Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Meaghan G. Loftus
Part of the fun of running is comparing yourself to other people. (Why else would sites like Strava and Athlinks exist?) If you’d like to go beyond PRs and compare your eating habits to those of the general populace, a review published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics will let you do just that.
The review encompasses six national surveys taken over the past 40 years. The earliest took place between 1971 and 1974 and the most recent took place between 2007 and 2010. Here, a few of the more interesting highlights of the (extremely detailed) review:
Overall calorie consumption is up. In the 1971 survey, men took in 1,904 meal calories and 502 snack calories in a day while women took in 1,246 meal calories and 296 snack calories. The 2007 survey had men taking in 1,967 meal calories and 634 snack calories and women 1,358 meal calories and 438 snack calories. That’s a difference of 195 calories for men and 254 for women.
“Three square meals” is not the rule. Many people skip meals. Only 59 percent of men and 63 percent of women reported eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the most recent survey (compared to 73 and 75 percent, respectively, in the 1971 survey). Ninety percent of respondents (both male and female) reported snacking in the 2007 survey.
Breakfast is down. Eighty-one percent of male and female respondents reported eating breakfast in the 2007 survey, versus 87 percent of men and 88 percent of women in the 1971 survey.
“Snack episodes” are up, for women. The average number of snacks reported by females in the most recent survey was 2.30, up from 2.09 in 1971.
People are eating their final snack earlier. In 1971, both men and women took in their last snacks around 9:00 p.m. The 2007 survey found these times move back, to 8:22 p.m. for men and 8:18 p.m. for women.
If you’re now wondering how and when you should be eating, you’re not alone. There’s research to support and to oppose practically every possible eating plan, so you need to do what works for you. Here are a few basic rules to guide you:
• All runners should focus on consuming a mix of produce, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats each day and limiting sugary or processed foods and drinks.
• Take in enough food and water before and during your runs to power you without giving you gastrointestinal problems, and recover after long or hard efforts with a mix of carbs and protein.
• If you’re trying to lose or maintain weight, monitor the number of calories you consume and prioritize foods that give you the most nutritional bang for your buck. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and keep running.