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Runner's Caloric Intake

author image Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.
Runner's Caloric Intake
Competetive runner in race.

Adequate calorie intake promotes optimal athletic performance. If you’re a runner, the number of calories you’ll require each day depends on your age, gender and duration and intensity of your workouts. The composition of your diet is important as well. Eating too few calories can drastically reduce your running performance.

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Daily Calorie Needs

Unless you’re overweight or obese and trying to lose weight, if you’re a runner you should consume enough calories to maintain your current body weight. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that active adult women require about 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day and active adult men require about 2,400 to 3,000 calories per day to maintain their current body weight. Long-distance and marathon runners will likely require more calories to maintain an energy balance than the U.S. Department of Agriculture calorie recommendations depending on how many calories they burn during their workouts. The American Dietetic Association reports that for women athletes, consuming less than 1,800 to 2,000 calories per day may result in a negative energy balance, weight loss, malnutrition or other health problems.

Energy Balance

Your daily calorie needs depend on your workouts. According to the Merck Manual of Medical Information, running burns about 6 to 8 calories per minute, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes that a 154-Ib. person can burn about 590 calories per hour by running or jogging. The more you run, the more calories you’ll require to maintain your body weight, so weighing yourself regularly can help determine if you’re eating enough.

Diet Composition

The types of calories you consume will affect your running performance as well. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends all adults consume between 45 and 65 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates, 20 to 35 percent from fat and 10 to 35 percent of their daily calories from protein. Carbohydrates are the main fuel source for runners.

Determine Your Needs

According to University of Minnesota Extension Service, the following method can help you estimate your daily calorie needs. First, divide your body weight in Ib. by 2.2 to determine your body weight in kilograms. Next, multiply your body weight in kg by 1.0 if you’re a male or 0.9 if you’re a female to determine how many calories you burn per hour at rest; then multiply that number by 24 to determine how many calories you burn per day at rest, which is also called your basal metabolic rate. Add the number of calories you burn each day running to your basal metabolic rate to help estimate your daily calorie needs.

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