If you’re just getting into running, you’re probably like I was: hungry, all the time. Now that I’ve been running for awhile, I have developed some strategies for balancing my nutrition during training. No joke, I actually gained weight when I trained for my first marathon. I ate everything in sight, and I suffered injury after injury. I blamed my shoes, but in hindsight, my poor diet might have had something to do with it.
I’m not a nutritionist, but I can safely tell you that what you eat and drink during training makes a huge difference. I know that it sounds like a no-brainer, but if you’re like me and you run 25-30 miles a week during training season, you feel entitled to eat whatever the heck you want! But not so fast, you still need to be mindful. Here are a few tips that have helped me along the way.
- Don’t skip breakfast. Like, ever. Eat it before you get in the car or before you open your email at work. Heck, whip up a smoothie and drink it on the way in! This will help you avoid the mad rush to Chik-Fil-A at noon.
- Try to eat more protein than feels possible. Its benefits are real and important. I’m not a huge fan of fake food, but I will drink the occasional Muscle Milk if I’m protein-starved. And a scoop of protein powder in your smoothie helps after a hard workout. If you can drink milk, make it chocolate and recover with a yummy treat.
- Hydrate all day, every day. If you are going to be doing speedwork or long runs, you better be hydrated. In addition to water, I’ve added green tea to my afternoon for a little caffeine and extra hydration. There are other good things about green tea, and every little bit helps when you’re in the throes of training.
- Get snackin! I eat all day. Try keeping nuts, dried fruit, chocolate or whatever you love stocked in your desk or car. Don’t feel bad about snacking; just don’t keep cookies and candy around. They’re empty calories and not worth the investment.
- Alcohol. When I’m training, and I mean seriously training, I cut out alcohol (save for a couple very special occasions). It sounds lame, but I promise you’ll feel the difference. Your pants will fit better too. And when your race is over, you’ll be able to celebrate, very cheaply.
My daughter recently reminded me of an interesting phenomenon that happens when you eat better and run more: you don’t want to eat junk food, you actually crave the healthy stuff. Maybe it’s evolutionary, like when we migrated across the plains and there was less time to find and eat Taco Bell. Or maybe, as you log your miles and become more aware of your overall health, your diet just follows suit. Either way, the world of physical fitness and diet are inextricably entwined. You can’t really do one really well with out the other. — Amie