnips, potatoes, butternut, acorn, delicate, Hubbardâ?¦or dice and toss into soups and stews
Or for fast energyâ?¦
Low fat milk with or without low fiber cereal
Low fat fruited yogurt
Fresh, frozen or dried fruit (berries, apples, bananas, citrus, grapesâ?¦)
Honey or fruit preserves on bread or crackers