Runner’s Diet: To Carb Or Not To Carb?
In the general canon of nutrition science, sugars have long ago been pinpointed as an area for caution. Refined sugars, in particular, are treated as a scourge, especially here in health-crazed California, where candy ephemera are treated with a general, miserly suspicion.
Let’s clear the air with a general conclusion: sugars are not bad for you and Runner’s Diet . And from a biochemical perspective, the perceived quality of the sugar-containing nutrient is never at issue; that $8 fresh-pressed juice may indeed be worse for you than, say, a glass of milk. For all carbohydrates –– sugars, simple and complex, cheap or luxuriant –– break down into glucose, that vital energy source that keeps us moving.
Long distance Runner’s Diet plan
Depending on how complex their structure, different carbohydrates break down at entirely different rates. Refined sugar will flood your bloodstream with glucose in one go, while a fruit or vegetable will trickle its dose at a leisurely pace, as your body breaks down the complex carbohydrates through digestion.
There are hidden troves of sugar in such varying foods: Granola, Pasta Sauce, Soup…these are foods that belie their glucose content, foods whose palette and tenor suggest a dearth of sugar. And yet, be ever aware of the nutrition label.
Undercover glucose is a major concern in the modern American diet, especially for the time-crunched worker, whose
quick-fix diet is plagued with processed nutrients brimming with flavor-inducing sugars.
Both diabetes and obesity, global epidemics in their own right, have strong correlations to sugar-rich diets. Yet don’t be afraid to enjoy yourself; as with many things, glucose intake is a question of moderation, and not elimination.
And as for us runners? Well, sugars are indispensable to our method of exercise, and even especially so. Those fast-acting sugars in gels, sports drinks, and candies offer crucial support in maintaining energy throughout a long race, and invigorating our muscles.
To improve recovery and maintain stamina, it’s important to start a workout with a ready store of available glucose. Some toast, granola, or fruit will offer a digestively mild source of energy pre-workout. For a brief run or a jog, such vital fuel should keep you rolling, and will contribute to a healthy mental state during your run. Carb-loading is a common practice among many long-distance runners, but we’ll save that for another post.
Foregoing a fuel source could leave you with low blood sugar, which is unhealthy, even if its effects make the workout feel more intensive. If you ever feel shaky and lightheaded after a run on an empty stomach, you’re probably experiencing low blood sugar.
Please, my fellow runner’s diet, be cautious in fasting before a long run. Although fasting may help you burn fat more efficiently, this practice should be incorporated with care. Having low blood sugar (Hypoglycemia) for too long can lead to seizures, loss of consciousness, and even brain damage. And actually, under fueling is more likely to cause you issues down the line than having that extra doughnut on Sunday night.
If your run is longer than two hours, it’s important to top off your glucose stores to prevent fatigue. Consuming 200-300 calories in simple sugars (energy drinks, gels, candy, trail mix, etc.) will keep your mind and muscles in the game. And consuming carbs and proteins after your run will help you recover more smoothly, too.
In short, carbs are the runner’s friend.
Certain apostles of the Ketogenic Diet will disagree about importance of carbohydrates, and I here acknowledge their perspective, although the jury is still out on whether or not Keto improves endurance performance.
In short, Keto is a high fats diet that restricts carb intake. With a deficit in energy-rich glucose, the body goes into Ketosis, whereby the liver beings to produce ketones, chemicals produced in the liver that offer surrogate energy. The Keto diet is a fat burning diet that some suggest offers enhanced performance at distance. Yet the transition into Ketosis, whereby glucose intake is subsumed, can be a long and painful process.
Thus, for the everyday runner, we suggest a runner’s diet that includes various sources of glucose, consisting of both complex and simple carbohydrates. Every individual, through trial error, can find a nutritional balance that works for them.
And, as ever, running is neither a valid excuse, nor a suitable counterbalance, for a poor runner’s diet 🙂
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