Debunking running’s soda pop myth and nutrition tips for runners – Idaho Press

June 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

My fruit snack consumption has lessened only slightly since I started running this summer (I’m at about one package a day), and I’m starting to wonder if I should quit altogether. How important is nutrition to a beginning runner, anyway?

I chatted with nutritionist and diabetes educator Patrick Shepherd this week to find out some surprising myths and good tips about eating and drinking while training for a 5k.

Nutrition is not as important for a beginner runner as it is for someone training for a marathon, though it still makes a difference, explained Shepherd, who works at Budge Clinic in Logan.

Choosing a diet for a beginning runner really depends on the reason you are running, he said. While those who run for weight loss need to watch what they eat, a beginning runner who just wants to make it to the 5k finish line a little faster does not need to be as picky.

“People that eat regular food, and eat normal before a 5k race, are not going to have problems with enough energy in their muscles,” he said.

The first concern for running is hydration, obviously, Shepherd said. There are lots of ways to calculate just how much you are supposed to drink, but the rule of thumb is about two liters a day, he said.

I knew this when I started running, of course. Well, sort of. When liter water bottles went on sale at the store, I made sure to get one. My goal is to drink two of those bad boys a day.

For those averse to water, don’t fret, Shepherd assured me. Your body will take whatever liquid you give it. I’m not sure if he meant drinking eight cups — a little more than two liters — of coffee a day, but you get the picture. Go ahead and mix it up with juice. Even soda.

“Soda is one of those classic myths that cut your wind,” Shepherd said.

I once had an LDS bishop who ran marathons regularly and kept cases of Mountain Dew in the garage. I was always slightly scandalized, not because my bishop drank caffeine, but because he was a runner drinking every can of soda like it was the last one on earth.

All talk about the dangers of sugar aside, soda is not as bad for running as one might think, Shepherd said. The carbon dioxide leaves your system in two hours.

However, if you are looking to watch your weight, which every runner should be doing, try not to overdo it. More weight puts stress on the knees, he told me.

“As a general human rule, non-calorie drinks are best,” Shepherd explained.

Food becomes important in the recovery aspect of running, he said. After each training session, you should eat carbohydrates and protein as quickly as possible. Exercise puts little micro tears in the muscle that need to be repaired. That’s what protein is for.

However, if you don’t have enough carbohydrates, that protein is going to be used as “dumb energy” Shepherd said. You need about 200-250 carbs to replace what you burned in a 5k, he said. That’s about two cups of milk.

That protein shake is probably overkill if you are a beginner runner, Shepherd said. Fifteen to 20 grams of protein is good enough.

Runnersworld.com had suggestions for recovery snacks that blend the right amount of carbs and protein. Try 12 ounces of low-fat chocolate milk, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread or even a McDonald’s fruit and yogurt parfait with granola and a 16-ounce nonfat latte.

Don’t even think about carb loading before a race, Shepherd said. It can actually be bad for you. Instead, eat what you would normally eat. If you’re looking for that perfect pre-race meal, have 200 calories of simple carbs, like a Pop Tart, white bread sandwich, glass-and-a-half of orange juice or a banana and apple.

“You look at these, and it’s so weird that a dietitian would be recommending these, but we’re talking about a race,” Shepherd said. “This has nothing to do with nutrition.”

In the end, however, it doesn’t matter how well you eat if you aren’t training, he said.

“No amount of good nutrition is going to make up for a lack of hardware,” he said.


Lis is a beginning runner who is researching rookie advice as she trains for her epic 5k this summer. Send your questions, suggestions for future columns and favorite running snack to: lstewart@hjnews.com. Leave your comment at hjnews.com.

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