What is the best nutrition tip for runners? This guest post is by Tom Corson-Knowles of Authentic Health Coaching
The Most Important Nutrition Tip for Runners
Most runners understand some of the basics of nutrition – like loading up on carbohydrates before a big race or marathon to give you energy throughout the competition.
The problem though is that most runners simply do not understand the damage that long-distance running and elite races can do to the body and how to prevent it.
Yes, exercise is great for the body – it helps build stronger muscles, a stronger cardiovascular system, and can reduce your risk of obesity, cancer, heart disease and many other diseases.
But there’s also a huge downside to exercising, especially highly intense exercise routines like running marathons. That downside is called oxidative stress – and you must protect yourself or face the consequences!
Oxidative Stress For Runners
Oxidative stress is a natural byproduct of the human metabolism. Basically, you breathe oxygen and combine it with the food you eat inside the mitochondria of your cells to produce energy.
This process, if you remember from chemistry class, leads to the creation of ATP (energy). But what you probably didn’t learn in chemistry class is that there is a dangerous byproduct of this chemical process that occurs billions of times a second in your body – and that byproduct is called a free radical or oxidative radical.
A free radical is simply a molecule that is missing an electron. Because it’s missing an electron, it’s a highly unstable molecule and it will react with and damage just about any other molecule it comes into contact with.
When free radicals damage the lining of your blood vessels (the endothelial cells), over time it can lead to hardening of the arteries and heart disease.
When free radicals damage the DNA inside your cells, it can lead to mutations which could potentially lead to cancer down the road. When free radicals damage your skin cells, it can lead to wrinkles in your skin.
In fact, free radical damage is basically the process of aging – and oxidative stress (the result of free radical damage) is linked to cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and every chronic disease we know of.
So it’s very important to reduce your oxidative stress as much as possible – especially for athletes.
Because as an athlete you’re not just burning a normal amount of fuel and creating a normal amount of free radicals – in a marathon or other race, you’re creating a massive amount of extra free radicals.
In fact, free radical damage in athletes has been linked to permanent muscle damage and overtraining – not something any athlete wants to face.
The good news is that there’s something you can do about it. Your body was designed to create free radicals – and to protect itself from the damage of oxidative stress.
Your body naturally creates many kinds of antioxidants to protect itself from this damage – but it’s not enough. In order to protect yourself as much as possible, it’s crucial to eat more antioxidants from natural plant sources like fruits, vegetables and berries.
An apple a day, keeps the doctor a way. Sounds cliche but this is one nutrition tip for runners that can pay dividends in the long term. Just one apple, for example, has over 10,000 phytonutrients or antioxidants in it – and those are just the ones we’ve discovered!
Who knows, there may be two, three or even ten times that many antioxidants in an apple. We simply haven’t discovered them all yet, and the majority of the ones we have discovered we have NO IDEA what they do – all we know is that they’re crucial to human health.
That’s why over 8,000 studies now show eating more fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and just about every chronic disease we know of.
But the studies don’t just show eating more antioxidants from fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of chronic diseases – we also know eating more produce can specifically protect athletes.
One study in Austria with the elite Cobra Forces anti-terrorist force showed that eating more fruit and vegetable nutrition reduced permanent muscle damage in elite athletes.
Not only that, but the Cobra Forces who were getting more of the fruit and veggie nutrition also had 50% less days missed on the job due to illness.
Now think about that – how many fellow runners or athletes have you seen who missed the big race or missed several training days because they got sick?
Imagine how your performance (and health!) would improve if you could provide your body with that kind of protection.
That’s why the biggest nutrition tip for runners I can make for any runner or athlete is this – do your best to eat as many servings of fruits and vegetables a day as you can.
The USDA recommends 7-13 servings a day – and for serious athletes, that recommendation is 13. How many servings of fruits and veggies did you eat yesterday?
This article written by Tom Corson-Knowles, founder of Authentic Health Coaching. Tom is the host of the #1 Alternative Health podcast show on Podomatic and blogs regularly about nutrition, all natural weight loss, and improving athletic performance through good nutrition.