22 Rules for Eating Right as a Runner

22 Rules for Eating Right as a Runner

You may already be familiar with some of these rules below. However, at least a few of them may help to improve your runner’s diet. Or make you rethink your eating habits for better performance. Here are 22 eating rules for those who enjoy running.

  1. The rule of two hours. Your meal should be no later than 2 hours before the workout. Keep in mind: eaten lunch or dinner needs time to get digested. Otherwise, you have higher risk of sudden abdomen pain, swelling and nausea. During stresses, our body takes nutritional substances from blood, not from the full stomach.
  2. The rule of individuality. Any diet that is great for one person, may be inappropriate for the other one. This means you need to understand your own eating habits, what you like and what you don’t like, whether you have allergies to certain foods or their intolerance. Your menu should fit your routine and lifestyle. Building your own eating habits can be compared to a long road in the dunes.
  3. Rule of constancy. According to sports nutritionists you shouldn’t fear to repeat your perfect daily menu. The key goal at this stage is to build new habits, and the fewer options you have, the faster this process will go forward. Repeating intake of foods you like won’t make your diet less healthy.
  4. 90/10 rule. There is no need to deprive yourself of all your favorite snacks. Wanting something forbidden can make you feel guilty. Forbidden foods cravings may lead to losing control and suffering from obsessive thoughts about food. If you adhere to your nutrition program by 90%, then it doesn’t matter what kind of ‘cheat meal’ you choose for the remaining 10%. Eventually, you are a human and sometimes you need to treat yourself to something delicious.
  5. The rule of quick refueling. During the first 30-60 minutes after training, try to give your muscles nutrition for fast recovery. Banana sandwich with walnut butter, a glass of chocolate milk or a protein bar are great for replenishing energy reserves. Plan your substantial meal in the next 1.5 hours.
  6. Rule of supplementing. Some runners take supplements to prevent health problems. First, we are talking about Omega-3 fatty acids, iron and vitamin D that rarely come in necessary amounts with food. This happens not because of improper diet, but because of intense stress. It often leads to the lack of iron and omega-3 fatty acids. Even richest sources of these substances (such fish as salmon, trout and herring) supply it in insufficient amounts for an athlete. Consult your physician or trainer before taking any supplements.
  7. The rule of more carbs. With no bread. Jokes aside, but when you push to the limit of your abilities, your muscles consume glycogen at a furious rate. Glycogen is the energy reserve of the body. Complex carbohydrates (for example, buckwheat noodles) are perfect to support glycogen reserves in body cells before the race. By adding protein and vegetables rich in vitamin C to these noodles you can speed up muscle recovery after a hard workout or competition.
  8. The rule of accumulation. Nutrient-dense foods before running, during running and after running have immense impact on your performance and recovery. You cannot feed your body well one day per week, while the other six days you either stick to malnutrition or to bedtime overeating. Keep in mind, nutrition benefits have the same accumulative effect as your physical training.
  9. The rule of substitution. You can diversify your diet without much effort, introducing only small changes to the menu of your training day. You can replace some vegetables and fruits, dairy products, nuts, whole grains, fresh meat and fish by other products of the kind. To boost endurance, include superfoods in your menu. For example, try one superfood once a fortnight and analyze its impact on your well-being.
  10. The rule of daily breakfast. You’re going to eat in the morning, if you like it or not. The right breakfast should consist of fast and slow carbs, because it provides energy for the whole day and protects from evening overeating. If you don’t eat anything after waking up, the speed of your metabolism decreases. Even if you have an early run, prepare the stomach for a one- or two-ingredient snack or at least drink water with honey.
  11. The ‘green’ rule. Greens are rich in antioxidants that help the body recover after exhausting training. If you are tired of eating spring salads or chewing celery every day, try green smoothies. Apples, cabbage, cucumbers, spinach, chard, mint, parsley, cilantro, beet tops, arugula - choose the smoothie option that you like most.
  12. The rule of seasonal products. Since in winter it may be difficult to find high-quality local foods (depending on where you live), pay attention to imported fruits and vegetables, such as citruses, persimmons and pomegranates. In summer and autumn, eat berries (especially blueberries and cherries), local veggies (zucchini, tomatoes, aubergines, pepper) and fruits (apples, pears, grapes). Read more about fermented vegetables. Shock-freezing and canning are good, but this option can also bring a lot of benefits.
  13. The rule of common sense. Do not be fond of fancy diets. Avoiding junk food and including more nutritious products is right. But if your diet has too many limitations, the results won’t be impressive. Athletes then complain of bad results in training and competition, lethargy, lack of progress, poor sleep, anemia usually lack iron. Moreover, a lot of new diets start acquiring the power of theoretical knowledge abstracted from practice.
  14. The rule of stop signal. Some runners are obsessed with the amount of food they consume: they count calories or set portion limits. Professional athletes usually don’t. They are not prone to overeating and consume just enough food to prevent fat gain but be strong enough during their workouts. Learn to listen when your body is hunger and when it is full.
  15. The off-season rule. Try to replace part of carbs with proteins. In this period, compared to peak training, an athlete needs about 1-4 g (15-60 grains) of carbohydrates per 1 kg (0.5 lbs.) of weight. Increased protein intake: 1-2 g (15-30 grains) per 1 kilo (0.5 lbs.) of bodyweight will help prevent gaining fat, reduce appetite and increase the feeling of fullness.
  16. The rule of healthy snacks. Parents usually don’t let kids eat snacks before meals, but you’ve grown up. Snacks are good as they can beat hunger. As a result, athletes who avoid snacks, feel hungry and angry. And when it's time for a lunch or dinner, they forget about their weight-control intentions and eat high-calorie foods. if you feel hunger in between your main meals – beat it with crackers, seeds, nuts, dried fruits or raw-food bars.
  17. The rule of diversity. There are basic categories of natural products: whole grains, vegetables (including legumes) and fruits, meat, fish and seafood, natural oils, dairy products. Eat all of them regularly and remember: your body is going to be fully armed to face any damages. In addition, basic foods help maintain endurance at a high level, run like the Tarahumara Indians, and maintain your optimal weight.
  18. Rule of regularity. Choose the most effective time for eating. Get the habit to eat three times a day during training days. If necessary, include snacks. Learn to evenly distribute calories throughout the day. Each of the three meals should contain three different products (for example, fish with boiled potatoes and cabbage salad). For snacks during the day, two ingredients are enough (for example, banana and peanut butter).
  19. ‘Take it easy’ rule. There is no sense of using sports drinks for a warmup, 30-minute run or medium intensity workouts. Use them when you need to show maximum endurance. If you are thirsty during light workouts, drink water.
  20. The rule for vegetarians and vegans. If your diet consists of plant-based products, it is recommended to know alternative sources of protein. First, these are legumes, oatmeal, nuts, tofu and soy. But even if you are as skilled as Jamie Oliver in combining them in your plate, try to take blood tests from time to time. It is desirable to monitor iron content and get an immunochemical study with vitamin B12 and folic acid indicators. In general, act in advance without waiting for deterioration of your well-being.
  21. The rule of pleasure. Agree, runners are people of habit, and they may be too intrusive and scrupulous in sport- and health-related issues. We care about our body and control its performance as during a scientific experiment (using GPS-watch, chest sensors, fitness apps and more). Therefore, it is important to make food not only healthy, but also pleasant.
  22. The rule of experimenting. If you didn’t feel well at the workout, analyze your previous meal and try to avoid these products before an important start. Also avoid experimenting with newly purchased sports gels and bars. Their effect can be unpredictable.
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