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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Carbohydrates and proteins and lipids - oh my!

Let's get back to the basics! As I talk with runners on a daily basis about running and nutrition, I've found that not everyone (0r anyone) understands the difference between / importance of carbs, proteins and fats. So what I've done is lay out a comparison and also highlight some of the important things to remember about each of these macronutrients. There is so much to say about each macronutrient (just ask my BioChem professor), but I tried to keep this brief and just hit the most important parts! If you have any other questions, please ask!! Also I'll try to follow up with more information in the weeks to come!


  • DAILY NEED: 50-50% of your daily Calories (including 25 g fiber every day)

  • BUILDING BLOCKS: strings of monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, galactose, mannose). Monosaccharides are made up of carbon and hydrogen (hence carbo + hydrate!)

  • ENERGY YIELD: 4 Calories per gram

  • ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Carbs are your main source of energy as an endurance athlete. When you run out of carbs you begin to burn fat (but you have to have carbs in your system to get the that point. PLEASE don't try to skip out on your carbs to get to your fat faster. . . It doesn't work like that! And, you don't want to get to the point where you start burning protein - muscle!).


  • DAILY NEED: 0.8 g/kg body weight (1kg=2.2lbs) or about 10-15% of your daily Calories

  • BUILDING BLOCKS: amino acids. Amino acids are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen.

  • ENERGY YIELD: 4 Calories per Gram

  • ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Proteins make muscles. Amino acids also serve other functions in the body such as catalyzing important processes (enzymes). While proteins are super important, it is actually very easy to get your daily recommended amount by just eating your calories for the day! Also, by eating protein in your diet (rather than supplementing with a protein shake or something like that) you get the benefits of other nutrients that come with protein- think zinc and iron!


  • DAILY NEED: Up to 30% of your daily Calories or less than 90g per day (and less than 30% of that should be saturated fat)

  • BUILDING BLOCKS: fatty acids and glycerol

  • ENERGY YIELD: 9 Calories per Gram

  • ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Fats are not the enemy! I know fats sound scary, and look, they are more calories per gram than the other macronutrients. . . but fats also come with a slew of good vitamins. Certain vitamins (fat soluble vitamins - A, D, E, and K) can only be absorbed and used by your body in the presence of Fats. Also fatty acids are cushion for your joints and fuel at the end of a long race or work out!

(To get more information about macronutrients specific to your activity level, age, gender, and body type visit this macronutrient calculator)

Sooo. . . Try to take that all in. I know there is a lot of information, but it really is basic. Think moderation. There is NOT one magical nutrient that makes you leaner, faster, more competitive or even funnier (sorry). Just keep at it, and Happy Running!

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