Saturday, August 15, 2015

Running 101 - Nutrition

This is the third in a series of blog posts about beginning a running program.  Click the "Running 101" label if you need to get caught up on how to buy shoes and select a running plan.

This week we're talking food - one of my favorite subjects.  Before we start, though, let me tell you that I am not a nutritionist, dietician, or any other long word that qualifies me to give medical nutrition advice.  Also, I am not perfect.  I grab chips and salsa.  It's difficult for me to pass up chocolate covered raisins.  And I stress eat at times.

All that being said, if you're beginning a running program, you will need to make sure that what you eat is helping you to be successful at it.

Because food is fuel, people.  It is the gasoline in your car.  And if you put Coke in your car instead of gas, you will not get far.  Same with food.  If you put junk in your body, your running will suffer.  As will your general health.  But you knew that.

So, what should you eat?  Well, that depends on your goals.

If you are wanting to lose weight, you'll want to make sure you're expending more calories than you're taking in.  If you aren't, you may need to take in more calories than you're used to.  If you're wanting to simply get healthier, you'll want to start making some healthy substitutions.  You'll need to make sure that your nutrition is helping you to reach your goals, whatever they may be.  And since everyone has different goals, it's difficult to recommend nutritional guidelines that work for everyone.

That being said, there are some general nutrition principles that I follow when I'm really committed to a running program.
  1. No fad diets.  Do not try a low-carb diet while running, because carbs give you energy, and you need that to run.  Also, don't try a super low-fat diet - healthy fat keeps you satisfied longer, and you don't want to feel hungry while you're out running.  Balance, grasshopper.
  2. Eat a lot of colors.  That means you're getting the vitamins you need to replace everything you're losing when you move and sweat.
  3. Drink water.  Not diet Coke.  Not juice.  Not weird flavor additives.  Not sweet tea.  Water.  I know it's not easy to do as a teacher - I mean, we can't just go to the bathroom whenever we want - but you really will feel better if you drink plenty of water.  If you REALLY can't stand plain water, try half water and half fruit juice, and then gradually back off the amount of juice until you're drinking straight water. 
  4. Pay attention to what your body can handle if you eat before you run.  For me, my body can handle toast, peanut butter, bananas, and honey, maybe a few walnuts, but not much else.  If I'm heading out for a short morning run, a piece of toast with honey will do.  If it's a longer weekend run, I'll add peanut butter and banana to it.  Everyone's different, but, generally, eating some slow-acting carbs (whole wheat toast), a little sugar (honey and banana), and fat (peanut butter) keeps me going.
  5. Likewise, pay attention to what your body can handle after a run.  I usually can't eat within about 30 minutes, and even then it usually needs to be something light.  Chocolate milk is a favorite, but I can also stomach fruit or a smoothie with a scoop of protein powder.  Protein will help to repair the muscles you've been breaking down while you run.  
  6. Eat small meals throughout the day - 5 to 6 times.  This will keep your blood sugar level stable and will ensure that you can run any time it works for your schedule.
  7. The closer to the source, the better the food.  We all know this, but the fresher the better.  I try to shop the perimeter of the store the most, and just a little on the inside, because the fresh stuff is in the refrigerated cases on the outside walls.
  8. Try meal prepping for the week.  It works when I have the time, but some weekends I just want to be a slug.  But I always plan my meals for the week in my planner, so that I can really think about what we're eating and plan for shopping instead of just grabbing something on the go.
  9. Avoid junk in the teacher's lounge.  People love to leave goodies in there - and it's almost never healthy.  
Remember, find what works for you and your goals and then make it a habit!

Check back next week when we'll talk about running clothes.  

Happy Trails!  

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