A healthy diet for runners will vary from one individual to the next depending on how far you run and how often. Let's face it, if you run three miles five days a week, your nutritional needs will be different from someone who runs ten miles three of those five days.
A Healthy Diet for Runners
If you're a runner looking for a healthy diet to follow, it's important to point out there's no single diet right for all runners. Your diet should provide enough calories to maintain a healthy body weight. If you're trying to lose weight, and running is your aerobic exercise, then in your case you'll want create a calorie deficit. That means you'll want to eat less calories than you burn each day.
How Many Calories Do You Need?
To determine how many calories to include in your diet each day, first figure out your goal. Do you want to maintain weight or lose weight? With your goal in mind, determine how many calories you need to reach that goal. To calculate calories needed to maintain your weight, use the following formula:
- Present weight) x (13) = calories needed to maintain weight
To lose weight, cut your calories by 500 a day. This creates a deficit that will translate into one pound lost at the end of the week. For those who are eating large amounts of calories, they can realistically cut 1000 calories to lose 2 pounds per week. A calorie deficit can also be created by boosting your running mileage.
The Running Factor
To factor your running into a healthy diet for runners, one mile equals 100 calories burned. If you're trying to lose weight, you could cut your calories and increase your distance. If you're trying to maintain your weight, it is necessary to boost your calories if you increase your running miles.
What to Avoid
Avoid a diet comprised mostly of fortified processed foods. This includes energy bars, protein bars, and calcium fortified drinks. Not that they don't serve their purpose, but to really nourish your body, it is healthier to eat whole foods including:
- Whole grains
- Lean meats
Feeding your body whole, real foods provides vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients that encourage health and peak athletic performance.
Diet Tips for Runners
The following tips can function as a simple check list to make sure the amount your eating is in line with your fitness goals and offers a reminder of foods to incorporate:
- Balance Your Calories - Half your calories should come from carbohydrates, 25 percent from protein and 25 percent from healthy fat.
- Choose Carbs Wisely - Recreational runners should eat carbs right before running. Fiber-rich carbs are best for more than one reason. First, they are higher in water content, and second they stick with you longer, helping you to feel satisfied.
- Eat Lean Proteins - Protein helps the body maintain muscle integrity and they satisfy hunger. If you do pick a protein source that has more fat in it, reduce the portion you eat.
- Include Good Fats - This is important to remember when you're looking at calories. Some people have a tendency to want to cut out almost all fat, and that's not healthy. Be sure to include healthy oils from sources such as:
- Nut butters
- Olive oil
- Fish oil
- Flaxseed oil
Best Time to Eat for a Runner
When learning to balance your calories with your running lifestyle, one of the things to figure out is when it is best to eat for you and your routine. As mentioned earlier, you'll want to eat most of your carbs around the times you run. This means before and after a run. This leaves you with protein and fat for meals and snacks the rest of the day.
Be Sure to Eat
One last word of caution. Don't put off eating for long periods of time. This will cause your metabolism to kick into survival mode. That means it thinks your are starving and will slow the rate at which calories are burned. Spread your eating out over the day, and at least three days a week, check to see where your calories stand. It might seem like an inconvenience, but taking the time to calculate your calories will help you stay on target in reaching your weight management goals.