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A Diet for Female Runners

Female runners have specific nutritional needs. Poor nutrition can lead to poor performance, tiredness, injuries and disillusionment with training, reports the Estronaut website. Women often take up running in an effort to lose weight, and as a result fail to fuel correctly.

Calories

The number of calories you need daily depends on the aggressiveness of your training. According to running coach Hal Higdon, the average runner training for a half marathon and running between 20 and 25 miles per week needs about 2,500 calories per day. The later stage of marathon training requires more calories, and runners who do short distances probably need slightly less daily. Even if you are seeking weight loss, you need to eat adequate calories to replace glycogen stores in your muscles so you have energy to perform at your best.

Macronutrients

A diet for a female runner should stress carbohydrates. Aim to take in between 50 and 55 to 65 percent of daily calories from complex carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Distance runners should focus on the higher end of the carbohydrate range. Proteins in the form of white-meat poultry, lean cuts of beef, legumes, egg whites and low-fat dairy should make up between 10 and 25 percent of daily calories. Healthy fats, like those that come from plant sources, round out your running diet plan. Make sure you eat at least 20 percent of your calories from fat because adequate consumption helps with vitamin absorption and hormone production.

Potential Deficiencies

Women tend to be at risk of iron deficiency. Women runners are even more prone because, according to Estronaut, excessive sweating causes iron loss. Include iron-rich leafy greens and some lean red meat in your diet to insure you get enough. Female runners and other athletes have a higher need for calcium in their diet programs. Chris Carmichael, coach to Lance Armstrong and founder of Carmichael Training Systems, writes in “Food for Fitness” that nearly half of all runners do not get enough calcium. Include at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily through sources like low-fat milk, yogurt, fortified juice or supplements.

Fueling Workouts

Runners need proper fuel before, during and after workouts to maximize their performance. Carmichael points out that a pre-run meal or snack eaten 60 to 90 minutes before your workout should consist primarily of carbohydrates with a small serving of protein. Examples are a bagel with a slice of deli turkey or a bowl of cereal with low-fat milk. After longer workouts—lasting more than an hour—replace your glycogen stores within 15 minutes to an hour. Carmichael recommends a meal containing .75 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight combined with a serving of protein. For a 130-pound woman, a slice of toast with a banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter meets this criteria. Runners going longer than an hour should consume sports gels or drinks to replace energy stores.

Typical Day

A female runner’s daily meal plan should include three meals and at least two snacks. For a 135-pound female runner training 11 hours per week, go for a breakfast consisting of 2 cups of whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk and 12 ounces of orange juice. At lunch, try a chicken salad sandwich with spinach, whole-grain bread and 2 cups of fruit. Enjoy a serving of multigrain crackers on the side. In the afternoon, have a fruit smoothie as a snack. For dinner, eat a cup of pasta with marinara sauce, a roll and a green salad. Drink 8 ounces of milk with lunch or dinner.

Photo Credits:

  • girl running in jog bra image by jimcox40 from Fotolia.com

This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.