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8 Healthy Eating Habits for Runners

When you start running regularly, you might have to change up some of your eating habits so you can run your best and improve your overall fitness and well-being levels.

Growing up I didn’t put much thought into my eating habits. I didn’t worry too much about what I was eating until I got serious about turning my life around and take control over my health.

So I began testing out different eating regiments to try to find what works the best for me as a runner and weight-conscious person.

I had to try out different things, I failed so many times, but after a long process of trail-and-error, I made it out eventually. And I think you can do the same—if you are willing to experiment and give it your best.

After the long process, I was able to form an eating lifestyle that I can stick to forever. And today I’m going to share with you some of the most important habits of this lifestyle.

So today you are going to learn the basic healthy eating habits so you can stop sucking and start living (and running) better.

Habits, after all, is what make us what we are. So if you work on ingraining the right eating habits, then you will reach your fitness goals faster whether it’s improving running performance, losing weight, boosting energy levels, or increasing your overall health and well-being levels.

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Image Credit – Decadoo Health via Flickr

8 Healthy Eating Habits for Runners

Therefore, if are running (or doing any other form of exercise), follow these seven nutritional guidelines and do your best to turn them into daily habits.

1. Eat your Vegetables and Fruits

To kick things off, I recommend that you consume primarily fresh and natural foods, centering your diet on vegetables, lean meats, fish, seeds and whole grains.

Vegetables should be the priority. These are high in nutrients, fiber and water, which satisfies hunger with few calories. So shoot for at least four to five cups of vegetables and two fruits each day.

Fill half of your plate with veggies at lunch and dinner, and add fruits to pre-workout snacks to power your run and to your breakfast.

Energy bars are a good option—especially during intense training days, but they shouldn’t be an alternative for eating real and whole meals.

2. Hydrate

Proper hydration is key, and not just when you are running. Water, after all, is key to life, and every aspect of bodily function relies on it.

So build the habit of drinking plenty of water throughout the day. That’s the best thing you can do to help you stay well hydrated for your workouts.

As a general guideline, drink about half of your body weight in ounces each day. So if you weigh 170 pounds, drink at least 85 ounces of water.

If you are planning to run a bit longer, say beyond 45 to 60 minute, then you might consider drinking on the run by either taking a water bottle with you (using a lightweight backpack, like this hydration running belt by Camden Gear) or stashing a water bottle in the bushes along your running route.

To gauge your hydration levels, look at your pee. If your urine is pale yellow to clear throughout the day, then you are well hydrated. But, if it’s dark yellow or orange, then you might be dehydrated.

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Image Credit – Jason Patel via Flickr

3. Eat your Breakfast

If you are one of those runners who skip breakfast on a daily basis, then you are flirting with disaster. Starting the day with a healthy breakfast boosts your energy and can help you clear the fog out of your brain, which is key for improving performance, productivity and alertness for the rest of the day.

Not only that, a healthy breakfast is vital for weight loss. In fact, people who ate breakfast first thing in the morning lost more weight and have higher energy levels than those who skip it, according to study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

As a result, make breakfast a priority, even if you are running a busy schedule. If you run in the morning, then make sure to follow your workouts with a healthy breakfast.

Just make it work with your own running schedule and try out different things.

Try a poached egg with whole grain toast, a bowl of oatmeal, a healthy cereal and fruit. If you are looking to lose more weight, a high-protein breakfast has been shown to deliver the best weight loss results, according to researchers at Duke University.

4. Pre-run eating

Your pre-run meal—what you eat right before you hit the pavement—is vital for performance and running enjoyment. And the amount you consume depends, mostly on running time and intensity.

In most cases, I prefer to run on an empty stomach when I’m planning to go for a short run—6 miles or less. But when I’m planning to run longer than 60 minutes or do an intense workout, I take in something before I head out the door to power my run.

Here is what you need to do:

For easy runs of 30 to 45 minutes, running on empty won’t do you any harm, provided that you are well hydrated—especially if you running first thing in the morning.

If you are planning to do an interval session (think sprints) or go on a long run, then pre-run fuel is vital. Go for something light, and easily digestible, like a high-calorie sports drink or a banana.

You can also eat on the run by fueling on gels, sport drinks, or whatever snack you prefer. Just make sure to avoid high-fiber, high-fat foods because they take longer to digest can cause stomach problems, which can force you to slow down and compromise your workout.

5. Post-Run Eating

Post-run diet is what you eat exactly following a run. That’s what’s known as the recovery window and what you ingest right in that small window is vital for replenishing glycogen stores, and helping your body recover.

So after a run—especially following a speed workout or a long session—make sure to eat within 30 to 45 minutes of your finish. Go for a 200- to 300-calorie snack high in both protein and carbohydrates and try to add in anti-inflammatory foods, such as walnuts and avocados, to lessen inflammation caused by running.

Then, after a few hours, sit down and have a bigger meal that consists of real and natural foods.

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Image Credit – Decadoo Health via Flickr

6. Eat slowly

Enjoy your meals and ward off overeating by eating slow.

It takes approximately 20 minutes for your brain to receive the signal of “fullness” from your stomach. Therefore, rushing through your meals hinders that process and forces you to take in extra calories.

So how can you do that?

For starters, make sure to put your mind in the right place before you start eating. Relax and take some deep breaths and focus on the task at hand.

Next, focus on the food you are eating and enjoy every bite of it. To do that, remove all sorts of distractions, such as the TV, the Smartphone and other forms of distractions.

Another trick to eating slower is to put the fork down after putting food in your mouth.

7. Eat Small and Frequently

One of the big diet changes I made when I started getting serious about my eating habits is throwing out the notion of the “three large meals a day” and instead I started spreading my meals out with a small meal every three to four (sometimes five) hours.

In my experience, eating small meals has helped lose weight, maintain energy levels throughout the day, prevent GI issues when running and have better control over my eating and portion size.

So try this for yourself and spread out your meals for a couple of weeks, then decide if this is something worth doing long term.

Just be open to it and try it. You might surprise yourself.

8. No Bad Foods Allowed

I hate to sound like a broken record, but processed foods are no-no. Processed foods are choke-full with sugars, preservatives, trans fats and are usually stripped off any nutritional value.

So make sure to limit your empty calories intake.

One smart measure you can take is to declare your house a junk-food-free-zone.

The reasoning is simple, when they are not in your house, you won’t be tempted to eat them.

Therefore, go now to your kitchen and get rid of chips, full-fat ice cream, cookies, sugary drinks and other unhealthy munches. Instead, stock your cupboard with natural and real foods, mainly vegetables, fruits, seeds, and whole grains.

Conclusion

The above healthy eating guidelines are exactly what you need to become the best (and healthiest) runner you can be. So, make sure to take action and change your diet one step at a time.

In the meantime thank you for reading my post.

Feel free to leave your comments and questions below.

David D

Featured Image Credit – Chenna Fresco via Flickr

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