How Much Protein & Carbs Do Runners Need?
Athletes need more carbohydrates and protein than sedentary people because of increased needs for energy and muscle tissue replacement. Runners, like all endurance athletes, must eat a diet that consists mostly of carbohydrates such as whole grains, vegetables and fruits. According to nutrition specialists at Colorado State University, a diet with up to 70 percent carbs for three days before a marathon or other endurance race may be beneficial. Runners don’t need quite as much protein as strength-training athletes, but their need for protein is greater than the average person's.
To determine how much protein and carbs you to eat each day, figure out your body’s caloric needs. Runners need an adequate amount of energy to perform their best. If you don’t consume enough calories each day, you may limit your overall performance. Calories come from carbs, protein and fats. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, active men and women may need to consume as much as 3,200 or 2,400 calories per day, respectively. Your specific needs may vary, so consult your doctor or dietitian.
According to the International Association of Athletics Federations, runners who exercise at a moderate pace on a regular basis need about 5 grams to 7 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight per day. Divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to convert to kilograms. If you exercise at a vigorous pace, or you run for long distances that take over an hour, your body may need 7 to 10 grams of carbs per kilogram of body weight per day. These amounts will provide your body with an adequate amount of carbs to fuel the recovery process following a race or training session. Carbs convert to glycogen, the body’s main source of energy, once digested and absorbed.
Protein supplies your body with smaller amounts of energy when you run compared to carbs. However, it’s a vital nutrient necessary for muscle recovery. According to Colorado State University, endurance athletes may benefit by consuming 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For example, a 150-pound runner would need about 82 to 95 grams of protein per day. Consume protein in small amounts throughout the day to improve absorption.
A pre-event meal that contains protein and easily digestible carbohydrates can help prepare your body for the upcoming work. A sample meal may include 2 ounces of chicken, one piece of fruit and two pieces of bread. Consume a similar meal one to three hours before training. After a run, it’s important to refuel your body within 30 minutes, according to Colorado State University. You can consume a snack rich in carbs and protein, such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or glass of chocolate milk. Another option is to consume a protein shake after you work out, but check with your doctor before using protein supplements.