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10 Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Runners Diet

Being a successful runner is not about how fast you can run or how many miles you can go in a week. Diet also plays a large role in how successful you can become as a runner. A healthy diet helps to fuel your runs and helps to make stronger bodies. Healthy eating can help you to get the most out of your runs. Read on for 10 tips for maintaining a healthy runners diet.

10 Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Runners Diet

Here are 10 tips for maintaining a healthy runners diet:

1. Avoid Processed Foods
As a runner, you should focus on eating healthy and unprocessed foods. To do so, aim to keep your pantry and fridge stocked with nutritious and heart-healthy foods. These foods should include lean meats, fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains. These heart-healthy foods provide you with essential nutrients. A healthy, well-balanced diet can help to successfully fuel your runs and boost your post-run recovery. While you don’t need to entirely eliminate processed foods from your diet, aim to minimize your processed food intake. Remember, moderation is key.

2. Aim to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day
Forget about just eating three large meals per day. As a runner, this is highly unlikely to work for you; especially while you are training for a race. While training, you are likely to notice that you are going to feel hungry, more often. Runners need more calories than people who are inactive. Instead of just eating three times per day, aim to eat small meals every three to four hours. Eating small meals throughout the day can help to keep your energy levels up and prevent you from feeling hungry all the time.

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3. Never deny yourself the foods you truly enjoy
Just because you are training, does not mean you have to give up your favorite foods. Denying yourself your favorite foods can lead to eventually caving in one day and overindulging in foods that are likely to be not so healthy for you. It is better to allow yourself small portions of foods you truly enjoy instead of forcing your body to eat foods that you really do not enjoy eating. In the long run, this is better for your caloric intake. You will more satisfied and less likely to binge eat. Again, moderation is key.

4. Switch your diet up
Let’s face it, eating the same foods over and over again can quickly become boring. Avoid falling into the habit of eating the same foods everyday. For example, pasta is so well known as a runner’s staple food that people forget there are plenty of variations of pasta out there that you do not need to eat the same old paste day in and day out. There are plenty of healthier and more exciting carb choices out there, such as quinoa or rice. Additionally, try to switch up your fruit and vegetable intake so that you consume a variety of different nutrients instead of the same ones everyday.

5. Remember to consume protein
Often times, runners are so focused on their carbohydrates intake that they forget about the importance of protein. Your body uses protein for energy as well as to repair any tissue damage that may occur as the result of intense training. As a runner, protein should make up 15 percent of your daily intake. Great sources of protein include lean meats, fish, beans, poultry, nuts, egg whites, some vegetables, whole grains, low-fat cheese and low-fat milk.

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6. Remember to eat after a run
It’s very common to lose your appetite after running. However, it is very important to eat within 30 minutes of your run. By eating within 30 minutes of your run, you will be replenishing glycogen stores — these are essential in helping your body to recover from a workout. Shortly after your run, be sure to eat a snack that is high in protein as well as carbohydrates. Consider an energy bar or a cup of yogurt with some fruit.

7. Never forget about the importance of hydration
Runners should always be in the habit of replacing any fluids lost while running. Always make it a point to drink directly before and immediately following your run. If you are going on run that is likely to be longer than 45 minutes, be sure to bring a water bottle with you so that you can stay hydrated as you run. On the other hand, it’s important not to over-hydrate without replacing electrolytes (or salts). Doing so had the potential to lead to a dangerous condition known as hyponatremia. Make sure to replenish fluids after a long distance run with a drink that contains electrolytes- think Gatorade.

8. Chase your energy gels with water
If you consume energy gels with a sports drink, you run the risk of overloading your body with too much sugar. Your gastrointestinal tract may not be able to handle these large amounts of sugar. This can lead to stomach cramps or diarrhea. If you use energy gels when you run, opt for drinking water only while you run.

9. Avoid changing your diet in the days leading up to a big race
You know your body better than anyone. In the day leading up to a marathon or half marathon, stick to foods that you have eaten before and that you know can be easily digested by your body. For some runners, this may mean avoiding foods that are high in fiber, high in fat or contain dairy. In the days leading up to a race, many runners will opt for high-carb foods so that their glycogen stores are stocked for race days. However in the days leading up to a race, never consume more calories than your body is used to handling.

10. Avoid caffeine and alcohol consumption
You should avoid caffeine and alcohol consumption, especially in the days leading up to a big race. Caffeine and alcohol are not very hydrating and should be avoided in the days before a race. However if you are used to having a cup of coffee a day or one alcoholic beverage daily, this should not have a negative impact on your running.

How do you maintain a balanced diet for running? Share your comments or questions with us below.