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10 Great Eating Habits For Runners

Posted by: on May, 6 2014

Found on RagnarRelay.com and written by Holly Klamer

eating habits

Exercise and a healthy diet play an equally important role in living a healthy lifestyle. But all of the exercise in the world can’t undo an unhealthy diet. Good news for runners is that you already have the exercise part down. With a little bit of self control you’ll be well on your way to making these 10 habits part of your every day life, and be ready to conquer your bestRagnar Relay of your life:

 1. Always refuel after exercise.

Eating a combination of carbohydrate and protein can help rebuild muscles after exercise.  If you go a long time without eating after exercise, your muscle tissue can further be broken down.  In general, the longer you run the important to fuel afterwards.  Refueling after exercise can impact your workouts later in the following days.  Refueling after exercise doesn’t have to be complicated; it can be as simple as eating a regular meal after your run.

2. Don’t drink sports drinks at rest.

Sports drinks may have a place before, during or after exercise, but drinking sugary sports drinks, while watching TV or sitting at a computer is really unnecessary.  The carbohydrates and electrolytes in sports drinks are designed to replenish your muscle glycogen and electrolytes from sweat loss.  When sitting around your body simply doesn’t need these extras.

3. Listen to your body.

If you’re hungry, then eat.  If you’re full, you stop before you are over stuffed.  Try to enjoy different foods in moderation, not deprivation or excess.  Being in tune with your body is an important part of healthy eating that can easily get over looked.  Don’t obsess about food and you won’t see running as an excuse to indulge in anything you want.  If you eat balanced meals with fiber, protein and healthy fats, you will feel more satisfied for a longer period of time.

4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Runners are notorious for being the one that always has a water bottle and are known for having a “small bladder”.  If that’s you, congrats!  Staying hydrated throughout the day is an important part of training.  If you are planning on a big run after work, Nuun tablets are a great thing to put into your water because they give you all of the electrolytes without all of the sugar. To know if you’re adequately hydrated, your urine should be very pale yellow to clear throughout the day.


5. Limit processed foods.

Processed foods are high in preservatives, sugar, trans fats and usually void of any beneficial nutrition.  Limiting empty calories is always beneficial, but runners especially may need higher amounts of all micronutrients, especially iron and calcium.  Eat primarily fresh foods for best nutrition.  Energy bars are great for training, but shouldn’t substitute for eating real meals.

6. Eat mostly plants.

In the words of Michael Pollan, “Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.”  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables at all meals.  That’s not a reality for most Americans.  Runners can benefit from eating a high amount of natural plant foods- they are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  The majority of plant foods should be vegetables, fruits, legumes (beans) and whole grains.

7. Variety is the spice of life.

Eating a varied diet is important for getting all micronutrients and a variety of phytochemicals that could decrease inflammation and risk for some chronic diseases.  Ever heard of eating the rainbow?  Try eating naturally red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple foods every day.  (Key word is natural; food coloring doesn’t count.)  It can be real easy to get in a food rut of eating the same foods day after day.  Keep variety in your diet by trying new and differently colored fruits, veggies, grains and proteins.

Eat the Rainbow

8. Enjoy what’s in season.

Local food isn’t just a fad or for foodies.  Locally sourced food can be higher in nutritional value compared to foods shipped from other countries or different parts of the country.  Local produce is picked closer to being ripe and stays longer on the vine which is why they can be higher in vitamins and minerals.  Eating local also supports local economies and cuts down on excess CO² emissions.  Examples of eating local include purchasing from farmer’s markets, using a community supported agriculture (CSA) share or buying meat and dairy from local ranchers.

9. Avoid added sugar.

Sugar is added to virtually everything in a package.  Even things like spaghetti sauce, frozen dinners, bread and crackers are hidden sources of sugar.  Runners need carbohydrates, but excess sugar is not beneficial.  Eating mostly fresh foods will drastically cut down on added sugars.

10.  Eat most meals at home.

There’s nothing wrong with eating some meals out, but eating the majority of meals at home can mean you know what you’re eating and you control the ingredients and seasoning.  Restaurant food can be tricky; even healthy sounding options like salad or veggie burgers can be deceptively high in calories, trans fats and sodium.

Healthy eating habits for runners include eating a variety of real, local foods, rich in colorful plants, refueling after exercise and properly hydrating.  Eating balanced meals with fiber, protein and healthy fats can help adequately provide needed nutrients for runners.  Some of these healthy habits may seem more time intensive, and they can be compared to grabbing quick foods on the go.  However, spending a little extra time or effort with your food intake, without feeling like you’re being obsessive, can pay off for health and be a beneficial part of your training.

What other healthy habits have you incorporated into your everyday life?