It's not breaking news: A well-balanced diet combined with proper fuel is the formula to reach your training goals.
More serious athletes often take exercise and nutrition a step further and look for ways to improve their rate of recovery and performance. While not every runner will need to worry about fueling up for a long race or recovering from an intense workout, it's still important to know how good nutrition practices can keep you strong and healthy.
Runners fall into two categories: Those who train hard, race often, and are focused on improving their times and goals. The other are those runners who run for enjoyment, to help achieve or maintain weight-loss goals, or to improve overall health.
Runners with a more intense-training regimen need to keep a well-structured diet for optimal recovery and performance, while recreational runners need to eat foods that will support their health and reach their goals.
"Nutritional recovery is simply the process of eating properly, which provides you with the fuel to go from one training session to the next with the energy required," says sports dietitian Monique Ryan.
Eating properly means replacing the fuel you lost during your training session without consuming too much, and choosing the right foods to promote adequate recovery.
First Focus: The Runner With the Intense-Training Regimen
This runner says she runs 50 to 60 miles per week, has two intense workouts each week and a long run. She is training for a half-marathon and wants to beat her previous best time. Optimal nutrition will not only help fuel her workouts, it will also allow her to increase her rate of recovery between workouts and also decrease her muscle soreness and risk of injury.
Explanation: Our bodies are most primed to recover within the first hour after an intense workout. At this point, the body is likely depleted of muscle glycogen and there has been some muscle tissue damage. A small snack consisting of quality carbohydrates and a protein source (4:1 ratio) will allow the body to begin replenishing its glycogen stores in the muscles and provide amino acids for muscle building and repair. The quicker you recover, the sooner you will be able to work out intensely again, which is an important goal for the runner described above.