As a runner and avid researcher of all things running, I’ve probably seen (and tried) every nutrition-related running trend out there. Between myself and my clients, we’ve covered countless miles, carbs, and calories.
Below, are three of the most common nutrition mistakes I encounter when it comes to running, and how to do them right.
#1 Mistake: Eating Too Much Protein
Reality: Unless you’re doing intense exercise, you likely don’t need as much protein as you think.
As a whole across the country, we overconsume protein. In fact, the current average American protein intake is 25-50% greater than the amount recommended by the Dietary Guidelines. Great emphasis is placed on eating enough protein and making sure to eat some at every meal. Especially when it comes to exercise, it’s incredibly common to think that protein needs increase even more after any type of exercise.
While we do need protein after a workout to rebuild muscles, we definitely don’t need as much as many likely think. The truth is this: unless you’re doing intense endurance or resistance exercise, your protein needs do not increase.
Use this general rule of thumb to determine how much protein you need in one day: take your weight in kilograms (your weight in pounds divided by 2.2) and multiply that by 0.8.
For example, a person weighing 150 pounds weighs about 68 kilograms, and needs only about 54-55 grams of protein per day. This modest amount can be achieved from eating two just meals containing protein sources (for example, one 4-ounce piece of grilled chicken and 4-ounces of turkey in a sandwich). After endurance exercise (think: a long run), protein needs increase to about 1.2-1.4 grams per kilogram. After intense resistance training, they can increase to 1.2-1.7 grams per kilograms.
The key word here is intense, as during intense exercise the body will start to break down protein for fuel. So, unless you ran for more than an hour or lifted heavy, after a short run or moderate workout, skip the protein shake – it likely is giving you way more protein than you really need.
#2 Mistake: Sports Drinks and Energy Gels All the Time
Reality: It’s important to refuel with carbs during runs, but only during especially long ones.
Running a marathon or half marathon? Get your energy gel ready. Anything less than that however, and you might be giving yourself extra and unnecessary calories. Carbs are our body’s preferred source of fuel in exercise. If you’re a runner, this probably isn’t news to you.
Glucose (a type of carbohydrate) is easier to mobilize in the body and to use for energy than fat and protein. With higher intensity exercise of course, the amount of fuel needed from carbs increases. As we start to use these carbs, or our glycogen stores, our perception of exertion increases and we begin to feel exhausted. Here’s when we’d cue the carb refueling.Typically, this type of refueling is only needed when the activity lasts longer than one hour.
For every hour after the first, a good rule of thumb is give yourself about 30-60 grams of carbs per hour. This can be a banana, an energy gel, or energy chew – whichever works best for your own running! If you’re going on a shorter run, save your snack for after the activity. It’ll probably taste a lot better than a gooey gel, too.Are you making any of these running nutrition mistakes? #runchat Click To Tweet
#3 Mistake: Coconut Water is the Perfect Post Run Refuel.
Reality: Coconut water is great, but it’s not perfect.
Coconut water definitely can be a great hydration option post run. Most unflavored coconut waters are low in calories, low in sugar and contain a good amount of potassium. If you like the taste and really enjoy drinking coconut water, by all means – drink up! However, unless you’re going on a long run (notice a theme here?), you don’t necessarily need that type of hydration. Anything less intense, and plain ole water will do just fine. Our fluid and electrolyte balance is well regulated by the body.
During exercise, our bodies start to follow a feedback mechanism: we produce sweat and our thirst mechanism kicks in to maintain the balance. So, drinks like coconut water aren’t always needed. It’s only in endurance exercise that this balance might get compromised – sometimes it’s hard to ingest enough fluid to keep up with losses. In these cases, you can reach for the coconut water to keep properly hydrated.The caveat here is to focus on the unflavored varieties; one of the biggest traps with coconut water is in the flavored types. One large bottle of chocolate coconut water can contain almost 250 calories and 36 grams of added sugar. That’s almost as much as you’ll find in many similar size containers of juice!
Whether you’re refueling after a workout, trying to lose weight, or just trying to stay healthy, there’s almost never a reason to drink this many added calories. The calories in beverages (aka liquid calories) don’t keep us full; they only add extra calories to our daily intake. Don’t be fooled by healthy sounding sugar-sweetened beverages like coconut water. Feel free to drink a plain variety if you like the taste or are running far, but if you prefer the flavored options, try to decrease the amount you drink.
Tip: try diluting flavored coconut water with half water or half the unflavored kind – it’s a great way to slowly cut down.
Read more about electrolytes for runners >>
Thanks to Sammi Haber, MS, RD is a registered dietitian nutritionist for contributing to this post.
What are your biggest sports nutrition concerns?
Do you track your macros?
Other ways to connect with Amanda
Get new posts via BlogLovin
Photos from Shutterstock