The weather has started to cool in Sydney and I have noticed that runners are out and about again. I have spotted an increase in runners in the Sydney Botanic Gardens during my lunch time and lots of runners on my early morning walks along the Parramatta River.
Running is a fabulous way to reduce risk factors for depression and weight gain over winter. Running also increases circulation and lowers your risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease.
However, without optimising your nutrition, running can have a few downsides. Inflammation caused by running can dial down your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to colds and flu over winter. Healthy joints and muscles require a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals for performance and recovery.
Here are some nutritional tips to make sure you are getting the nutrients you need to keep you running and keep colds away:
1. Carbohydrates - are essential for energy
Gone are the days where we thought that 'carb loading' meant gorging on lots of bread, pasta and white flour products. Healthy choices of carbohydrates such as lentils, beans, oats, rice and other whole grains are a terrific source of glucose to fuel muscles and provide energy.
During long runs, carbohydrates can be consumed to keep the body fuelled. However if you are going for shorter runs and you are hoping to lose weight, then eating a lot of carbs is not necessary.
2. Protein - is essential for muscle and tissue growth and repair
I recommend small amounts of protein at every meal when you are exercising. Protein includes food such as eggs, beef, lamb, poultry, fish and seafood, dairy, lentils, beans, quinoa, nuts and seeds.
Proteins such as beef and eggs are also good sources of minerals needed by runners such as iron to carry oxygen to muscles, and zinc for healing and immune system function.
3. Healthy fats - natures anti-inflammatory foods
Healthy fats are nature's anti-inflammatory. A 2003 study showed that runners who regularly consume healthy fats have a lower risk of injury. Eating a small amount of healthy fats with a meal can help you to absorb all the nutrients from your meals.
Avocado is a good example of a healthy fat and also contains other essential nutrients. Other healthy fats include nuts and seeds (chia and flax seeds), olive oil, hummus, coconut oil and oily fish such as Atlantic salmon.
4. Garlic - to fight off bugs and viruses
Garlic is anti-microbial and when eaten regularly, can help you to deal with winter colds and flu before they even catch hold of you.
If you do get sick, I recommend eating garlic as often as possible. Try adding raw garlic to a home made chicken soup just before blending.
5. Fruit and vegetables - nutrients need to support energy production and tissue repair
I have already mentioned zinc and iron as minerals needed by runners. Many other minerals and vitamins are also needed to repair joints and muscles and support energy levels and these can be found in fruit and vegetables.
B vitamins and vitamin C are not stored in the body, so you must eat food containing these vitamins every day. Good sources are red capsicum, citrus fruit, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, berries, tomatoes, asparagus, spinach, mushrooms, avocados, bananas, carrots and leafy greens.
Magnesium is a mineral needed by the body for the proper working of muscles, energy production, blood sugar metabolism and protein synthesis. Magnesium is a common deficiency and can cause cramping after exercise and poor sleep. Consuming foods such as green leafy vegetables, beans, quinoa, almonds and pumpkin seeds can increase your magnesium levels.
Eating a wide variety is important because the amounts of vitamins and minerals vary between fruits and vegetables.
About Simone: I am a Sydney based Naturopath and Nutritionist specialising in women's weight loss and menopause. Please visit my website for more information.