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A Few Words on Nutrition

Most new runners have questions about what they should be eating and drinking.  There’s really no mystery to nutrition for runners, it’s just a good common sense approach.

I’ll break this down in to two different sections. The first is general nutrition and the second is eating before and after a run.

To help with general nutrition I’ve combined a few guidelines over the years.  This is a list of 10 healthy habits:

1)  Eat every 2-3 hours . Regular feeding intervals stimulate the metabolism, balance blood sugar, and help maintain your lean mass while giving your body a reason to burn off extra fat mass.

2) Eat complete, lean protein with every feeding opportunity. Women should be getting 20-30 grams of protein per meal and men should be getting 40-60 grams.

3) Load up on vegetables at every meal and  mix in some fruit throughout the day.

4) Eat healthy fats daily.  About 30% of our diet should come from fat. Healthy fats include saturated fat (animal fats, coconut oil and palm oil), monounsaturated fat (olive oil, avocado and nuts), and polyunsaturated fat (fish oil, flax seed oil and nuts and nut butter).

6) Don’t drink beverages with more than 0 calories. Water, Water, and more Water.

7) Eat whole and unprocessed foods instead of supplements whenever possible

8) Plan ahead and prepare feedings in advance.  Good nutrition is about the food but also making sure good food is on hand and available when it’s time to eat.

9) Eat as wide a variety of good foods as possible to get a range of nutrients.

10) Plan to break the rules 10% of the time. This is the cheat rule which allows you to eat some stuff that’s not ideal every now and again to have things you enjoy and relieve the pressure of always having to eat perfectly.

If  your diet is less than ideal now start by making one or two changes each week so you are steadily making progress.  And think natural foods- eat foods that are grown rather than foods that are man-made or processed.

It’s ok to workout on an empty stomach.  It may even help your body burn more fat as fuel during a low intensity workout.  If you feel like you need to eat before you run and try a light snack like a banana or a handful of trail mix of about 100 calories at least an hour before you work out.  Everyone is different so you’ll have to experiment with what works best for you.  A glass of water around an hour before your run should be sufficient as well.

But more important than what you eat and drink beforehand is how you refuel after a run so here are some tips:

Drink- Be sure to drink a glass or bottle of water after a workout but that’s probably enough for most people.  It’s tempting to drink too much but if you sip water throughout the day you should be fine.

More important than drinking water is eating after you run.  When you run, you burn mostly glycogen, a fuel stored in your muscles. To maximize your recovery you have to eat immediately after your run even if you don’t feel hungry. It’s believed that there’s a 30-60-minute window after you work out when your body can soak up your food to turn it in to glycogen to reload your muscles.  Wait more than an hour to refuel, and your body’s ability to make glycogen out of what you consume drops significantly.   I like to get something in me within the first 15 minutes after a workout even if it’s an initial 100-150 calories made up of protein and carbohydrates.  A green smoothie, a cup of yogurt or a glass of milk is about perfect for this because liquids are absorbed by the body more quickly.  Then I’ll follow it up with a meal with proteins and good carbs like an omelette, loaded salad, or a healthy sandwich with a salad or piece of fruit.

Just remember, eat smart, eat clean and eat like a runner.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31