Many ravenous endurance runners end up on the ‘see food’ diet: when they see food, they eat it. If you’re logging lots of mileage, it is important for your diet to include plenty of calories, but what those calories are and when you eat them can significantly affect your performance.
How much do you need?
First it’s important to figure out approximately how many calories you need each day. Each person’s calorie needs are different, based on height, weight, age and activity level. As a good starting point, figure out your Basal Metabolic Rate (the number of calories your body burns during a day of rest) using a BMR Calculator.
You can then use the Harris Benedict Formula to approximate your additional calorie needs based on your activity level. If you’re not sure how many calories you’re currently consuming, enter your food intake for a couple of randomly chosen average days on a food calculator program like FitDay to get a ballpark number. Now that you know how many calories you need, let’s take a look at where those calories should come from – and when you should eat them for optimal performance.
If you’re engaging in endurance running (read: your workouts are typically 40 minutes or longer, and at least 95% of your effort is aerobic), then you’ll need ample carbs to fuel your muscles as you burn sugars for fuel. Many runners think of pasta as a cornerstone of the runner’s diet, but there are plenty of other healthy carb sources that are worth a look. A few of our favorites are oatmeal, quinoa and sweet potatoes.