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5 nutrition myths for runners

Myth #1: running is a great way to lose weight

If you're considering signing up for a race with a goal of weight loss in mind, you may want to reconsider. Losing weight, or restricting calories, while training for a race could actually do more harm than good. Food restrictions can prevent your body from being able to recover properly. It can also lead to low energy availability. Low energy availability is when the body does not have enough energy to carryout normal physiological functions. It can increase risk for injury, impair performance, and increase risk for relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S).

Of course, weight loss can occur naturally when fueling properly and exercising. In this scenario, it is not a cause for concern. However, the intense training that is needed to prepare for a race is not the best time to focus on weight loss. Instead, weight maintenance should be the goal.

Myth #2: potassium will prevent cramping

Contrary to popular belief, potassium is not actually the answer to preventing cramps.

Cramping can definitely be a result of electrolyte imbalance, but potassium is not the culprit. Sweat is where we lose most of our electrolytes while running, but sodium and chloride make up the largest percentage of electrolytes in sweat, not potassium. The best way to minimize cramps while running is hydrating with an electrolyte drink. A few other things that could contribute to cramps are improper fueling before the run, skipping a pre-run warm-up, or increasing milage/intensity too quickly.

Myth #3: losing your period is normal

While losing your period may be common among female runners, it certainly is not normal or healthy. It is an indication that your body is not getting enough fuel to function properly. Using more energy than you take in (through food) puts a strain on your body. It begins to preserve energy however it can. One of the first bodily functions to go is the reproductive system. If you don't have enough energy to fuel yourself, you certainly do not have enough energy to grow another human.

Of course, we're not all looking to be pregnant, so why is this bad? The reproductive system is balanced by hormones, some of which effect other systems in your body. So if the reproductive system is not working properly, it has a cascade effect. One of the biggest concerns when you lose your period is losing bone density. Impaired bone density increases risk of injury and can have long term effects to your bones.

Myth #4: you need a certain body type to be a runner

Absolutely anyone can be a runner! Size and body type play no role in whether or not someone can be a runner. If you've ever watched a marathon, I'm sure you've noticed people of all ages, shapes and sizes finish the race! Of course, you don't have to run a marathon to be a runner either. If you like to put on those running shoes and move your body, you're a runner! That being said, women looking to gain more confidence in running should definitely check out Badass Lady Gang!

Myth #5: you should eat less on days you don't run

When you go for a run, you begin burning calories to use as energy. However, this doesn't stop when the run is over. Your metabolism could be heightened up to 24-48 hours after the run, depending on the intensity and duration of the run. If you've ever trained for a race, you may have even noticed you got more hungry on rest days! This is because your body is still in recovery mode, and needs food to fuel that recovery. So if you're training for a race, or running on a consistent schedule, you should be eating fairly equal amounts of food each day.


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