Hi AIC readers! Today I have a guest post for you about what to eat as a new runner by Adrienne from Healthline. I thought this article would be great to post here since I myself am a new runner and it’s National Nutrition Month, so I hope you find these tips useful! 🙂
Diet and Nutrition Tips for New Runners
By Adrienne Santos-Longhurst
Whether you’re after the proverbial runner’s high or looking to drop some pounds; deciding to run is one of the best things you can do for yourself. As far as workouts go; running lets you burn calories and build endurance without the need for any special equipment or gear and is something that you can do pretty much anytime and anywhere. Before you get up and running though, you’re going to need to tweak your diet to accommodate your new workout.
Why a Runner Needs a Little Something Extra
Running burns calories and also gets your muscles working, so to keep up you need to be able to fuel the miles you’re running and keep your muscles functioning properly during and after your runs. The right nutrition will help you do this by fuelling your body for the workout it’s getting as well as helping your muscles repair after each workout for better performance. The right nutrition, especially for new runners, can also help minimize your risk of injury.
What to Eat
Runners don’t need to follow a specific diet and there is no magic diet for new runners either. The key is to keep it simple and get what you need in order to be more efficient as a runner. The following are a few tips on nutrition that will help you do that:
Drink, drink, and drink some more! While sports drinks are great for long distance runs, a new runner is better off sticking to water and other low calorie beverages that aren’t packed with sugar. Hydration is important for everyone and especially so when you’re running to help replenish the water your body sweats out and to help keep your body temperature down. Drinking also helps to rid your body of toxins and keep you regular. Just beware of drinks that are high in caffeine, especially before longer runs. Not only can caffeine lead to dehydration, but it is also known to result in the need for more frequent washroom breaks.
Eat regularly. Eating every 2 or 3 hours does all kinds of wonderful things for your body, like stimulate your metabolism and keep your blood sugar level. Stick to small meals keeping in mind that the purpose of what you’re eating is to fuel your body for all that you do. Eating too much will slow you down and make you feel sluggish.
Eat lean protein at every meal. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 0.55 to 0.8 grams of protein for each pound of your body weight when you’re engaging in light to moderate cardio and 0.70 to 0.90 grams for heavy endurance at a high intensity. Lean proteins can include lean cuts of red meats and poultry. Fish is also a great way to go and choosing salmon, sardines, and mackerel also gives you extra Omega-3 fatty acids that can help those with joint issues. Protein shakes and supplements are also great options if you’re on the go or just craving something else. Protein helps to build and repair muscle.
Eat carbs— the right kind. As much as we may hear about cutting carbs, they’re a must for anyone who runs. Complex carbohydrates are a runner’s main source of fuel and will help to keep you going. Getting the right kinds of carbs is important because they’ll offer you the best fuel for burning during your runs and won’t spike your blood sugars like the “bad carbs” can. Some great carbs for runners are:
- whole grain breads
- whole wheat and whole grain pasta
- brown rice
Eat healthy fats. Yes, even runners who are running to lose weight still need some fat in their diet. The lean meat you’ll be eating will provide you with some of the fat that you need. You can also get it from oils such as coconut oil, olive oil, and flax seed and fish oil. Avocados and nuts are also a good source of healthy fat.
A few final things to remember about nutrition for new runners is that getting your nutrients from food rather than from supplements is always the best way to go. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great products out there, but natural sources should always be your first choice whenever possible. And finally, before starting to run or changing your diet, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor first. This is especially important if you have any medical issues that may be impacted by running such as osteoarthritis and other medical conditions that affect the joints or that restrict your diet or activity in any way.
For more information on nutrition and health for runners, click here.
Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking about her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand up paddle board.
- (2013). Hydrate Right. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Retrieved on February 11, 2014, from http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=7084
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2011). Carbohydrates: How carbs fit into a healthy diet. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved on February 11, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/carbohydrates/art-20045705
- Caspero, Alexandra , MA, RD. (2013). Protein and the Athlete – How Much Do You Need?. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Retrieved on February 11, 2014, from http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442477918&terms=protein
Thanks to Adrienne for sharing these great tips! What are your favorite ways to eat healthy & nutritionally as a runner or athlete?