One area where women runners differ from their male counterparts is caloric requirement. When running the same distance, men burn more calories than women due to their higher muscle mass and lower body fat.
A man training 40-45 kms (25-30 miles) per week requires 19-21 calories per pound of body weight. A 180 lb man training at this level should consume approximately 3600 calories daily. A woman running the same weekly mileage requires 17-19 calories per pound of body weight. Therefore, a 140 lb woman needs about 2500 calories daily to fuel her activity.
Carbohydrate requirement is another area of nutrition where women runners’ requirements differ from those of their male counterparts. Why? In addition to burning more calories when running, men utilize more carbs as fuel than women, even when running the same distance. Therefore, women runners need fewer carbs than men.
Women runners need approximately three grams of carbs per pound of body weight daily (men need four). That’s 420 grams of carbs daily for a 140 lb woman. According to renowned sports nutritionist Liz Applegate, Ph.D., nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily accompanied by seven servings of grains (preferably whole) will meet your daily carbohydrate requirements, with the added benefit of 25 grams of fibre.
Initially, these numbers may seem disconcerting. Remember that we runners have different nutritional requirements than the sedentary population’s. We require adequate amount of carbs to fuel our increased energy requirements. Restricting carbohydrates may work for the sedentary population but is counterproductive for runners.
Case in point: A number of years ago, Bennett was responsible for much of the family cooking. Pasta was a fixture on the family menu. Not surprisingly, the sedentary family members began to gain weight while his running improved.
Runners who are attempting to lose weight succeed due to their increased caloric expenditure. Restricting food intake, thereby not ingesting adequate amounts of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats will result in losing muscle strength, slower running, overall weakness, increased susceptibility to infection and a host of other physical issues.
Fuelling for running is about making wise food choices – 90% of the time. It’s OK to go crazy the other 10%.
Bennett Cohen (the Savvy Runner) and Gail Gould are the Founders and Presidents of the International Association of Women Runners (IAWR). To learn more about this global community of women who share a passion for running, visit www.iawr-connect.com.