Many runners, both new and more experienced, ask me if they should change their diet. I tell them, “You don’t have to change your diet to run, but you probably will once it starts holding you back.”
If all you ever want to do with running is complete 5k’s and 10k’s comfortably a few times from spring until fall, your diet probably doesn’t matter too much unless you are overweight. If you are overweight, the extra pounds will make running harder so changing your diet will be beneficial even if you never plan to compete and never plan to run more than a 10k.
If you want to be competitive or run farther than the 10k, you will reach a point when you realize that the bucket of movie popcorn, French fries and a double bacon cheese burger doesn’t feel good the next morning on your run. Once your diet is holding you back, you’ll change it.
Food is fuel and if you fuel your body with crap you will get crap back.
When I use the word diet, I don’t mean “dieting” or the restriction of calories to lose weight. I mean your food life style.
I don’t usually have to tell my runners to change their diet. Eventually, they will ask me about mine and see the difference in my running and their running. Most of the time they don’t adopt the same diet as me, which is pretty strict, but they make adjustments choosing more fresh fruits and vegetables along with lean white meats over fatty red meats.
The biggest change you can make in your diet is awareness. Think about what you are putting into your body. Most people don’t stop and think about the food they are eating. They see it, it looks good, and they eat it. The empty calories, sugar, and fat content doesn’t cross their mind.
If you are able to slow down think about what you have already eaten during the day, what the actual nutritional value is of what you are about to eat, and what you plan to eat later in the day it will make a huge difference in your diet.
I use a low carbohydrate life style. It can be hard to follow for many people, which is why I tell people about it and the benefits, but I don’t push it on people. I don’t eat starchy vegetables, breads (regardless of what it is made from), pasta, or rice. I’m very selective about the fruits I eat because most are high in sugar. My body has been taught to primarily burn fat rather than sugars as fuel.
The low carb life style allows me to recover faster, maintain higher cognitive functioning along with mood stability throughout the day and during 100 mile events, and prevents the BONK. I can run 50 miles without taking anything but water in. If you are interested in learning more read “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” by Jeff S. Volek and Stephen D. Phinney. It’s only 150 pages and easy to understand.
Awareness is the essential part of eating smart.