Top Ten Ways to Eat a Healthy Diet for Runners
By Rick Morris
All healthy diets are not created equal. An appropriate way of eating for a couch potato is very different than the best food plan for a highly active distance runner. As a distance runner you have a greater need for carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals than a non-active person. You also need foods that are nutrient dense so you avoid weight gain from excess and wasted calories. Healthy eating isn’t rocket science. If you just follow some simple guidelines you will fall right into a healthy diet for runners. Here are our top ten ways to eat a healthy distance runners diet.
Fresher is Finer
Fresh fruits and vegetables begin to die as soon as they are harvested. There is a slow but steady loss of nutrients that begins the moment they are picked. To maximize the bang for your buck, eat the freshest fruits and vegetables possible. The best choice – eat them fresh from your garden, if possible.
Processing is a bad thing. Processing removes the nutrients from foods. Eat unprocessed natural whole foods to maximize their nutrient density. Cooking also destroys many nutrients, so eat a healthy diet for runners, try to eat your fruits and vegetables in their natural, raw state.
Brighten it Up
A healthy diet for runners doesn’t need to be boring. Don’t be a boring, monochrome eater. Brighten up your diet with bright, multi colored foods. Richly colored foods generally contain more nutrients that their light colored counter parts. Every different color also contains a different combination of vitamins, minerals and nutrition. Consume a lot different brightly colored foods to insure a balanced and nutritious diet to support your running.
The more you run the more efficient you become at running. One of the reasons for that improvement is muscle memory. Your muscles learn and remember what they are required to do. They begin to do it almost on “auto pilot”. Your nutritional habits react is a similar way. When you consistently make the right food choices you body learns and begins to desire or “crave” those healthy foods. Form your healthy eating habits now to insure a lifetime of proper nutrition.
Learn to Read
This isn’t a shot at your intelligence. I know you are already a proficient reader. You just need to start reading the right things; like food labels. Know what you are putting in your body. Read those food labels before you put the item in your shopping cart. Don’t even take home foods that are bad choices. It will help you to form those healthy eating habits above and consume a healthy diet for runners.
Visualize your Portion Size
A healthy diet for runners requires some visualization. It’s hard to count calories. To keep an exact count of your daily calorie intake you would need to keep a detailed log of everything you eat. You could do it, but what a pain! There’s an easier way. Learn what a proper portion size of the foods you eat looks like. Just eyeball your portion sizes and keep an approximate count during the day. It’s not exact, but close enough and way easier.
Let Your Brain Catch Up
As distance runners, we not only like to run fast, we like to eat fast. We eat too fast! We eat so fast our brain lags behind our stomach. We continue to eat before we know we are full. Slow down your eating so your brain can catch up to your stomach. You’ll avoid overeating and enjoy your meals more.
Eat Your Way to Your Goal
Even within the subgroup of distance runners there are various appropriate ways to eat, depending upon your goal. For example, a marathon runner needs a higher percentage of carbohydrates in their diet when compared to a miler. A sprinter needs a bit more protein than a longer distance runner to build powerful muscles. You need more calories and more carbohydrates when you are actively training for a marathon or ultra marathon than you do when you are in a recovery mode. Make sure your eating plan matches your body’s requirements at the time. You will be able to maintain your running weight and proper nutrition at all times.
Waste is Wrong
When you’re training you want to make every mile and each minute count. You don’t want to waste even a single stride. In the same vein, don’t waste a single calorie. Make every calorie you consume count towards your nutritional goal. Don’t consume those empty, wasteful calories in soft drinks, candy and junk foods. Focus on natural, whole foods that are nutrient dense.
Avoid the Hype
There isn’t a single day that goes by that I don’t see an ad for another miracle food or miracle diet that promises to help us lose weight or improve our health, all by eating a single food. Don’t fall for the hype. Stick to the basics of proper nutrition. Eating the proper portions sizes of a variety of whole, natural foods always has been and always will be the fool proof way to consume a healthy distance runners diet.