Runners have special nutritional needs; fulfill them for maximum performance.
Step 1: Divide your calories Get 50 to 60 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 20 to 25 percent from fat, and 15 to 25 percent from protein. If you eat 1,800 calories a day, 900 to 1,000 would come from carbs, which include fruits, vegetables, and grains; about 400 would come from fat, preferably good fats like nuts and olive oil; and another 400 or so would come from protein, such as beef, chicken, or fish.
TIP: Going below 25 percent fat may increase your risk of injury.
Step 2: Choose the right foods Eat mainly complex carbohydrates, which means vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Stick with lean protein, like chicken and fish, and unsaturated fats, like those in nuts and olive oil.
Step 3: Time your eating Eat most of your daily carbohydrate calories an hour or two before running, to provide fuel for your run, and within two hours of finishing, to replenish your energy stores. Pick ones that are rich in fiber and have high water content, like spinach and grapefruit.
Step 4: Stay within your range If you're trying to lose weight, don't eat more calories than you are burning, or you'll gain weight no matter how much you're running.
TIP: Multiply your weight by 13 for the calories you need to maintain your current weight. You burn about 100 calories for every mile you run.
Step 5: Stay hydrated Drink water an hour or two before you run. If you're planning to run for more than an hour, have a sports drink instead of water. It will help replace the electrolytes your body loses during a long run and the sodium will help you retain water.
TIP: To determine how much water you need to drink before a run, weigh yourself naked, get dressed and go for a hard run, and reweigh yourself in the buff. For every pound of weight you dropped in sweat, you need to take in 16 ounces of liquid.
Step 6: Don't carbo-load Forget the old advice about severely limiting your carbs several days before a long-distance race and then gorging on them right before it. Recent research advises eating normally until three days before the big race, then increasing to a 70-percent carb diet up to and including the morning of a long run.
FACT: Contrary to popular belief, runners have fewer knee problems and musculoskeletal pain in their later years than nonrunners, according to a study.