Monday, January 16, 2012

Carbs to Add to Your Runner’s Diet

Being an endurance athlete comes with a number of perks: You spend hours outdoors, enjoy being in shape and don’t have to skimp on a generous portion of nutritious foods (when training). The endurance athlete’s diet is not full of restrictions and self-sacrifice. The training hours requires consuming enough macronutrients to allow them to replace fuel stores, recover and compete at their best.
Needless to say, runners should not and cannot afford to consume low carbohydrate diets. Their bodies require, crave and demand carbs to work and recover effectively. Carbohydrates are the primary high-energy fuel source that replenishes body stores of glycogen (energy) and provides vital nutrients and fiber for optimal health. Fruits, dairy and vegetables are all sources of carbohydrates.
On the flip side not all carbohydrates are created equal and there is a proper time and portion for endurance athletes to consume them. Avoid highly process, sugar laden or refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, rice and pastries). Focus on whole grain breads, rice, pasta and consuming mostly fruits, low fat dairy and vegetables to meet carbohydrates needs.
What’s whole grain? Whole grains contain all three parts of the kernel (bran, germ and endosperm). Refining removes the bran and the germ, leaving only the endosperm. Without the bran and germ, about 25% of a grain’s protein is lost, along with at least seventeen key nutrients. Whole grains are healthier, providing more protein, more fiber and many important vitamins and minerals endurance athletes depend on.
Who do you know if it’s whole grain? Flip the grocery item over. Find the ingredient list- if the words whole grains is the very (I mean very) first word after the colon then bingo its whole grain. If not, put it back and try again. Once you find your favorite trustworthy brands shopping is much easier.

FUEL Fact- the Journal of Nutrition found that eating three servings of whole grains a day helped people reduce their total body fat and abdominal fat. Even a runner can appreciate that! 
Here are 3 whole grains to FUEL your run and life.
Whole-Wheat Pasta Pasta is usually a staple of a long-distance runner's diet and let’s face it none runners as well. We Americans love pasta. Whole-wheat pasta offers 3 times more fiber and is just as delicious. Look for varieties with less than 200 calories and 5 grams of fiber per serving (the suggested serving not your idea or a serving).
Quinoa An answer to the vegetarian runner’s protein prayers. It provides some fiber and a good amount of protein (4 grams). Note: Rinsing quinoa removes any residue and bitter taste. Use it in the place of rice.
Popcorn When you’re craving pretzels or potato chips... an apple just isn’t going to do it. Popcorn satisfies a munchies craving and its whole grain. Look for the individual 100 calorie light versions. Put the butter lover’s movie style back on the shelf! Or try air popping your own- 6 cups popped is a serving. Yes! Six whole cups!
Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, CSSD, LD is a registered dietitian and certified sports specialist in dietetics and founder of Runner’s FUEL. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @RunnersFuel. For more information visit or email at a  You can also find Rebecca here on SCAN: