Various Diets and How They Affect Runners of Different Types

Aug 13 '18 | By RunaMuck

Various Diets and How They Affect Runners of Different Types


A good race depends on more than just your training. If you want to improve your speed and performance, you also need to consider what you are putting into your body. The type of food an athlete should eat depends on the kind of sport they do. When you consume the right foods at the right time, your running performance is greatly enhanced. In addition to that, you will reduce the risk of injury and illness.

In this article, we discuss the top diets and their effects on runners.


1.     Ketogenic diets

For so many years, carbohydrates have been promoted as the main fuel source for runners; this is because high carbohydrate diets increase the amount of glycogen stored in the liver and muscle, and this improves endurance performance. But the body is full of fat stores, and scientists and nutritionists have begun to wonder how we can tap into those stores for fuel.

This diet is increasingly becoming the favorite among runners who want to lose weight or teach their bodies to use fat as fuel. But whether runners, specifically, should put their bodies in a state of ketosis depends on your goals.

The ketogenic diet which is also known as low-carb, high–fat (LCHF), is a high-fat, moderate protein, low-carb nutrition plan and this is a drastic shift from what the typical carb-heavy runners eat. Although the amount of fat one eats on a ketogenic diet varies, ketogenic diets contain high percentage of fat with carbohydrate taking only a little percentage. By cutting down carb intake - less than 25 net grams per day - ketogenic diets force your body into ketosis (a metabolic state in which the body heavily relies on fat for energy instead of sugar/glycogen), and this is the purpose of the diet. When you eat fewer carbs, your glucose levels go down, which lowers insulin levels and this triggers the production of ketones that do not need the help of insulin to get into and fuel the cells.

Long distance runners (ultra-runners, for instance) may benefit from this diet because over the later miles (beyond 30 miles), the body needs to start tapping into fat stores. Moreover, when you are running at lower intensities, you need to burn more fat as fuel. But for runners (such as sprint runners) running at higher intensities than the ultra-runners, carbs may still be best because carbs are the main source of fuel at higher intensities.

In recent times, there are doubts as to whether or not keto diets actually help athletic performance. There isn’t really a lot of good research that shows those people can perform better, and that’s really what runners care about. Diabetics have to routinely measure their ketones; if the ketone levels are too high, it can indicate a major complication of diabetes.

If you decide to try this new way of fueling, consult with your dietitian first. Also remember that saturated fat has been linked to heart disease and high blood pressure; so choose diets that are high in unsaturated fat, such as fish, nuts, oils and avocados.


2.   Vegetarian diets

Vegetarian and vegan diets may have differing effects on athletic performance depending upon the type of exercise performed. Vegan diets tend to be lower in calories, protein, fat, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, calcium and iodine than omnivorous diets, but they contain higher amounts of carbohydrates, fiber, micronutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants. Hence vegan athletes may need to consume higher amounts of these foods compared to omnivores and other vegetarians. All vegans should take a B12 supplements. Calcium supplements are controversial after a study showed a link between calcium supplements and a greater risk for heart disease. Some forms of tofu are high in calcium. Green, leafy vegetables are another good non-dairy source of calcium. Vegetarian diets are higher in carbohydrates that boost muscle glycogen for greater endurance. Still, vegetarian endurance athletes still need to consume adequate amounts of plant-based protein and need more than people who are sedentary. Creatine supplementation along with an increase in plant-based protein may help vegetarian and vegan athletes compensate for the lack of animal protein. If you’re trying to build lean body mass or strength and you’re eating a vegetarian diet, make sure you’re getting enough plant-based protein from a variety of sources including fermented soy, whole grains, beans and lentils. If you’re not vegan, eggs are the highest quality source of protein to help promote muscle growth.

Vegetarian strength and power athletes should try as much as possible to eat a diet higher in plant-based protein from a variety of sources and ensure they’re getting enough calcium, zinc, vitamin B12, iron and vitamin D. Eating iron-rich foods such as red meat will also be more important for a marathon runner than a sprinter as it is an essential component of hemoglobin, the protein in blood that transports oxygen around the body.

However, according to a study comparing vegan and omnivore athletes, vegetarian diets do not compromise athletic performance and may even help aerobic capacity.


3.   Mediterranean diets

The Mediterranean diet, which consists of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, and olive oil, could reduce a harmful dependency on animal protein. The fundamental Mediterranean diet component is an emphasis on eating mostly plant-based foods and limiting red meat. But you need more protein for muscle building. Therefore, focus on getting more protein from the foods the diet promotes. Include foods such as poultry, fish, yogurt, cheese, and eggs in your daily eating plan. You need about 25 to 30 grams daily intake of protein to meet your everyday protein needs; this isn’t difficult to do.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, which can provide plenty of carbs, but most of these foods are eaten in portions that may be inadequate for endurance athletes—though recent research suggest athletes can perform well on far fewer carbs than most experts recommend.

Mediterranean diet won’t slow you down in any way. This diet, which is promoted mostly as a heart-healthy, weight-loss diet, is also ideal for performance.


4.   Paleo diets

The Paleo diet emphasizes high-protein foods and other items that can be consumed without additional processing such foods include eggs, organ meats, game and wild meats, fish and shellfish, fruits and vegetables (although obese people should limit grapes, bananas, cherries and mangoes), nuts and seeds (except peanuts), oils (olive, walnut and flaxseed), moderate use of coffee, tea, wine and beer, and moderate intake of dried nuts. It limits carbs and beans, which can be difficult if you don't care for meat.

The Paleo diet excludes foods such as dairy, cereal grains, legumes and starchy vegetables, foods that contain salt, fatty, cured and processed meats, soft drinks and fruit juices, candy, honey and syrup.

This diet lacks vital nutrients, such as calcium, fiber, iron and carbohydrates hence it fails to meet the special needs of strength and power athletes, who need additional carbohydrates. It is also an expensive way to eat.





5.    Carnivore diet

This diet is one in which you subsist on animal foods alone. Imagine a diet where you eat steak, bacon, and pork. This is what the carnivore diet is about –meat, meat, meat; no grains, no fruits, no veggies. This diet says no carb, high fat, and high protein. This diet suggests you buy the best quality meat products possible. Although with this diet, you will inevitably enter ketosis (but not fulltime), unlike keto diets, carnivore diets emphasize animal fat; they do not allow for plant fat and carbs.

Meats such as beef, lamb, poultry are the predominant source of protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc (iron and zinc are most deficient in vegetarian diets). Over the years, countless athletes have embraced the carnivore diet. They have ditched plant foods for animal flesh.

Copyright GoRunaMuck.com



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