No matter what your particular diet, high-carb, low-carb, clean eating, Paleo, vegan - your goal is to fuel your body to optimize your training and racing.
It is essential to remember that food is your fuel. While many runners struggle with their balance with food, calories or weight loss, the bottom line is that you can’t run well if you don’t fuel properly. Generally speaking, fueling to run involves following some basic guidelines without getting overly concerned about every single thing that you put in your mouth. You don’t have follow a rigid fueling plan to succeed just these top 6 tips!
1. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Learning to fuel your body means learning to eat when you’re hungry and knowing how to recognise when you’re full. It’s a simple concept that’s difficult in practice because many of us often ignore our body’s’ signals. Try to tune in more closely and trust your instincts. It will take some time and some trial and error, but when you nail it, it is one of the most fundamental areas for success.
2. THINK ABOUT MACRONUTRIENTS FIRST
When you are training, every meal should include the three main macro-nutrients: protein, healthy fat and a high-quality carbohydrates. Composing a meal this way will help you to fuel effectively and stay satisfied for longer. Fat is certainly not the enemy it was once considered to be, and adding healthy fats like nuts or avocado to your meals will help you avoid unhealthy snacking.
3. EAT REAL FOOD
When it comes to optimising eating, you are always better off sticking to real food. This means food that is minimally processed and as close to its original, whole form as possible. Think: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and fish and lean meat.
4. CARBOHYDRATES ARE KEY
Carbohydrates are a necessity for runners to replenish glycogen stores and fuel faster workouts, so don’t cut corners in this area! Although there are certainly exceptions, if you look at top-tier runners, they are regularly consuming carbohydrates. Not all carbs are created equal, of course, so that doesn’t mean it’s OK to go for that box of doughnuts regularly.
5. DO THE MATH
Planning for a race or workout is the only time it becomes beneficial to consider your nutrition more systematically. Take your current body weight, and divide it by 4 to calculate the approximate amount of carbohydrate grams per hour you’ll need during races or long training runs.
Experiment with a variety of fuel sources, and learn what works best for your digestive tract, especially for runs longer than 90 minutes. As a general rule, plan to fuel approximately every 30 minutes for runs this length or longer.
6. DON’T BE A PERFECTIONIST
Strive to eat as well as you can 80–90% of the time, but allow yourself to find pleasure in your food. A slice of cake is not going to derail your diet if you allow yourself to enjoy it while also balancing indulgences with quality, nutritionally dense food.
When you are training, you have more specific nutritional requirements than the general population. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll be well on your way to navigating the complicated world of fueling your body for success.