Runner’s healthy eating guidelines: have you got the basics right?
Hi there, I’m putting my dietitian hat on today.
Before I start talking about gels, snacks, and all the other technical stuff that goes on with nutrition for running, I need to make sure you have a good, solid nutrition foundation to build on.
Get the basics right, and your body will run so much better, believe me! You’ll recover from your runs faster, you’ll get sick less often, and you’ll just have more energy in general. So let’s get stuck into it: here are my basic runner’s healthy eating guidelines.
My three rules I try to live by are:
- Eat food that has been minimally processed
- Cook food yourself, as often as you can
- Enjoy your food (yes, that means having treats)
Eat your veggies. Eat lots!
I’m talking about all the colorful, non-starchy vegetables here. These should be the foundation of your diet, and in an ideal world you would include some with every meal, aiming for around 5 serves per day.
Think tomatoes on toast, homemade soups for lunch, half a plate of veggies with your dinner.
Vegetables are full of wonderful nutrition: vitamins, minerals, fiber….
No matter which fad diet you’ve been feeling confused by lately, pretty much everyone can at least agree on including lots of vegetables.
Eat some fruit
Fruit has many of the same benefits as the colorful veggies. However, it also has some sugar. Don’t panic, that is fine! Just don’t get out your nutribullet and make a shake with 5 pieces of fruit in it. Limit fruit to 3-4 serves per day, and spread it across your day. It can be a fantastic thing to eat if you’re getting a mid afternoon sweet craving.
Eat some carbs, be consistent
Carbs, or starchy foods, are quite a contentious area at the moment. However, there is a big difference between high quality carbs and low quality carbs in terms of general wellbeing.
My recommendation is to have a similar amount of quality carbs at each meal to keep things nice and consistent. Don’t go eating none all day then having a heap at dinner!
What are better quality carbs?
- starchy vegetables e.g. sweet potato, potato with the skin on, parsnip
- whole grains e.g. barley, quinoa
- very grainy bread or crackers
- brown rice
- legumes e.g. chickpeas, lentils
- no added sugar dairy products
There’s nothing wrong with white rice or pasta, just make sure you’re not loading your plate up with them every day. A portion should be around 1/4 of your plate.
Carbs will help fuel your runs, so it’s about getting the right quality and the right amounts. Balance is the key here, people!
Eat some protein, be moderate
Protein foods (meat, fish, egg, nuts, legumes, tofu, dairy) are important not just for your health, but also for your hunger levels. Having the right amount of protein will look after your muscle tissue and stop you from overeating. Win-win.
- Aim to have a small amount of protein at each meal for example:
- Cup of milk with breakfast
- Egg with lunch
- 100g meat at dinner
Eat some fat
We all know by now that we do actually need some fat in our diet. Don’t be fooled into thinking you should be eating fat free. We don’t need heaps though, as fat is very energy dense. We also don’t need lots of bacon (just saying that right now).
- raw nuts
- olive oil, flaxseed oil
- oily fish, such as salmon or mackerel
Enjoy a treat
Treats are a very important part of a healthy diet. The biggest danger you face as a runner is overindulging, because you feel you’ve earned them. Try to keep treat foods for special occasions when you’ll really enjoy them (yes, Friday night is a special occasion).
So that’s it, my very basic very general healthy eating guide. Use this as your base, and you can’t go too far wrong. Remember, good nutrition is all about balance and nothing about denial. Individual requirements may differ, so please remember this is a very broad overview.
Your running buddy,
Images: 1 by Take Your Health Back Conference 2015, CC 2.0, https://flic.kr/p/rhxX59, 2 by Arya Ziai, CC 2.0, https://flic.kr/p/e5vXjW, 3 by Arya Ziai, CC 2.0, https://flic.kr/p/evRTGm, 4 by DixieBelleCupcakeCafe, CC2.0, https://flic.kr/p/9jdu2j