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Could McDonald’s food meet a runner’s nutritional needs?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

In the news is Chicago marathoner Joe D’Amico who is eating only at McDonald’s in preparation for a 26.2-mile race. D’Amico admits the eating is an experiment. The notion he says, comes from personal experience and he admits he has taken it to the extreme as he runs 100 miles a week.

Recommended nutrition for runners

Experts at Kent State University advise that runners need specific nutrients for optimal performance. Daily nutrients include 1000 to 1500 mg of calcium, 400 grams of carbohydrates as a prime energy source, healthy fats from fish, flaxseed and nuts and folic acid from fruits, leafy green vegetables and citrus.

Because running can interfere with iron absorption red meat, cereal, beans, lentils, prunes and dried fruit is recommended. Adding fruit high in vitamin C to a meal enhances the absorption of iron.

Phytochemicals from whole grains and a mix of fruits and vegetables is also important for runners. The experts emphasize variety is important for balance.

Lean meat, soy, low-fat dairy products and soybeans provide needed protein to promote ligament health and aid muscle recovery. Runners who skim on protein fatigue more easily and have slower recovery times. The recommendation is 5 to 6 ounces of meat or 2 to 3 servings of soy, dairy or grains daily.

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Vitamin C is important to keep immunity intact especially during training. Sources include strawberries, kiwis, oranges, peppers and tomatoes. Vitamin E from walnuts, wheat germ and almonds can reduce oxidative stress and soreness common during marathon or other running training.

Zinc is also important for immunity and recommended for runners. The recommended daily intake is 15mg for men and 12mg for women. Poultry, lamb, beef pork and seafood are good sources of zinc that can facilitate recovery from injuries. Vegetarians can obtain zinc from wheat germ, whole grains and beans.

Researchers have also found a way to calculate the number of carbs runners need the day before a race by factoring in energy needs, individual running power and the ability of the body to store energy.

Benjamin Rapoport, an M.D. /Ph.D. student in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, published a computational model in PLoS that shows the nutritional needs of marathon runners are variable, making it possible that McDonald’s food could provide one person’s needs.

Joe D’Amico, dubbed the “McRunner” will be moving at a fast pace and he says his physician has endorsed his food choice that he is sharing on his blog. So far, he says he feels great and “very optimistic” about the outcome. Experts recommend specific nutrients for runners and Benjamin Rapoport from MIT found each runner is unique. D’Amico says McDonald’s has everything he needs on the menu.

Photo credit: morguefile.com