The Runner’s Diet
To lose weight without sacrificing energy or performance, you have to eat the right foods at the right times. Here’s how.By Madelyn H. Fernstrom Ph.D., C.N.S.From the August 2004 issue of Runner’s World
It seems almost impossible that runners could become overweight. All that running, all those calories burned along city streets and down park paths–it just doesn’t seem right (or fair).
The problem is that we read about the performance-oriented nutritional habits of ultrathin elite runners (lots of carbo-loading and truckloads of energy bars, gels, and drinks), then assume that as recreational runners we should do the same. But we’re not elite runners. We’re average people who use running to manage our weight, increase our energy, and lead healthy lives.
Think about this scary fact: It takes only 100 extra calories a day to gain 10 pounds in a year. That’s one high-calorie prerun snack that you didn’t need. Or one unnecessary bottle of before a 30-minute walk. The extra weight many runners carry around is simply the result of eating for energy or performance–with little regard for total calories. But calories do count, and as runners we tend to underestimate the amount we eat and overestimate the amount we burn.
What you need to do is match your eating plan to your running habits. You need to know exactly when to eat those carbohydrate-rich foods that will give you the energy you need to run well.
You also need to know when to consume the lean proteins and heart-healthy fats that will keep you satiated while still losing weight. You need the Runner’s Diet.
The Runner’s Diet helps you determine the real number of calories you need to maintain or based on your current running schedule. It’s a 50-25-25 eating plan, where 50 percent of your calories come from carbohydrates, 25 percent from protein, and 25 percent from fat. With half of your calorie intake coming from carbs, the diet provides you with plenty of readily available fuel for your runs. And with the rest of your calories split evenly between proteins and fats, you feel full longer, which is key to losing weight. The diet also focuses your carbohydrate intake around your runs and emphasizes the right proteins and fats for all other meals to optimize performance and weight loss. Finally, you’ll have lots of choices when deciding what to eat. To start the Runner’s Diet, follow this simple, six-step process.
Determine Your Daily Calorie Goal
To estimate your daily calorie needs for maintaining your current weight, take your present weight and multiply by 13. That number covers your metabolic needs for the day, factoring in a bit of light activity. So if you weigh 180 pounds, you need about 2,340 calories per day. To lose a pound a week, you must then create a calorie deficit of 500 calories a day (3,500 calories equals one pound).
How many calories you can cut from your diet depends a lot on how much you’re eating right now. There’s a big difference between cutting 500 calories if you’re eating 1,500 a day than if you’re eating 3,000. But remember: Weight loss is a lot easier when you factor in your running mileage (1 mile = 100 calories). So your calorie deficit can–and should–be created by eliminating some calories from your daily diet and increasing the number you burn per day through running.