There are a number of differences in the nutritional requirements of male and female runners.  As a runner it is vital that these differences are taken into consideration when planning your dietary intake.

Any eating and drinking needs to be adjusted accordingly as a runner increases the intensity of their training. It is not just the training schedule that is important, but also the running diet. Without the correct fuel in your engine, you won't go far.

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...

It’s generally agreed that women need nearly double the daily RDA of iron than men, around 15 to 18mg, 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?

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 per cent water and this level 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.