There is so much conflicting sports nutrition and weight-loss advice, it can be tough to determine how to eat in a way that will energize your running life, and stave off unwanted pounds. Here’s a cheat sheet to help you optimize your diet and eat like an athlete.
BALANCE OUT YOUR PLATE To fuel your running, at least 55 percent of your daily calories should come from wholesome carbohydrates (such as whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables), and the balance of your calories should come from lean proteins and healthy fats.
PACK IN THE PROTEIN Protein will keep you full, and help your muscles recover from tough workouts. Aim for 0.55 to 0.9 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. The more miles you’re logging, the more you will need. So if you weigh 130 pounds, target 72 to 117 grams per day. If you weigh 195 pounds, aim for 107 to 175 grams per day.
FOCUS ON FIBER. To boost heart health and keep the GI tract running efficiently, have plenty of fiber each day. The American Heart Association says that men should aim for 38 grams of fiber per day and women should target 25 grams of fiber per day.
STAY HYDRATED. To avoid dehydration, which can slow you down and make each mile feel tougher, sip on calorie-free fluids throughout the day. Aim to consume half your body weight in ounces of calorie-free fluids each day. So if you weigh 200 pounds, try to consume at least 100 ounces of calorie-free fluids each day. If you weigh 130 pounds, aim for 65 ounces per day.
DO THE BATHROOM TEST. How do you know you’re well hydrated? When you go to the bathroom, your urine will be light yellow or straw-colored. If it’s darker, drink more. If it’s lighter, it’s time to let up!
STEER CLEAR OF SUGAR. On packaged foods, choose the product with the least amount of sugar per serving. Aim for less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. Look at the ingredient list; if sugar is one of the first three ingredients, choose another product.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT PRE-RUN SNACK. For a run of 60 minutes or less at an easy effort, choose a carb-rich product with 200 calories or less. To avoid GI distress, make sure that it has less than 10 grams of fat, 7 grams of fiber, and 10 grams of protein per serving.
REFUELING MIDRUN. On any run of up to three hours, refuel on the run with a product that contains 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour you’re on the road.
EAT FOR RECOVERY POST RUN. In the 30 minutes following a speed session or long run, have a snack with a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein to help you bounce back strong.
CONVENIENCE FOODS. If you’re grabbing a sports or energy bar instead of a real meal,carefully inspect the food label. If the product contains more calories than you’d have in a regular meal, choose something else. Look at the serving size; some items have more than one serving per pack.