Meal Time Matters
By Will Lind
If You Run, You’re a Runner.
Here’s the biggie – you don’t need permission to eat as the runner you already are. Suck it up and surrender. You run. You’re a runner. The more of a running lifestyle you embrace the more satisfied you’ll be. You’ll colour it your way based on culture, spirituality, religion, genetics and all sorts of factors, but when it comes to your next meal, remember who you are.
Make it an all the time thing.
Adopt a runner’s diet all of the time, even on recovery days. Do this as opposed to trying to make up with good eating, only eating quality on run days or only eating quality when you feel like a runner.
So, most meals most of the time, eat quality. And for crying out loud, just keep it simple. Unless you’re truly impassioned by nutrition, complicated eating will become burdensome and end up another forgotten goal.
Sometimes your plans won’t pan out. You’ll wake up too late for breakfast or forget your race gels. Deal with it. Run well. Run confidently. Do your best and focus on solutions, not excuses.
Eat for Health.
What’s a runner’s diet look like? Not much different to your standard healthy eating. Whole foods. Fresh foods. Foods prepared with your own two hands. Avoid treats. Be cynical of packets.
You’ll probably take in more calories than non-runners, with more carbohydrates coming in to fuel your recovery and efforts (or fats, if HFLC is your thing). Eat meat if that’s your approach. Keep it off your plate if not. Protein is important but if you eat like the average Australian, you’re taking in more than enough already.
Find YOUR Way.
We’re different. Culturally, financially, geographically, genetically. There’s differentiating factors flying about all over the place. It’s ludicrous to think you’re going to find the one true answer anywhere but inside yourself.
Time. Experimentation. Self-education. You will need to learn and there’s an element of the ‘hard way’ that can’t be avoided.
Base Meals Around Plants First.
This isn’t about challenging your meat eating ways; it’s about trying to balance your diet. We so often approach meals, particularly dinner, meat and starches first. Plants are then an afterthought, despite their valuable nutrients. Even if it’s only an experiment, see what happens when you create meals around plants first.
Do Eat for Recovery.
Make a special effort with a recovery meal. Again, carbohydrates are important after high volume or high intensity sessions, including races. Protein needs to be considered too. Aim to eat something within 40 minutes of your hard run.
Eat Early for Fuel.
If you’re fuelling for a session don’t leave it until the hour beforehand to start thinking about it. If you keep to point #2 you don’t often need any pre-run special efforts as you’re always considering your next run.
Eat Race Fuels Sparingly in Training.
Where you can, and it’s safe and smart to do so, try not to rely on race fuel while in training. Best is if you can train the body away from reliance on sugars. However, note the next point…
Test Race Fuels Diligently.
Experiment with the timing, necessity and type of foods in training. Smart is to discover if your gut is going to reject something while out on a solo run. Acceptable is bonking due to lack of fuel mid-training run. Dumb is to figure any of this out for the first time in a race you’ve trained for.
Save your money. Real food is best. Something for hydration possibly. Most likely something conveniently packaged for race fuel. Maybe a post hard run recovery supplement. From there, go real to go large with your running life.
Eat to Run.
Don’t run to eat. Don’t run to burn calories and don’t run so you can eat more. This is a miserable, misinformed approach to running and nutrition.