I’m so excited to be co-hosting this week’s Tuesdays On The Run with April, Patty, and Erika! This week’s topic is “Nutrition For Runners” so link up your posts below or at one of their sites, and be sure to check out a few other posts as well!
We all know that good nutrition is important for runners, right? I think it’s something that everyone needs to figure out for themselves, and there’s no one correct formula for everyone. I started paying more attention to my nutrition about a year and a half ago. I read Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook (affiliate link) which helped me understand the basics about how athletes should be eating.
Last spring/summer I started learning more about Paleo and began eating mostly paleo foods. Last summer Michele wrote a guest post about Paleo for runners which still seems to get a lot of hits on my blog, and things like “paleo, running, fuel” etc are very popular search terms.
For the past 30 days I have completed the Whole30. I was a little worried about how this would go as a runner, but to be honest I didn’t have any problems with it! Now, I wasn’t running high mileage or completing long runs so I would have had to adjust if that were the case. For more info on that stuff refer to Michele’s post.
So here are so basic tips for doing the Whole30 as a runner or general athlete:
1. Figure out how to time your workouts around meals. I like to run in the morning, but I know I can’t wait a long time after waking up to eat. So I would sometimes eat a banana before running, or not eat anything and run right away. If you like to work out later in the day, figure out which foods are the best pre-workout foods for you. Note: Make sure you are refueling within 30-60 minutes after you complete your workout! 2. Make sure to eat enough fat. You know how us runners can feel hungry all the time? We also tend to be carb-happy. I used to be able to deal with that by eating a big bowl of pasta or pretzels or some other kind of carb throughout the day. One of the biggest adjustments for me was adding fat to my meals. I still struggle with this, but it’s the most helpful advice I have gotten.
3. Figure out a snack plan just in case you do end up hungry. Some days I just didn’t feel like I could make it between meals without eating something. So I always had snacks available, especially when I was at work all day. These included apples, pears, baby carrots, almond or cashew butter, nuts and LARA bars. 4. If you need to bring fuel on your run, try raisins or dates. I didn’t do this since my longest run during the Whole30 was 8 miles, but I’ve used raisins before and that worked well. I have used Powerbar Energy Blends (affiliate link) during marathon training and now they are my favorite long-run fuel.
5. Get creative with adjusting your meals. Rob and I were used to eating pasta and meatballs every Friday night before our Saturday long run. So we started eating paleo meatballs and spaghetti squash. It’s not the same as a big plate of penne but it at least gave us some comfort in keeping a similar routine. I think that one of the best parts about the Whole30 for runners is that you are really shifting your focus to eating whole, nutritious foods. Sometimes as runners we may feel like we are “allowed” to eat whatever we want because we run so much. We absolutely shouldn’t deprive ourselves of things we want, but it’s also important to focus on getting enough of the good stuff- fruits, veggies, protein, and healthy fats.
In case your not already sick enough of hearing all about the Whole30, I’ll be back tomorrow with one last post about it! Spoiler alert: I may have a guest poster share some thoughts on the Whole30 with a much different perspective from my own 😉 What are some of your nutrition tips for runners? What’s your favorite long run fuel? Favorite pre-run meal?
I wish I could link up a post about nutrition but I have a hunch there would be a lot of disappointed people out there. 😉 I definitely need to smarten up with my eating habits which is why you’re such an inspiration to me. I will come around eventually! With my heels dragging, but I’ll come around.
I think its all about making small/gradual changes, I think!
meredith @ The Cookie ChRUNicles says
I switch between raisins and jelly beans during long runs. I can’t run on an empty stomach and do best with some oatmeal. If I switch things up, I notice the difference.
I’ve never tried jelly beans! But I did eat swedish fish on a course once, and found it hard to chew them.
Since I started training using MAF, I haven’t need any nutrition on my long runs. That’s a huge change for me. My body is efficiently burning fat for fuel at this point. I do still carry around Clif Shot Bloks. One of the few things my tummy agrees with on a run. I’ve never tried raisins or dates. Sounds interesting!
Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen says
All really good tips….I have a hard time imagining eliminating carbs and grains, but these are really applicable ideas.
It was definitely an adjust, but now I’m mostly used to it!
Susie @ SuzLyfe says
I think that I am halfway between Whole 30 and about as far away from whole 30 as possible! I wouldn’t be able to survive on dates during long runs. Plus, I’d probably squish them in my pants or something, and that would just look really….awkward.
Haha yea I think as far as carrying fuel on a run raisins would be easier than dates but I think its just better easier to have something thats packaged.
Michele @ paleorunningmomma says
I have also noticed that paleo and running or something similar are popular search terms which makes me think more and more runners are hearing about it and considering it. All your advice is great and all things I’ve done.
The other thing I would say is that for marathon training, try not to get caught up in the “rules” of whole30/paleo when major fueling is needed on a long run, and take a gel that works for you and keeps you feeling energized. Whatever helps you perform the best in that situation has to take precedence I think.
I think you’re right about that. It seems like the “rules” are a little different when it comes to endurance sports with paleo/whole30.
Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious says
I love whole 30. I did it last yea. It completely changed my view of food. Now I eat mostly a paleo diet. I feel great and have leaned out a ton from it even while not running much duringy injuries.
That’s great! I definitely got alot out of it as well!
Sara @ Lake Shore Runner says
I love your Whole30 posts because I am so close to going all in on it. Great post and very helpful because I was thinking about how it would affect my runs. My long run pre-breakfast is usually english muffin with nut butter and banana. I will need to find something else 🙂
That was a little tricky for me too. People have suggested sweet potatoes and I did scrambled eggs when I was marathon training last year. I’m sure you can find something if you experiment a bit!
I love dried apricots instead of GU on training runs. That said, when I get into “serious” marathon training the dried fruit goes out the window. I too love a Paleo-focused diet, and I’ve read Paleo for runners more than once, but can’t seem to make it work for me when my runs get over 12 or so miles.
Oh I never thought to try dried apricots! I agree that it gets trickier with longer runs.
Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner says
My daughter just decided to go paleo and I am a vegetarian. Can you say incompatible?! I will be looking for some more recipes for her and maybe something we can both eat.
At least you both eat fruits and veggies, right?! 🙂
Katie @ Daily Cup of Kate says
This is great! I am also an endurance runner and just started the Whole30 on Sunday (February is a perfect time since I am not training for anything specific). Thanks for the post!
I hope the Whole30 goes well for you! It’s a great idea to do it when you’re not training.
Great post! I definitely fall into the runner group that thinks they can eat anything bc they run. Congrats on completing the whole 30 challenge. I do try to incorporate a few paleo meals throughout the wk though.
It can be so easy to get carried away with our eating as runners! That sounds great that you do a few paleo meals a week.
Kelly @ The Fit Skool says
I’m not a big runner, but I do teach a lot of fitness classes and I am always looking for great workout fuel both before and after workouts. I definitely think nut butters keep me the full the longest but I try to eat them at least an hour before my workouts. I also love sweet potatoes with a little olive or coconut oil!!
All of that sounds really good! I sometimes eat nut butters before a long run with a banana.
Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment says
Adding fat has made such a difference for me. I used to avoid it and was more carb and fruit happy. It really helps you to feel full after a meal and not hungry an hour later. 🙂 Looking forward to your post on the Whole30! Have a great Tuesday!
It definitely helps! I need to keep making an effort to include it in my meals, even now that the Whole30 is over!
My typical breakfast before a long run is something like Cheerios and then a half a bagel or whole English muffin with peanut butter. My post run snack has carbs, protein and fat to hold me over until lunch.
Sounds good and its great that you’ve figured out what works for you!
Laura @ This Runner's Recipes says
All great tips, whether you do Whole30 or not! Adding in enough healthy fats is so important for runners! I’m also a huge fan of raisins as pre/mid run fuel, but I still use gels for race day.
Agreed! I think that in general people should probably be eating more healthy fats. And I think its just easier to take gels than something like raisins while running, especially during a race!
Um, yeah… I’m one of those runners who run so they can eat. Guilty! And it’s sooo not ideal. Your post is giving me some great tips on changing up how I do things. Appreciate you taking on co-host duties this week with Tuesdays on the Run, Lisa!
It can be so easy to fall into the trap of eating whatever we want because we run! I’ve really found that I feel better (both while running and in general) when I’m eating well!
Great post! I did Whole30 in January last year and I had some pretty great results. I didn’t wind up sticking with a paleo diet but I did gain a new appreciation for eating whole foods, incorporating more fruits and vegetables and including healthy fats in my diet. There were recipes that we made on Whole30 that we continue to make regularly because they were so delicious. Reading labels was a real eye opener for me as well because it is amazing the amount of stuff that can get added to what you think are healthy items!
Sounds great! It sounds like I had a similar experience to you. And I definitely agree about the labels- its definitely eye-opening!
April @ RunTheGreatWideSomewhere says
Great information! I’ve looked at Paleo several times but I just can’t say goodbye to beans! Thanks for guest hosting the linkup today!
For a long time I thought I couldn’t go without grains…I made it 30 days and I’ll probably continue to limit them. But when you find something that works for you its hard to give it up!
MCM Mama says
I really want to give Paleo a shot again, but I have a hard time getting enough carbs for long run and I’m marathon training again. I also usually run my long runs unfueled now, so maybe it would work. Definitely something to think about.
It can be so tricky to do long runs without grains- it was definitely something I struggled with last fall when I was eating mostly paleo and I’m still not sure what my plan will be for the next time I train for a marathon!
I haven’t tried Whole 30, but I do try to eat pretty clean. I love some of the snacks you mentioned. (Lara bars are my favorite!!)
I’ll have to give the Paleo meatballs a try! 🙂
I love Lara Bars! And I hope you like the meatballs if you try them!
Great post! My friend did a modified version of the Whole30 and enjoyed it. Something to consider trying one day.
Great post!I I would really love to try a Whole30 challenge but I’m kind of nervous about it affecting my mileage! Maybe in April when I finish Boston I would be in a better position. I have definitely learned a lot from you over the past 30 days!
Glad that you learned something! I definitely wouldn’t recommend a Whole30 while marathon training. It could be done, but I think it would just be more difficult.
AJ @ NutriFitMama says
I love reading about everyone’s Whole 30 experiences, especially with how it goes with your running. I am usually always eating the same thing before a run and using the same thing for fuels on long runs. I would definitely do a Whole 30 if I wasn’t a vegetarian- I love the concept!
Yea I’m not sure how it would work without eating meat:) But there are definitely good concepts involved in it that anyone could benefit from!
GiGi Eats says
I am all about the fueling with FAT 🙂 Fat + GiGi = the most amazing and productive combo EVER!!
Glad that you learned to love the fat! I hate that it got a back rap for so long!
Danielle @ Eat Primal, Run Hard says
I mainly use sweet potatoes as my long run fuel. Lately, I’ve been making baked sweet potatoes with some kind of filling + salad and avocado: primal beef chilli with cheese, or bacon and scrambled egg with cheese.
I second your tip on runners eating more fat: the more good fats you consume, the more likely you’ll be a fat burner so you’ll be able to use body fat and dietary fat as fuel sources, and not need to rely exclusively on glycogen in your muscles and liver. You’ll be able to run much longer without needing mid-run fuel.
Another nutrition tip from me would be ditch the grains and replace with tubers. Too many recreational runners think porridge, pasta and muesli are musts for running. They’re not. With proper nutritional knowledge, a runner can easily fuel and thrive on a grain-free diet. If paired with proper nutrition (protein, fat and vegetables at every meal, little to no sugar consumption), a runner will see improvements in their performance, and most likely, overall wellbeing. No more frequent illnesses!
My favourite 8+ mile run breakfast consists of paleo pancakes made with banana, eggs and tahini. I use Honey Stinger Organic energy chews for mid-run energy, but this is usually for races only because I follow the Mark Sisson ‘Train low, race high’ mantra.
Your comments are always so helpful! Is there a recipe for those pancakes?