The kind of performance you get out of your body has everything to do with the quality of food you put into it. It doesn’t matter if you’re running to lose weight, get fit, or just have fun — what you eat matters.
Being an athlete isn’t about living on protein bars and sports drinks. And losing weight isn’t about burning as many calories as possible while taking in the bare minimum.
If you focus less on just getting food into your system and more on really fueling your body, healthy eating habits will inevitably follow. Here are some general guidelines on the best stuff to eat before, during, and after a run.
Pre-run: put gas in the tank. Obviously you don’t want to eat a huge meal right before heading out to run, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get some food in your system. Grab a light snack an hour or so before you head out. The idea isn’t to fill yourself up, but just to eat enough that you aren’t running on an empty stomach.
Go-to foods: bread, pasta, fruits, veggies, granola
Mid-run: hydrate and refuel. Unless your body or your doctor tell you differently, most runs probably don’t require mid-workout fuel. But if you are doing distance work and feel like you need a pick-me-up beyond just a mouthful of water here and there, it might be a good idea to plan for a bite during your run. Obviously convenience is going to be key…sticking with foods that are easy to carry, unwrap, and eat on the go.
Go-to-foods: banana, pretzels, granola/fruit bar
Post-run: rebuild and replenish. After you’ve finished the hard work of your run, your body begins its hard work of recovering. That’s how you get stronger and faster. Remember that the food you take in shortly after your workout is what your body is going to be using to rebuild tired muscles. This is when you want to take in some high-protein, muscle building nutrition that will help lay the groundwork for a faster you.
Go-to foods: chicken, fish, dark vegetables
Just like eating junk and sitting around can create a nasty spiral into poor health, eating well and getting exercise can do just the opposite. The better you eat, the better you’ll perform and the better you perform, the more you’ll feel motivated to keep eating well.
That’s the good kind of spiral.
What foods fuel you?