Athletes Nutrition

As a runner, your diet is not only important for maintaining good health, but also to promote peak performance” writes Kepha Nyanumba-Nutritionist AAR Healthcare.

athletes nutrition                       athletes nutrition

Q: What’s the most important thing runners need to know about sports nutrition?

Answer: If I had to pick one thing, it would have to be hydration. If you don’t nail down hydration, you could get in serious trouble with heatstroke.

If you’re running for an hour or less, plain water every 15 to 20 minutes should be enough to make sure you’re replacing the water your body is losing through sweat. If you’re running outside on a particularly hot day, you’ll need to drink more.

Q: Is it recommended to eat immediately before a marathon?

Answer: When you begin a marathon, you should feel neither starved nor stuffed. You don't want to eat immediately before running because it may lead to cramping or side stitches.  In general, it’s advisable to take a meal two or three hours before a marathon. That way, you’re not hungry before you start, and you don’t get hungry while you’re on the run. 

Q: Do athletes need to follow a strict diet to perform well?

Answer:  No. An athlete's diet should be very similar to a regular well-balanced diet, except:

  • Athletes need to drink more because of fluid loss during training and competition.
  • Athletes require more calories to meet the extra needs of physical activity. 

Q: Should I eat extra protein?

Answer:  Although some extra protein is needed to build muscle, most people eat plenty of protein and eating extra will not have any benefit. For most people, 3-4 servings of proteins (meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, yoghurt) every day will provide enough protein. Eating enough calories is actually more important for building muscle. Without enough calories, your body can't build new muscle.

Q: Should I increase carbohydrates before my games or competitions?

Answer: When you are training or competing, your muscles need energy to perform. Glycogen, which is glucose stored in our muscles and liver, is the energy used by muscles. Every time you work out, you use some of your glycogen. If you don't eat enough carbohydrates, you'll have fewer glycogen stores, and your muscles may not be able to perform their best.

Carbohydrate loading is a technique used to increase the amount of glycogen in muscles and in the liver. It involves eating extra carbohydrates during the week before a competition while at the same time cutting back on training.

Q: What should runners eat before a marathon?

Answer: Performance depends mostly on the foods you ate in the days and weeks leading up to an event. If you usually eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of carbohydrates, you will probably have enough energy (glycogen) stored in your body to perform well. The purpose of the "pre-competition" meal is to prevent hunger and to provide the water and energy you will need during the marathon.

Some general tips for eating before a competition:

  • Eat a larger meal if you have 3-6 hours before you begin your marathon. Smaller "mini" meals are better if you only have an hour or two before your marathon begins. Meals that are high in complex carbohydrates are powerful because they give your muscles the very best source of fuel.
  •  Limit the amount of fatty foods such as fast food, eggs, meat, and cheese. These foods take much longer to digest and may make you feel sluggish and tired.
  •  Avoid high-bulk (high-fiber), gas forming foods. These foods may cause gas pains during a marathon.
  •  Avoid sugars and sweets, especially soft drinks, less than 1 hour before training. High-sugar foods will give you quick energy, but it won't last long.
  •  Do not try new foods before a competition. You may have trouble digesting a food you have never eaten before. Choose foods that you eat regularly and are familiar to you.

Q: Should I drink sports drinks when I exercise?

Answer: Water is usually the best fluid for your body. When you exercise for longer than an hour, though, you may need to replace the carbohydrates used to fuel exercise and the electrolytes lost in sweat. Water and a well-balanced meal after your workout will replace the fluid and energy that your body used while exercising

Q: What should I eat after a marathon?

Answer: You need food after a marathon to replace the carbohydrate utilized and the electrolytes lost. Electrolytes are found in nearly all foods, so you don't need a special drink to get those. Your body will replenish its energy stores (glycogen) the best if you eat a meal with carbohydrates and some protein after a marathon.


Kepha Nyanumba (Nutritionist AAR), This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , Cell: +254 (0) 723 103 028, +254 (0) 732 234 161.

Find us on twitter

Our 2016 Sponsors & Partners