Eating for Speed: The Perfect Runners Diet
There’s nothing like the experience of a great run. The wind in your hair, the pavement beneath your feet, and the breathless exhilaration of the open air all add up to heaven for a dedicated runner. But achieving that runner’s high (and the level of endurance necessary to keep going) largely depend upon what you put into your body before you lace up your running shoes.
As an athlete, you need more protein and carbs than most, but you also don’t want to overdo it. It’s easy to load up on protein bars and shakes, but these are meant to be supplements—nothing can truly replace a balanced diet for someone who’s running consistently. That’s why we’re giving you some insider info on the perfect runner’s diet. We’ve even asked long-distance runner Sally McRae to weigh in! Below, we provide some fantastic meal plan suggestions for those who love to run, and play a game of “Sally Says”!
The most important meal of the day? Perhaps. Healthy carbs and fats give your body a nice kick-start, so they’re great options for your morning meal. Bananas and peanut butter provide carbs, protein and potassium—a valuable combo for intense morning workouts. Scrambled eggs and potatoes are a nice mix of fats and carbs, and a hearty bowl of oatmeal with some almonds sprinkled on top is great for blood sugar and the feeling of fullness. Add in a green juice or smoothie for extra goodness.
Sally Says: “My morning “go-to” power breakfast is oatmeal mixed with frozen berries. I always keep a bag of frozen berries in my freezer! And when I’m pressed for time, and need a quick grab-and-go, I reach for a handful of blueberries and raw almonds.”
A mixture of protein and cooked or raw veggies is the way to go at lunchtime. It’s said that the pigments in produce act as antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation from intense exercise—so get colorful with your vegetables! Try a hearty salad with quinoa or beans, salmon with roasted carrots and broccoli, or a chicken wrap with some yellow peppers and side greens. These midday meal options will nourish your body properly, putting a major pep in your step.
Sally Says: “Lunch is typically the toughest meal for me because my training sessions are longer, and in between training I’m running to meetings, so meal prep is especially important to me. I always pack a small cooler of food filled with fresh fruit, veggies, homemade green juice, boiled eggs, and nuts. They are staples in my diet and help me recover between workouts.”
You want a dinner that will fill you up, but not one that’s so heavy it’ll make you sluggish, forcing your body to play catch-up just to digest it. Eating too many calories at dinner can take away from the restorative powers of sleep, as the body is still digesting your food. Lighter sleep can make running feel more exhausting, and can lower your performance on the track. Balance is key. Whole grain pasta or lentil stew with sautéed veggies, or a good ol’ chicken-broccoli-potato dish are perfect options for the evening meal.
Sally Says: “Dinner is the easiest meal to navigate because I focus on two things: protein and veggies. My favorite is a large green salad with a piece of salmon on top.”
As an athlete burning lots of calories, you may find yourself getting hunger pangs between meals. To balance blood sugar levels when mealtime is still hours away, nosh on some almonds, Greek yogurt, and hummus with veggies or pita. These are great sources of protein that can help you out of that post-lunchtime slump and into an athletic state of mind.
H20 doesn’t constitute a meal, but as far as we’re concerned, it totally should! Drinking enough water on a consistent basis can help with the fatigue, dizziness, headaches and muscle cramps caused by dehydration, optimize your running performance, and boost overall enjoyment! Hydrating properly can seem like a full-time job, so if you’re doing your best but it still doesn’t feel like enough, try some Liquid I.V. Hydration Multiplier. (Link opens in new window.) One stick in 16 ounces of water can provide 2-3 times more hydration than water alone. Simply pour, mix, and drink!
Sally Says: “Liquid I.V. helps me recover from longer workouts and long days on the mountain. I like to drink my Liquid I.V. with ice cold water while I drive to the trailhead- it ensures I’m well-hydrated before heading into altitude. When I was training for Badwater 135 (the hottest and toughest race on the planet), Liquid I.V. kept me well-hydrated, especially during those critically hot days of training.”
Make nutrition and hydration a priority and your engine will be running clean, optimizing your athletic performance and enhancing that natural high. Don’t forget to bring some Hydration Multiplier along on your run. “Hydration is a very important part of my training- if I’m dehydrated, my performance will always suffer. I’m so happy to have discovered Liquid I.V. and its many benefits!”
Drink up and have a great run!