Training for a 5k, which is 3.1 miles, is a great place to start for people who are trying to get into better shape and work toward a goal. According to David C. Neiman, PhD, you should stay within yourself and start your training off easy, especially if you are not in peak condition. One key to training for a 5k, and one key to helping you build the endurance you need to finish, is nutrition.
Carbohydrates are perhaps the most important element to your diet if you are training for a 5k. Carbs are essential fuel for your body, especially if you are running and working out regularly. Health Writing recommends getting 60 to 70 percent of your caloric intake from carbs, while Cool Running recommends 60 percent carbs and The Running Advisor and Hal Higdon, author of “Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide,” suggest about 50 percent carbs. The majority of your carbs should be eaten just before and after a run or a workout. Great carb sources include vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and eggplant, and fruits such as apples, oranges, pears, peaches, grapefruit, berries, bananas and pineapple. Other carb sources include whole grain breads and cereals, pastas, beans, potatoes, and energy bars. Fruit juices provide carbs as well as other vitamins and minerals you lose during a run or a workout.
Getting enough protein in your diet is also important when training for a 5k. Eating protein-rich foods along with a high-carb meal after a hard run or workout can help speed the recovery of your muscles. Cool Running and The Running Advisor recommend getting approximately 25 percent of your total calories from foods high in protein while Hal Higdon recommends getting 15 to 20 percent. Great sources of protein include chicken, whitefish, pork, yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, peanut butter, seeds, nuts and protein bars. Eat most of your proteins during the times of the day when you are the most sedentary.
Getting some healthy fats into your diet is recommended. Cool Running recommends getting about 15 percent of your daily caloric intake from foods with healthy fats, while The Running Advisor recommends 25 percent, and Hal Higdon recommends about 30 percent fats. Those include nut, vegetable and olive oils, avocados, almonds, cashews, peanuts and peanut butter, olives, and fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and cod. Fit your fatty foods in during the times of the day when you are the most sedentary.
Before you start making changes to your diet, it's important that you determine how many calories you should take in every day to maintain your body weight — especially if you will be adding carbs to your diet. Unused carbs will turn to fat, so if you are taking in more calories from carbs than you are burning working out, you could actually gain weight. If you are already at a healthy weight, you can determine the number of calories you need per day by multiplying your present weight by 13. If you need to lose weight, subtract 500 calories from that number. Creating a deficit of 500 calories per day would help you lose approximately 1 lb. per week.
You should avoid low-carb diets if you are training for a 5k. Carbohydrates provide your body with the fuel it needs during your training. Depriving your body of fuel will cause your muscles to tire more quickly and inhibit your ability to get into peak physical condition. Above all else, it's vitally important to stay hydrated at all times when training for a 5k. Your body can't function properly without water, so drink plenty of it -- and also mix in sports drinks after a run or workout to replenish the sodium your body loses when you sweat.