Women runners' nutritional needs

The nutritional requirements of female runners

There are a number of major differences in the nutritional needs of male and female runners. It is vital that these differences are taken into consideration when you are planning your dietary intake, based around a running plan. Here's our guide to the dietary needs of female runners looking to get fit and healthy through running.

As you increase your run training levels you will need to adjust your eating and drinking programme accordingly and structure what you consume with a level of planning that is vital if you are to see an improvement in running performance. It’s not just your training schedule that you must concentrate on; your running diet can be equally important.

What are the differences in women runner’s vitamin requirements?
Recommended daily allowances (RDAs) differ for men and women in virtually every case. You should check with a nutritionist what your requirements actually are, as they can differ considerably according to individual. Every source seems to put ‘the average’ at a different level, so check your own specifically before following the wrong path. Vitamins where there are the greatest differences between genders include Vitamin A, B1, B2, E and Niacin, where men have to consume as much as 50% more than the female requirement.

What about minerals?
Iron is the mineral where there can be the biggest differences between male and female athletes. Men store far more than women, who lose much of their stores during menstruation.

It’s generally agreed that women need nearly double the daily RDA of iron than men, around 15-18 mg, compared to 10mg for men. Women however don’t need as much magnesium or iodine as men, but for the others, where an RDA has been agreed, the figures are the same. These include sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, zinc and copper.

What about our relative intakes of water for running?
Water is a vital part of our run training and racing programme. Without drinking the required levels, you could have serious health problems, such as dehydration. It’s particularly important for women to drink the correct amount even on non-training days as a woman’s body is made up of around 55 percent water and it needs sustaining.

Water also contributes to all round well-being, including a major contribution to healthy skin. You should aim to drink around one and a half litres a day and drink it consistently all day, rather than have periods of ‘cramming’.

Are there any other nutrition issues that women runners should be aware of?
One of the best known essential fatty acids is omega-6, which plays an important role during menstruation. Its RDA is around 120mg. Also consider your fibre intake as this can alleviate problems in the intestinal gut and prevent excessive loss of nutrients. Digg redditFacebook Stumbleupon