Running at your best requires you to eat at your best. Healthy, nutritious food. Here’s our guide to eating an optimum diet to get the best performance for running as possible.

An Overall Strategy

The food you put in your body is absolutely crucial to your running performance.  Whether you started running to lose weight or just get in shape, keeping yourself well fueled will make a significant difference in your performance.

As a runner, the trick is to find your target weight, reach that weight, and then stay consistent and reliable.  That said, weight isn’t everything.  Muscle weighs more than fat so someone who appears strong might weigh more than someone who looks like they’re packing a few extra pounds, but that’s simply a matter of body fat percentages.  This is why some people sometimes experience some weight gain when they start running (and consequently build muscle), but everything here is about balance.

In order to find your optimal diet as a runner, you need to make smart decisions consistently.  If you’re the calorie counting type (which again doesn’t take everything into account in terms of health), make sure that you’re expending more calories in any given day than the number of calories that you’re putting in your body.

To do this, find your basal metabolic rate with this calculator and add it to the number of calories that you burn running.  The general rule says that you burn about 100 calories per mile you run, but you can use a calorie counter if you want to get specific.

After you’ve arrived at the number of calories you burn in a day, compare it against the number of calories you’ve eaten.  If you want to lose weight, keep the consumption number a little lower than the number of calories you’re expending.  If you want to gain weight, do the opposite.

What To Eat

Figuring out how much to eat is important, but perhaps more important is trying to figure out what you should be eating.  You should never let yourself go hungry.  Instead, it’s better to eat throughout the day, choosing smart snacks.

Maintain a 50/25/25 diet, meaning that your daily intake should include 50% carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 25% fat.  Center your carbohydrate intake around your runs so that these calories are burned during your runs as opposed to being stored as fat.

When picking the right carbs, choose whole grain breads and pasta, and quinoa (which is also high in protein).  Sweet potatoes are also a good pick because they are a good source of potassium, iron, Vitamin A and Vitamin C.

Proteins and fats are great because they help you stay full longer.  If you want to pack some protein into your meal, consider eating some eggs (which also help with muscle recovery), beans (pinto, lentil and garbanzo are great because they are high in fiber, iron, and low in fat), peanut butter (high in fiber). Some great fats to add to your diet include fish (especially salmon), avocado.

Some Snack Ideas

●      Lowfat, sugar free yogurt.

○      Good source of calcium, protein and potassium. Also, the live, active cultures in yogurt help build your immune system.

●      Cottage Cheese

○      High in protein.

●      Hummus/Chickpeas

○      Filling snack that’s high in protein, fiber, Vitamin B6 and Folic Acid

●      Bananas

○      High in potassium and full of carbs.  They also have B6, which is good for your metabolism.

●      Carrots

○      Carrots are low in calories but they keep you full.  (One cup of carrots is 52 calories.)

●      Cereal with Skim Milk

○      Quick and easy to digest.

●      Chocolate Milk

○      High in protein, good for calcium and good for calcium.

A Few More Tips

Eat The Skin: The nutrients in fruits and vegetables have the highest concentration of nutrients. When eating any kind of plant (e.g. apples, potatoes, zuccini, and grapes), eat them with their skin intact.

Keep It Colorful: Foods of different colors (not including Cheetoes, lollipops, and other artificial things) tend to have different kinds of nutrients.  Try to keep your meals colorful so that you’re getting a well balanced diet.

Carbs Aren’t Just Bread: Carbohydrates also come in fruits and vegetables so feel free to eat away because you can eat more of these kinds of food than you would if you were eating just breads or pastas.

Don’t Deny Your Love: If you try to keep yourself away from the foods you love completely, you put yourself at the risk of binge eating.  Feel free to indulge every now and then, but practice moderation.