Those of you who have been running for a while have likely experienced runger. Yes, runger. You're running 50+ miles a week with speed work, long runs, and cross training and you just want to eat all the food. You want to eat the queso, the pizza, the whole bowl of salad, all the brownies, three smoothies, a couple smoked salmon, 6 clamshells of strawberries, 4 sushi rolls, and the entire aisle of bread. You can out eat your friends who watch in amazement as you demolish that burger. But runger can make weight loss and plain old weight maintenance difficult. So the key is to focus on what you eat and maintain a balance. Make sure you're feeding your body wholesome, clean food and that you're not overeating.
It seems like everyone has their overnight online nutritional coaching certificate anymore. So, be smart about who you trust and what "diet" fads you buy into. Learn the effects it will have on your body long term instead of focusing on short term results. Remember that "lose 5 lbs in a week" can translate into "lose 5lbs in a week (results not typical) and put 15lbs on the next." Be smart and savvy, and remember your overall health is what is important. Know that fad dieting and poor nutrition in the hopes of a short term fix can lead to many health problems down the road. Kill the short-sightedness and focus on what your body needs. Not everyone is going to be a size 00. That doesn't need to be your goal. Focus on staying healthy and fit. If you are searching for a nutritional coach to help you reach your personal goals, look for someone who has a true education, background, and experience in nutrition. Make sure they have your best interests at heart versus the best interests of their company.
There's no doubt that runners are some of the most outstanding athletes around. The dedication that goes into true running success is certainly not minimal. So, do what you can to make sure you have the most successful career possible.
That being said, we aren't claiming to be the worlds greatest nutritionists. We're just here to talk about the basics of what runners really need. So in general, what do runners need? You should begin to focus on the nutritional value of your food. Yes, Doritos, Twinkies, or Lucky Charms may fill you up and satisfy your hunger for a bit, but what's in them? Lots of dye, sugar, and other ingredients that are damaging to your health. So start here. Take note of what you're putting into your body and see where your weaknesses are. Write it down if you need to. Look at an entire week of what you're eating. See any trends or similarities? While you're doing this, look at your portion size. How much are you eating? How often? Are you eating because you're hungry or because you're bored? Are you eating because it's 6:30pm and time for dinner? What causes you to overeat? To skip meals? Learn about yourself. Then see where you need to make changes.
Now, begin focusing on nutrient dense foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat - you get the picture. For example, a quinoa and avacado dish will fill you up more than a cheesy burrito and will leave you feeling better as well. Think about it. If you start your day with egg whites, fruit, and turkey bacon, you'll feel better later in the day versus starting your day with Pop Tarts and a soda. It just makes sense. Yes, the cheesy burrito is quick and easy to access, we get that. But, with some planning you can have healthy options ready for you anytime as well.
Here are a couple tips:
1. See if you can shop online for your groceries. This may help you eliminate the "Ooh. That looks good. I'll grab that package of cookies" element you're struggling with. You can just input your list, and skip the extra items. Plus, your groceries are ready for you when you arrive or can be delivered. It saves time and money.
2. Try meal prepping. If you have healthy meals ready to go, you're less likely to hit the drive-thru. Plus, you've already spent the money on the food and prep for the healthy meals, so don't waste them.
3. Have fruits and veggies on the counter (assuming they don't need to be refrigerated) - hopefully you'll see them and grab those instead of heading for the chips in the pantry
4. Try an online delivery service if you struggle with clean eating and cooking. There are companies that deliver fresh ingredients/meals to your doorstep. Just whip up the meal provided and enjoy a healthy dinner. This is a great option to help you get started. Once you learn the basics and try a few recipes, you may no longer need the service.
5. Maybe you like smoothies but struggle with the combos or time to make them. Try Daily Harvest and choose from different flexible delivery plans and options that provide you with fresh (many are organic) ingredients. Just add your liquid base, blend, and pour back into the cup. Out the door in no time! https://daily-harvest.com/?ref=10608
6. If you like to cook (or if you love Shalane Flanagan) check out Run Fast Eat Slow for some great recipes for runners. http://www.runfasteatslow.com/#home
7. Gather your friends and teammates and cook together. Try new healthy recipes to take home to your families and bond as a team at the same time. Plus if you don't like it, you're not stuck with all the leftovers.
8. When someone says "where are we going to eat tonight" don't say "wherever you want." Step up and pick a healthy restaurant. Even if they complain now, your friends will thank you later.
9. Pack healthy snacks and drinks for work. Fruit, nuts, water, etc. This will help keep you away from the vending machine at 3pm. Take walk breaks during the day as well. This will help keep your mind active which can help curb the craving for those "bad" snacks.
10. Like to be outdoors? Grow a few things! Even if it's simply some herbs in the window, cooking with fresh ingredients that YOU grow is a fun treat. Maybe you don't have a green thumb? Hit up the local farmer's market and support your local friends and neighbors. Plus, some locations offer samples and cooking classes.
Moving on. Watch what you drink. Your body needs calories from pure and clean food. Sports drinks and many coffee drinks contain a lot of sugar. Plus, many specialty coffee drinks contain more than 400 calories. Why waste these calories clogging your body with excess sugar when you could use this chance to eat well? Remember, coffee does have health benefits - just be mindful about how you fix it. Sugar consumption has been linked to obesity, heart issues, poor oral health, and a myriad of other issues. We doubt that's what you're after.
Watch your alcohol consumption as well. The sugar and calories in these drinks can also be sky high. Now - we believe in moderation so we aren't telling you to ditch the booze all together. Just remember how many calories you could be consuming when you're reaching for margarita or piña coloda number 3.
How about juicing? Juicing is a wonderful thing - but don't use it as a meal replacement and please skip the "cleanses". Use juicing as a supplement and way to get additional clean nutrients. Juicing can also be a great way to cover up a veggie taste you don't like.
Don't forget to drink your water. You already know how important this is.
Protein. Eat it. With every meal. Try lean meats, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Protein helps keep you full and also helps with iron levels. Protein assists in the regulation and maintenance of the body and plays a role in fluid balance, blood clotting, hormone and enzyme production, and cell repair. So, the previous sentence alone should be enough to let you see why protein is crucial to your diet, especially during heavy training periods. Remember, you're an endurance athlete not just an average joe hitting a class at the gym once a week so you will need more protein. Protein likely isn't the magic pill for success as increased supplementation has not been found to automatically improve performance—however if your protein intake is low, you will probably start to lose muscle mass, become rundown, notice a drop in performance (speed work and long runs will become more difficult) and increase your risk of injury. Runner's World suggests you can prevent much of the above by shooting for an intake of at least 0.55-0.77 grams/lb. (aim for the upper end of the spectrum during times of full on training and racing). So if you weigh 130 pounds, you’ll want to aim for approximately 72-100 grams of protein a day. If you weigh 195 pounds, you would need to aim for approximately 107-123 grams/day.
Do NOT avoid carbohydrates especially when training hard. Your body stores cabs as glycogen and your body taps into this storage for fuel during workouts, especially races and long runs. Carbs are the best form of energy for working muscles. Of course your body can use fat and protein for energy when necessary, but the energy in these nutrients is not as easily accessible as the carbohydrate fuel. Non-carb fuel does not give you the muscle strength or endurance that glycogen will. If you have ever hit the wall during a race or workout, you know what it is like to feel carb depleted. We think you'll agree it's not a good feeling.
So where do you find healthy carbs? In general, try getting your carb fuel from whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and whole grain pasta. You need to be looking for whole food sources, not carb-filled junk foods. Think about it - the reason that carbs have gotten such a bad reputation is that when people think of carbs they're thinking of donuts, cake, pastries, etc all of which generally come with a substantial amount of fat, sugar, and calories. Whole foods will contain quality complex carbs and, if prepared properly, are usually lower in calories. Whole carb foods also contain vitamins, minerals, and other food compounds that help avoid injury and chronic disease. Remember - think long term.
Don't forget that your carbs should be spread out over the day. The best time to refuel from a workout is within the first 30 minutes after a workout with a ratio of 4g carb:1g protein. Interestingly, one of the best refueling foods out there is low-fat chocolate milk which also contains a good dose of calcium to help those bones!
Just a reminder - when you refuel, make sure you're not eating junk just to fill up (no sugary cereal, pop-tarts, candy etc). The food you use to refuel is the food your body is using to replenish. Make it good.
So - let's run through this again. Watch what you eat and learn your habits. Make sure you're focused on long term success and not a fad diet. If you have a nutritional coach, make sure they're solid, experienced, and well educated. Don't drink your calories. Watch your sugar intake. Eat protein. Eat good fat. Don't ditch the carbs. Don't eat junk. Hydrate properly. Take care of your body and it will thank you on race day and for many years to come.
We won't meet Tuesday, but don't forget your pace run. Enjoy the long weekend.
Who Picks the Topics?
Each week, we notice different things. We try to incorporate the questions we are receiving or the training issues we are noticing into our post(s) for the week. If there is something you'd like us to cover, let us know!