Healthy Diet for Runners
A healthy diet for runners starts with the frequent daily consumption of...WATER! As a runner, you really need to get this right, so before getting into what foods to eat, kindly indulge my soapbox about the importance of ample clean water to you as a runner, or ANY athlete for that matter.
Not only is water essential to our basic human survival, it is arguably one of the most critical determining factors to your success. Put another way, despite your best training, recovery and fueling efforts for any given event, a dehydrated state will limit your abilities at best. After all, how fast is a tuned up sports car without oil in the engine? Here are just a few of the basic functions of H2O in our bodies:
- Regulates your metabolism
- Regulates your body temperature - critical importance for running in elevated temperatures
- Lubricates your internal physiology
- Protects your joints
- Removes waste from your body
Probably the best way to ensure that you are getting enough water on a daily basis, particularly during a training program, is to have water containers EVERYWHERE. At home, in the office, in your vehicle, in your running bag. Like eating properly, the more convenient you make it for yourself to have access to clean water, the more likely you are to drink!
A final note about water - during training and racing, your consumption of water along with your chosen fuel is key to the absorption of that fuel into your working cells. This is the reason for consuming properly mixed (but not overly diluted) sports drink as you pass by an aid station. HOWEVER, it's extremely important that you obey your thirst. During running, consuming too much water without adequately replacing sodium can lead to a very dangerous condition known as
This condition has actually harmed and in some cases even killed more runners during events than dehydration!
EAT TO MEET YOUR GOALS
As you've read in the above paragraph on water, the best thing that you can do to maximize your chances for success at eating right, is to pay attention to what you have access to! Think about the last time you were peckish and made your way over to the fridge or pantry for a snack. Was your decision based on what your body most needed you to consume at the time, or that food which you found looked most appealing, delicious and accessible to you? You are WAY more likely to choose a yogurt and a banana for a snack, if that is what is there AND if you have to drive your ass to the store to buy the Doritos.
So implementing a healthy way of eating takes a bit of planning. Have a look at the foods listed below, and decide what makes your list as acceptable to your palate. After all, a healthy diet for runners is not a regimen of suffering. On the contrary, it's a continuous consumption of quality, delicious, satisfying(satiable) and even practical foods.
STOCK FOODS THAT GO THE EXTRA MILE
One of the best strategies for setting yourself up for success in eating properly, is by stocking foods that have the 'right' stuff. Let's look at a few categories of foods that fall into this definition:
- High Satiety Foods - foods that make you feel full and satisfied
- Low Energy Density Foods - foods that provide ample energy but are not high in calories
- Satiety Activators - foods that trigger your body's satiety mechanisms (these make ideal appetizers!)
The satiety activators include long-chain fatty acids including those found is such oils as olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil and soybean oil to name a few. The strategy is to consume these satiety activators at the beginning
of your meal. A good way to achieve this is by drizzling or dipping a small slice of whole wheat bread in 1 tablespoon of olive oil as an appetizer. Some other good examples would be to use pumpkin seed oil or walnut oil to make vinaigrettes and drizzle them on salad.
Generally speaking, foods that are high in protein as well as those high in fibre promote satiety. By definition a protein should be at least 20% protein of the food's energy value and fibre needs to be at least 6 grams of fibre per 100 grams of the food itself.
The low energy density foods include pretty much all raw fruits, and vegetables such as carrots, broccoli and cauliflower.
THE RUNNER'S GROCERY LIST
Here is a list of many high satiety foods for you to consider stocking up on when you do groceries:
- Real Cheese (not processed)
- Egg whites
- Lean Turkey
- Lean Chicken
- Fillet of fish
- Lean beef
- Wild meat of any kind(moose, deer, caribou)
- Olive oil
- Nuts and seeds
- Green tea
- Greek yogurt
Finally, when it comes to when and how much to eat, do your best to eat throughout the entire day at least 5 to 6 times. Studies show that folks who eat breakfast, tend to eat less during ensuing meals throughout the day. More importantly, this eating strategy promotes a stable blood sugar which directly affects your energy level and therefore your motivation to run.
A very crude measurement for quantity, would be a fist size of protein and a fist size of high fibre/carb from the high satiety list for each meal/snack.
This does not include your recover shake after high intensity workouts!
*Learn more about the dangers of HYPONATREMIA (drinking too much water) here*
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