What running goals are you working towards? Maybe you want to conquer a new distance – like your first marathon. For many runners, the dream of reaching a new PR – in any distance – is always ahead of them. There’s no thrill like pushing yourself to your limit, fighting to go faster, and then feeling the sweet rush of satisfaction when you look down at your watch and know you just beat your own best time.
Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy?
Reaching a PR is hard work. You have to train. Hard. And constantly.
But don’t assume that all that training is all it takes. Reaching a PR means you are going to push your body to a level of fitness and running strength that you’ve never reached before. You will need to make changes in your diet too.
Is it possible that your diet is what’s holding you back from a PR?
Ask most runners what’s the most important part of their diet and you’ll get a standard answer: carbs. After all, coaches and running experts have been preaching the gospel of carbo loading for decades.
First, in defense of carbs, they are an essential part of your balanced diet as a runner. You need to get plenty of energy, via carbs, to your muscles. But they are not the end all, be all of running nutrition. And they have been misconstrued by government agencies and dietitians for years who have claimed that they should be your largest daily food group.
Protein is also extremely important. Lean proteins – from poultry, fish, and vegetable sources – are critical. After each workout – whether it’s a run or a cross training session – your muscles have been broken down. They’re exhausted. And they need protein to rebuild themselves before your next run. That’s what will help your muscles grow and lead to improvements in strength and speed.
A recent study of distance runners showed the importance of protein for runners. And that most runners should be getting more in order to speed up and reach new PR’s. Why did the researchers find that protein was so important?
• Protein accounts for 5% – 10% of your energy expended during a run
• Your body uses protein to repair itself after a high-intensity workout
Many runners have found that whey protein shakes help them boost their protein levels easily. Since your body is better able to absorb and utilize protein after a workout, a post-run shake is perfect. You can easily get about 25% of your daily protein with one whey protein shake.
Fat is also critical. Apart from carbs, fat is your main source of fuel during a run. If you’ve been turned off to fats because of years of low-fat diet promotion, it’s time to make a change. Plenty of research shows that low-fat diets don’t work– for losing weight or for getting strong enough to reach a new PR. Instead, choose healthy fats from natural sources – olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, and nuts.
Even a balanced diet can have gaps in nutrition. That’s why you need to review your meal plan and make sure you’re getting plenty of the essential macro nutrients.
Runners – and everyone who wants to stay active and fit – shouldn’t miss out on vitamins in their daily diets. A deficiency will kill your energy levels and just about guarantee that your PR stays out of reach. Keep your body firing on all cylinders by getting your recommended levels of these nutrients:
• Vitamin A – For strong skin and better vision.
• Vitamin B12 – For forming red blood cells and breaking down fats and proteins during digestion.
• Calcium – For stronger bones less prone to injury.
• Vitamin D – For preventing inflammation and reducing injuries.
• Iron – For transporting oxygen to your muscles.
Of course, this is far from an exhaustive list. But it helps you get the idea of how different vitamins and minerals contribute to your running abilities. One of the easiest ways to supplement your diet and make sure you’re getting the proper balance of vitamin and minerals is with a daily multivitamin.
If you’ve heard people bashing multivitamins recently, stick to the facts. The Harvard School of Public Health calls multivitamins “an inexpensive nutrition insurance policy.” They’re safe and effective – and important for runners trying to get that elusive PR.
Smart Nutrition to Reach Your PR
Are you ready to reach a PR? Got your training plan ready? Excellent. Now be sure that your nutrition plan is up to the challenge as well. Plan meals that get you plenty of carbs, fat, and protein. Don’t allow gaps in your diet of vitamins, minerals, and other critical nutrients.
With education, planning, and determination, you can improve your diet. It may be hard at times. But it will all be worth it when, sweaty and exhausted, you see that you’ve finally beat your own time and you can proudly announce your PR to the world.
David Porter is Marketing Director for Glacier Nutrition, offering nutritional supplements for men and women made from all-natural ingredients.