Nutrition tips for summer running

ThinkStock photo from Tri County Health Dept

ThinkStock photo from Tri County Health Dept

Summer is fast approaching.  The weather is getting nicer, the days are getting longer, and you’re probably just itching to get outside and play. Spring/summer time is another great opportunity to get outside your gym and run.

Whether you are a marathon runner, or just enjoy running a race for a good cause, there are a few basic nutrition tips that can help optimize your race day experience.

1. Proper Hydration

Your body is 45-75% water weight. Therefore, adequate hydration is key.  The 2004 DRI Adequate Intake Recommendations for water is 3.7L/day for males (16 cups/day), and 2.7L/d for females. Dehydration can really slow down your performance. Progressive effects include a decrease in blood volume, blood flow to muscles, oxygen delivered; sweat rate, and an increase in lactic acid, perceived exertion, body temperature, heart rate, and fatigue.

When you are running outside in high summer heat, water becomes more important.  A great tip is to weigh yourself before a run outside.  After your run, weight yourself again.  For every pound you lost, adequately replenishing your body would require 2-3 cups of 8 oz cups of water.  If you use the bathroom or drink fluid during a run, account for that in your calculation. Subtract the fluids excreted and add the fluids consumed.

Another way to test your hydration status after a run would be to monitor your urine. If your urine looks like apple juice, you are already dehydrated. The goal is to have urine the color of pale lemonade. Despite using this test as a post work out technique, use this test all the time to ensure you are drinking enough water throughout the day.

2. Using Sport Drinks

How hard do you have to work out in order to make a sport drink like Gatorade or Powerade worth the calories?  The answer is at least 1-2 hours of high intensity and endurance work out. The purpose of Gatorade or Powerade is to replace the sodium and electrolytes lost during activity.  The sodium replaced in these sports drinks stimulates thirst and can increase water intake. These drinks can be affective, and are great to use during long runs or hikes, especially when you are sweating more than just a typical work out.

3. Energy Gels/Chews

Experimenting with energy gels/chews can be tempting, but these are for athletes competing in long distance races, lasting over 1 hour (ie: 10k, half marathon, marathon, triathlon, etc.).  Manufacturers of these products endorse using these products 15 minutes before a high endurance workout, during a high intensity endurance event, and 30-45 minutes after exercise.  Simple carbohydrates like energy gels and chews can be a fast and effective energy source in a race.  Carbohydrates are quick to absorb, providing energy and delaying fatigue.  The problem with choosing an energy block or chew is that there are tons of brands and forms to choose from.  Whichever you choose, make sure to try them out during training, not on race day.  And you may want to stay close to home, as the simple carbohydrates in these products can have stimulating effects to your gastrointestinal system.

4. Practice makes Perfect

With so many sports nutrition products available, it’s easy to get caught up with the products claiming to increase your performance.  It’s important to try out different foods and beverages weeks before the race, to truly optimize performance.  For example, you may find that energy gels are not needed to finish the race, or that you can run further when you eat a light, protein packed breakfast before the race begins.   Training is key.  Give yourself enough training time for your summer race or fitness goal.

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