Nutritional plan for sprinters

LOAD UP: Sprinters need carbohydrates, high quality protein in the diet  

TO SUCCEED in your running programme, you must couple it with the right nutrition plan. The correct approach depends on what your objectives are.

If you are running to lose weight, a combination of dieting and exercise might be the answer for you. Even if you don't diet, exercising while maintaining your calorie intake will cause weight loss.

Aim for a weight loss rate of no more than half a kilo per week. This target will not require you to starve: modest sacrifices like forgoing a serving of cereal everyday will suffice.

However, if you are an athlete in training or a fitness fanatic, the food you eat must replace the calories you burn during exercise.

Runners must get half of their daily calories from complex carbohydrates. Chapattis, rice, fresh fruit, boiled or baked potatoes; beans and wholemeal bread are excellent sources of these complex sugars.

Eat small portions and eat more frequently than three times a day. This will provide sugar to the brain and the exercising muscles without causing wild swings in blood glucose levels. Otherwise, you will feel too full, lethargic and tired all day. Avoid easily digestible simple sugars like candy and ice cream. Alcohol causes hypoglycaemia, so avoid it a few hours before and after the run. Fat must comprise no more than 15 per cent of your daily calories.

Drink water by the quart every two hours. Hydrated tissues are less likely to suffer injury. They function efficiently and lose their wastes more quickly.

Don't be too eager to pop in those vitamin pills. You do not really need them if you are eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit.

Joggers and sprinters differ somewhat in their nutrition needs. Sprinters need to load up on carbohydrates on the day before the race. Their bulkier muscles also demand more high-quality protein in the diet.

An intense activity like sprinting will leave no blood to spare for digestion, so the pre-race must be a carbo meal at least four hours before the event. Remove all fat from this meal: fat slows digestion and delays the emptying of the stomach. Even a 10-second long 100 m dash will burn up most of the glucose stores of the muscles. Replenish these stores as soon as possible by eating a couple of bananas within two hours of the race. Also, drink a couple of litres of water within the same period. This will help your muscles recover faster after a race. Joggers too need to eat a few hours before a run, but jogging is a mild enough exercise to spare blood for digestion. The pre-jog meal must consist of complex carbos, but there is no need for massive carbo-loading before or after the run. Drink plenty of water before, during and after the run, though.