You may be psyched about your 5K training program because you know it's going to help get you into shape, but don't forget about your diet. Just like your running schedule, you need to start making changes to your diet six to eight weeks before your race so you're fueled and ready to go. The best diet is a healthy, balanced diet that includes foods that give you the energy you need for your workouts, while helping repair and nourish your hardworking muscles.
Carbs are your friend. Now is not the time to try that new high-protein diet that helped your sister-in-law lose 20 pounds. You run better and feel better when you eat foods high in carbohydrates, according to the Kilt Klassic website. Carbohydrates provide your muscles with energy. When training for a 5K, 50 to 65 percent of the calories in your diet should come from carbohydrates. But you need to choose healthy carbs to get the most benefit, such as whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, milk and yogurt. Try to eat foods high in carbohydrates regularly throughout the day when training so you have a constant source of energy.
When you're training for your 5K, your legs really take a beating. To build and repair those hardworking muscles, you need to eat good food sources of protein. You don't need a lot of protein, only about 10 to 15 percent of your calories should come from protein when training. Healthy choices include lean meats -- such as poultry or seafood, low-fat dairy products, beans and nuts. To help refuel and repair your muscles after you work out, eat a high-carb food with some protein, such as a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread.
Fat also provides fuel for your muscles during training, but you only need a small amount. Thirty percent or less of your calories should come from fat when training for a 5K. Most of your fat choices should be unsaturated, such as olive oil, fatty fish, avocados, nuts and seeds. Do not eat foods high in fat before you work out. Fat takes longer to digest, and can cause stomach upset during your run.
Water is also an important element of your training diet. Not getting enough water can cause your muscles to easily tire and affect your coordination. It's important to drink water before, during and after your training for best hydration. You need to drink 8 to 12 ounces of water right before you start your workout, 3 to 8 ounces every 15 minutes during your workout and 20 to 24 ounces for every pound you lost after you've completed your workout, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. While sports drinks help replace electrolytes, they also have a lot of sugar, and you should only drink them on heavy training days.
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.