Macronutrients are the major nutrients that the body needs in large quantities.
It is important to have a balanced intake of macronutrients to assure maximum function and performance of the body.
Here is a summary of what macronutrients can do for your body:
- Water - Proper hydration is a critical matter for those who are into Running, especially when running long distances such as the Marathon. A runner should only consume adequate amounts of water or drinks that contain electrolytes to stay hydrated. The amount of water consumed makes a huge difference on performance. Excessive amounts of water can dilute the electrolytes that the nervous system uses to function properly. In contrast, too little water can lead to Dehydration and cause as much damage as well.
- Protein - Foods rich in protein contain amino acids that can help in growth, proper functioning of antibodies resisting infection, build muscle protein and repair of body tissue. Most importantly, it can help the body rebuild itself.
- Fat - Energy is mostly stored in the body as fat. It plays an important part in one’s diet since it supplies energy fuel and the essential fatty acids and substances that can aid in body growth. Despite its reputation, moderate amounts of fat can be good for the body. Also, athletes should watch out for their type and amount of fat that they consume.
- Carbohydrates - These are sugars that give the body energy. The body breaks down carbohydrates and then stores the excess in the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen or fat. The body will then use the glycogen whenever it needs an energy boost. In its natural state, it is nourishing, low in calories and high in fiber.
If macronutrients are needed by the body in large quantities, the opposite is true for micronutrients.
Micronutrients are taken only in tiny amounts. But even if that is the case, their importance cannot be discounted.
Micronutrients are divided into two: namely, vitamins and minerals. Vitamins facilitate a person’s metabolism, growth and health in general. Most of them are not produced by your body so you have to acquire them through our diet.
Some of the better known vitamins are Vitamin A which is essential for good eyesight, C which helps us resist infection and D which helps increase our absorption and excretion of calcium in our body.
A person’s lack of vitamins can have serious consequences and manifests though different illnesses. For example, if you are Vitamin C deficient, you would be prone to scurvy which leads to swollen or bleeding gums or the slow healing of wounds.
So you can see how important Vitamin C is in this situation. Without it, your recovery from injury may be slowed down by the lack of Vitamin C in your system.
Minerals on the other hand are inorganic compounds which cannot be produced by living beings.
You usually acquire them from plants which absorb them from the soil. Well-known minerals include calcium and iron.
Calcium makes up 40% of our body’s minerals and almost all of it can be found in your bones and teeth. This mineral is essential in the production of bones and teeth and the maintenance of the bone’s strength.
Meanwhile, iron is important for our body’s oxygen transport. Deficiency of this essential mineral can lead to anemia which causes dizziness, fatigue and sometimes, shortness of breath.
It is therefore essential to have enough amounts of that mineral in your body. Otherwise, it’s not only your health that will be affected but your performance as well.
You have seen in this section the important role macro and micronutrients play in your overall health.
Being healthy and eating healthy not only enables you to run almost everyday but can also increase your performance, if taken in the right amounts.
But remember that while supplements can help you get the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals, it is still best to seek your physician’s advice if you’re planning in taking them.
Sports Foods and Drinks
While it is important to have a healthy diet, you would need a more specialized source of energy when you are racing, especially during longer ones such as the Half-Marathon and Marathon Running. They are the sports foods and drinks and they will be discussed in detail in this section.
First up is the sports drink. There are a lot of brands with even more different flavors available in the market today which make it pretty confusing to choose among them.
But all of them perform a basic function, that is to keep you hydrated and replace lost body salts especially during long races.
Sports drinks contain different kinds of carbohydrates which, as indicated in the section on Runner’s Diet, provide fuel to your body, thus giving you the much-needed boost in energy.
Aside from providing you with energy, sports drinks replace your body salts that are lost due to sweating. It is especially important to replace them because not doing so would lead to a condition called Hyponatremia.
It is a condition when the body’s sodium level drops to an abnormal level which, in extreme cases, can lead to coma, even death.
So it is best to consume four to eight ounces of sports drinks every 15 to 20 minutes of races longer than an hour.
Meanwhile, energy bars provide you with extra fuel or carbohydrates, just like sports drinks.
So don’t be misled that energy bars make you more energetic, rather, they provide you with extra energy in long races.
While most energy bars contain loads of other vitamins and minerals aside from the carbohydrate content, don’t take energy bars as substitutes for real food.
Think of energy bars as a form of specialized fuel that is only ideal to be used in special conditions like long races.
Real food provides you with other nutrients that may not be found in energy bars so it would be wiser to eat them instead of energy bars.
This section dealt with the sports foods and drinks that a runner like you need. However, keep in mind that these are just supplements that would keep you going in long races, especially those going to more than an hour.
They contain mostly carbohydrates which provide you with extra energy when you need them the most.
As discussed, they are best consumed only during special situations like Marathon Running and are not to be treated as substitutes for real food.
Real food provides you with a more complete set of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Eat right before the race and let the sports foods and drinks keep you going up to the last mile!