There is no one-size-fits-all in nutrition, and nutrient requirements vary based on age, sex, physical activity, and even illness. As nutritionists, we need to ensure that our plans meet our client’s unique individuality, as well as their goals.
Case Example Of a Young Female Marathon Runner
In this case, my 25-year-old marathon runner’s goal is to improve performance and feel her best during each race. She needs recommendations for what to consumer before, during, and after her races to ensure performance as well as recovery. A female athlete’s nutritional needs are quite different from those of male athletes: factors that come into play include bone density, as well as differences in caloric consumption and expenditure. While both male and female athlete require more dietary protein than the average couch potato, the maximal increase is about 100% for male athletes and 50-60% for female athletes. Proteins are essential for the marathon runner.
Foods For Faster Recovery
They promote faster recovery after training and race, facilitating muscle growth and repair. Protein also are needed in the synthesis of new structures, red blood cell development, and antibody production. When glycogen stores are low, the protein stores provide about 15% of the needed energy during muscle activity. Those who lack protein are at an increased risk of injury, fatigue, and decreased muscle mass, all factors that hinder performance. My client’s diet plan will include: organic eggs, wild-caught fish, pastured chicken and grass-fed meat, peanut butter and other nuts, if tolerated.
Carbohydrates and Fats For High Performance Runners
Fats should also be a vital inclusion in marathon runners’ nutritional plan. Fats are more calorie-dense, providing 9 calories per gram compared to the 4 calories per gram provided by protein and carbohydrates. Additionally, fats are essential for the transportation of fat-soluble vitamins, for hormone production, brain function, and satiety. A low-fat diet in athletes can limit athletic performance causing earlier onset fatigue during a race. Sources of fats include coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil and olives, butter and ghee, dairy, avocado, and if tolerated dairy.
Carbohydrates are important for providing energy during the races. The runner should be able to consume and maintain optimum carbohydrate intake. This will help prevent hypoglycemia during the races, maintain the intensity of training, strengthen the immune system, and facilitate post-recovery. If this client does not consume enough carbohydrates, she will not be able to endure and perform effectively due to increased glucose depletion. Before a marathon, the total caloric intake should also be increased, including the carbohydrate calories, to achieve an effective carbohydrate-caloric loading effect.
What Is The General Nutritional Advice Given To Marathon Runners?
The general advice given to marathon runners is to consume fruit juice, honey, molasses, whole-grains, cereals, rice and pasta, starchy carbohydrates and legumes, as well as fruit and high-carbohydrate dairy products such as yogurt. About 60 to 70% of the calories should be from carbs. Before the race, only quick sources of energy should be consumed because they are absorbed faster. During the race, she should increase the rate of carbohydrate intake by one gram per minute by consuming carbohydrate-containing drinks. These drinks should be consumed at regular intervals during the race, and oftentimes an alarm can help keep track. Additionally, consumption of carbohydrates with high glycemic index such as honey can help during the marathons. After the races, the goal is to replace the depleted energy stores and fluids. Attention should also be directed to muscle repair and recovery; hence, micronutrients and proteins will be essential. Fast recovery is important so that the body can be ready to get back to training. Carbohydrates will help restore glycogen stores; protein will help with muscle repair and recovery, and electrolytes will help in re-hydrating.
Every Athlete Has Unique Nutritional Requirements
While the general advice has been used in sports nutrition for decades, I like to use a more individual approach with my athletes. In my work, I have found that using a continuous glucose monitor is paramount to study each individual athlete’s response to carbohydrates and glucose. Too much or too little glucose can be detrimental to athletic performance leading up to and during an event. Glucose levels are complex and many factors can influence them. Plus, every athlete has unique fueling requirements. A continuous glucose monitor is my preferred tool when working with athletes. For this reason, I will recommend that this client use this tool to learn how her body responds to different carbohydrates. This will help us find the perfect nutrition for performance. Athletes usually begin glucose loading 3 days before a race. Knowing how her body responds to different foods will allow this client to eat meals that provide a stable and sustainable glucose rise and that will keep her in optimal fuel range.
Hydration is extremely important. Before and during a marathon, my client will make sure to keep well hydrated. I recommend electrolyte supplements, mineral-rich water, and coconut water.
Other factors to consider are vitamins and minerals. Calcium, for example, is an essential mineral needed for bone growth, density, and prevention of bone loss and fractures. Consumption of calcium-rich foods help maintain strong bones that can endure the intensity of the races. Therefore, this client should consume foods rich in calcium like dairy products, green leafy vegetables, spinach, and broccoli.
B Vitamins And The Health Of Female Athletes
Vitamins are essential nutritional components for the marathon runner. The most important vitamins are vitamin D and B complex vitamins. The body needs vitamin D to metabolize calcium. Vitamin D is necessary for a healthy immune system and hormone production. Therefore, I will advise my client to include fatty fish in her diet and supplement with vitamin D3 if needed. Vitamin B6, B12, and Folate are also important. For example, vitamin B12 and folate are essential for red blood cell development, protein synthesis, and tissue repair. These are important in improving the oxygen-carrying capacity and building endurance during long races.
My client will begin adopting her new dietary plan during training so that she can get used to the changes and, if needed, we can modify the plan according to her needs well before the race.
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