When you start exercising regularly, you might have to revamp some of your everyday eating habits in order to feel your best while you’re working out (and avoid unwanted bathroom stops). And, when you’re miles in to your long run, you want to make sure you’re properly fueled so you don’t fatigue or get a side stitch.
While changing your diet can be overwhelming, these six easy tips can help simplify the switch to eating well. Here, we break down how to eat healthy for both beginner and experienced runners and how to properly fuel your workouts while sticking to your new eating plan.
Keep It Simple
Eating well is actually easier than you think—don’t overcomplicate it. For easy runs that last less than 60 minutes, you likely don’t need to eat anything beforehand, but you should focus on recovery meals with carbs and protein to replenish, like oatmeal with a dollop of Greek yogurt, or two eggs and toast.
For harder, longer, or more intense runs, the perfect preworkout meal is one you already know. Familiar foods that are easy on your system (think: toast, a half a bagel, an energy bar), low in fat and fiber, and high in carbs will boost your energy without upsetting your stomach.
Focus on Fresh
Make a clean eating food list before you head to the grocery store so you don’t get distracted with unhealthy items.
Limit the high-sugar, high-fat foods you toss in your cart. Instead, stock your fridge with fruits, veggies, and whole grains, so they’ll be there when mealtime rolls around. Those foods will keep you feeling good when you’re working out, plus they’ll keep your heart healthy, your cholesterol low, and your blood sugar stable.
Try to avoid packaged foods as much as possible, opting for fresh instead. If you do have to purchase packaged foods, consider how much it was processed before buying. Noshing on fresh produce is some of the healthiest food to eat.
Hydration is important, and not just when you’re exercising. Fluids regulate body temperature, move waste from your body, ensure that your joints are adequately lubricated, and help flush out the damaged cells that can lead to inflammation.
For Long Runs
For Beer Lovers
For Ice Cold H2O
While there’s no set recommendation for daily fluid intake, a good rule of thumb is to aim to drink about half of your body weight in ounces each day. (So if you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water.) And you don’t have to just guzzle water. Fruits and vegetables can also help you stay hydrated. Plus they’re packed with antioxidants, which boost muscle recovery and immunity.
Balance It Out
Even if you’re not exercising with a goal of losing weight, you still need the right mix of foods and nutrients to feel energized on your runs and to stay injury-free. About 55 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates (including fruits, veggies, and whole grains), 25 percent should come from protein, and another 15 to 20 percent should come from unsaturated fats.
But there’s no need to obsess. At each meal, just simply devote half of your plate to healthy carbs and veggies, one-quarter of your plate to protein, and another quarter to healthy fats.
Time It Right
When it comes to fueling your workout, timing is everything. As mentioned above, before hard workouts, you’ll want to have something that will give you a boost of energy without leaving you with an upset stomach on the road. So focus on carbs, and foods that are low in fiber and low in fat.
In general, the bigger the meal, the more time you’ll need to digest. Each person is different, but you’ll want to eat at least 30 minutes before you head out so you don’t have GI distress when you’re on the road. Within 20 minutes of finishing your workout, have a protein-rich snack to repair muscle tissue, and carbohydrates to restock your spent energy stores. This will kick start the recovery process so that you can bounce back quickly for your next workout.
What you eat before you hit the road or the gym all depends on when you’re exercising and what kind of workout you’re planning. Many people don’t have the time—or the stomach—to eat and digest food before a workout, especially if that workout is taking place in the early morning.
For an easy workout of one hour or less, going without food or drink probably won’t do you any harm. (Just make sure you’re staying hydrated.) But for any event that’s longer or more intense, preworkout fuel is critical. Go out on empty and you’ll fatigue sooner, plus you’ll have a much tougher time meeting your goals.