12/31/18: What Should Runners Eat?

Why Is Good Nutrition Important?

As a runner, nutrition is just as important as your workout. It will make or break your training or a race. Many people work their butt off in their workouts, but see little to no results. The first question I like to ask them is, “what do you eat on a normal day?” My experience has been that the folks with little to no results often eat out and have lots of processed food in their diet. A diet like that almost makes your workout useless. It’s essentially like putting water in you car’s gasoline tank.

Nutrition Tips for Runners:

1)Load up on healthy protein, fat, and carbs. The night before a race is where you’re going to need to consume the right foods to give you energy. Many athletes dig into a huge plate of pasta to get their carbo-overload, forgetting that their bodies also need protein and fat to get them through the race. Studies have shown that fat contributes a lot to your body’s energy. Leaving fat out of your diet can make you feel very sluggish. Just make sure your eating some form of healthy fat. Protein contributes to your muscle growth and recovery. You need to pack in protein the day before a race to make sure your muscles are 100% recovered. My favorite pre-race dinner is my power smoothie. My power smoothie consists of: milk, yogurt, and protein powder for protein; oats for carbs; mixed berries for sugar; and MCT oil (a form of coconut oil) for my fats.

2)Consume natural sugars, and stay away from artificial sweeteners. Many people mistake sugar in fruit as unhealthy. The fact of the matter is that sugar found in natural foods is perfectly healthy and has many benefits. Natural sugars are most commonly found in fruits. My favorite sugar source is honey. Honey is 8o% sugar that your body is capable of digesting quickly. The sweeteners you do need to stay away from are ones found in processed food. Many people get diet sodas thinking because there is no sugar in it, it must be healthy. This is a huge mistake. Diet sodas substitute sugar with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose. These artificial sweeteners are way more dangerous than regular sugar. However, this doesn’t mean you can purchase regular sodas and candies with the “real” sugar. Sugar found in most candy has been way over processed. Some processing includes bleach.

3)Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate! I cannot stress enough the importance of hydration. You need more than water as well. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes. Water is great for replacing the lost water from sweat, but what about the electrolytes? You could gulp down a bottle of Gatorade, but Gatorade is loaded with unnatural sugars, which we already know is bad. My favorite hydration choice after a hard workout is a nice juicy pickle. Pickles are great for replenishing electrolytes and on top of that, they prevent muscle cramps. So make sure before a race, you are drinking as much water as your body can handle. As my coach would say “drink until it’s clear.”

Top Food For Runners:

Nuts: Nuts are a great source of protein, carbs, and fat. They are also high in calories, yet effect weight very little. Studies have found that diets that contain lots of nuts didn’t affect weight gain or weight loss. They provide energy without making you feel stuffed, making them a perfect pre-run snack to fuel you up.

Oats: Oats are my go to source of carbs. Just a half cup of oats are around 27 grams of carbs! They are not as easily digestible as nuts, so they are not the best right before a race or a hard workout. You can consume oats in many different forms. You can have oatmeal, granola, or blend them in your favorite smoothie. I would suggest eating some form of oats no less than an hour before a race to get you energized.

Banana: Bananas are by far one of my favorite pre run snacks. They are very easy for the body to digest. They are high in sugar which is great for getting you through that first mile lag. Bananas are also another source of good carbs. Not to mention, they are packed full of vitamins such as vitamin B-6 (another energy source), and vitamin C (great for battling colds). Bananas are also very rich in potassium. Studies have shown that potassium maintain fluid levels and regulates the movement of nutrients and waste products in your cells. Bananas are an efficient source of energy for long runs that the stomach can handle.

Yogurt: Yogurt is an amazing source of protein. Depending on the type, yogurt can have between 14 and 26 grams of protein per serving. It is also very high in calcium, making it great for muscle recovery and injury prevention. Depending on the type of milk used, yogurt can also be rich in fat. My favorite post run snack is a cup of yogurt with a half cup of granola. It’s delicious and full of protein to feed my worn out muscles.

Honey: Honey has an endless amount of benefits. It is a great source of simple carbs. Honey is made up of 80% natural sugar, 18% water, and 2% vitamins and minerals. The sugar in honey is mostly fructose and glucose, which when in its natural form has great benefits. This high amount of sugar is an amazing energy source. There are actually many health food stores that sell individual flavored packets. I love to consume about 2 tablespoons of honey about 5 minutes before my race.

Potato: Potatoes are probably the best source for carbs. A medium sized potato will have around 35 grams of carbs. Like bananas, potatoes are also high in vitamin B-6, vitamin C and potassium. This super food is loaded with energy to get you through a long run. If your worried about the low protein content, you can always add cheese and bacon.

Eggs: Eggs provide an excellent quality of protein. They carry all the amino acids necessary for your body to repair the muscle that you broke down in a tough workout. Your body finds these amino acids extremely easy to absorb. Because of the high content of protein and low content of carbs, your body can also digest eggs effortlessly. Not to mention, there are countless ways to prepare an egg. You can scramble them, hard boil them, cook them over easy, cook them over hard and much more. You can eat it by itself, on a slice of bread, or in salad. Eggs are by far one of the greatest foods.

Pickles: You may be thinking: why pickles? You probably haven’t ever thought of eating a pickle after a hard run. Trust me, you will when you get through reading this. Pickles are great for replenishing electrolytes and improve hydration. When you sweat, you lose water and electrolytes. A nice juicy pickle can can replenish most of what you lost. On top of boosting hydration, pickles will also stop or prevent muscle cramps. I have had a lot of experience with cramps after a tough race, until I started eating pickles during my cool down.

9 thoughts on “12/31/18: What Should Runners Eat?”

  1. Ric Moxley says:

    Excellent blog post. And one of the fastest 100-mile racers in the world right now – Lucy Bartholomew – heartily agrees with your food-as-nutrition principles here. Watermelon is her primary race nutrition! Worth following on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lucybartholomew17/ or Instagram. Good blog post about her diet: https://engine2diet.com/blog/whats-on-your-plate-lucy-bartholomew-plant-based-ultra-runner/

    1. admin says:

      I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed the post. Watermelon is certainly one of my favorite summer time fruits. I didn’t even know of any race nutrition benefits, but as they say, you learn something new every day. Thanks for all the info.

  2. Sandy Erb says:

    Great article! As a Registered Dietitian and a runner, I often read nutrition mis-information on social media. This article is spot on. Thank you for following science and not the latest nutrition fads.

    1. admin says:

      Thanks so much for the complement Sandy! It really does mean a lot to me. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

  3. Mike Dasalla says:

    Except for pickles, I actually consume all of the above as run fuel & for recovery! Great article and a must-read for all runners!

    1. Jacob Freeman says:

      I’m happy to here that you liked this post. I would definitely suggest trying out the pickles. I used to get some pretty rough cramps after my cross country meets (mostly hamstring) and nothing that I did helped until I started to eat a pickle after each race. The best way to get the most out of pickles is to actually drink around 2-4 table spoons of just the juice. It certainly isn’t the tastiest thing to drink, but it’ll do the trick.

      1. MOGBlogger says:

        you can actually buy it online – just the pickle juice with no pickles. A good option for a bloke like me who doesn’t like pickles, but has used pickle juice in races to reduce cramping issues

        1. Jacob Freeman says:

          Interesting. I never knew that your could buy just the pickle juice. I have actually heard of hydration drinks that add pickle juice. I haven’t ever tried them though because you have to drink the whole bottle of what is most likely disgusting to get the benefit of 2-4 tablespoons of the real stuff. Oddly enough, I love pickles, but the juice by itself makes me gag every time.

          1. MOGBlogger says:

            Pickle juice is available on Amazon by the gallon! LOL. it’s hard to imagine anyone needing that much in the course of a year. I opted for the individual servings when I was flying to a different state for an ultra-distance race, and didn’t have the option of carrying a gallon in my suitcase. 🙂

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