Well runners, we’re at the halfway mark – 6 weeks until race day! This week’s topic is probably my favorite to write about because it is something I undoubtedly think about everyday: FOOD!
I should clarify that I am NOT a nutritionist or health expert. Everything in this post is based upon an incredible amount of research I’ve done based on books, the web, newspapers, blogs, athletic trainer advice, and my own experiences.
Whether you are running the half-marathon to stay fit, lose weight, or just meet a goal, it is especially important that you keep yourself as healthy as possible. You can do this by understanding the nutritional values of all food items, keeping track of what you are eating, and remembering to include ALL the food groups in a daily balanced diet. In my earlier posts, I’ve written about my struggles with weight gain and my binge eating habits during my freshman year. However, I can assure you that if you stay motivated and fill your brain up with enough food nutrition knowledge, you will eat healthier and STAY ON TASK!
It is also important to remember that a RUNNER’S diet is different from a weight-loss diet. Runners rely on lots of carbs and protein to keep up their energy, so don’t be shy of pasta and bread. These carbs help you run those long distances! I also recommend incorporating mid-meal snacks throughout your day. Who doesn’t love snacks?
You’ve all heard it: breakfast is the important meal of the day, yada yada yada. But let’s be real here, we have 5234 tasks to complete in a day as college students and the only thing we want when our alarms wake us up in the mornings is more sleep. We just don’t have time for breakfast!
However, in my personal experience, I’ve found that eating breakfast in the morning lowers my appetite for the rest of the day and gives me plenty of energy to stay awake during class, go to work, stay at the library until the wee hours, and have a social life. (I think this helps me not gain weight!) So please, I encourage those who live in the dorms to GO TO BREAKFAST! When you have an apartment, you will not have the luxury of a cooked breakfast every morning, so take advantage of it! My mom always tells me to “eat breakfast like a king,” and I’m going to tell you the same! Breakfast is the one meal I allow myself to eat as much as I want – ALL healthy things of course! The more you eat at breakfast, the less you will eat throughout the day. I promise.
My daily breakfast: (from the dorm)
- 1 hard boiled egg
- 1 bowl of oatmeal
- As much fresh fruit as I crave/desire
- 1 or 2 pieces of whole wheat toast with light butter and grape jelly
- 1 glass of water with lemon
Mid-morning snack around 10:00 a.m.
- 1 banana or 1 apple
- 1 granola bar or protein bar
- Water (I usually carry around a water bottle with me)
Bananas and apples are surprisingly filling and great for you nutritiously. Bananas have a great deal of potassium, which is crucial to keeping our muscles hydrated, aids in recovery, and prevents cramping. I find that apples are filling, but sometimes it is like eating a tic-tac, so that’s where the granola bar comes in. It’s quick fix and a good excuse to eat something sweet!
Lunch around Noon-1:30 p.m.
Lunch can be a pretty tricky meal. If you’re like me, and all your classes or work shifts are during lunch hours, you are pretty much out of luck. I will admit that I skip lunch some days. DON’T DO THIS! DON’T SKIP LUNCH! It is a terrible habit and it completely drains you of energy and makes you want to eat a buffet at dinnertime. If you live in an apartment, pack a Tupperware container with a salad the night before. If you live in the dorms, bring Tupperware to the dining hall and fill it with greens and refrigerate overnight. It’s a great way to eat in between classes!
Pre-dinner snack around 4 p.m.
Water. Lots of it. It will help decrease your appetite and cravings for a huge dinner!
Dinner around 5:00-7:00 p.m.
If you skipped lunch, you may have a tendency to go a little overboard on loading your plate. Keep in mind that if you have a very heavy meal, you will slow down your body’s digestive rate and metabolism, causing you to feel stuffed and most likely icky for the rest of the night. Remember to watch your portions, but don’t be afraid of carbs from bread, pasta or rice. (These grains provide energy for your workout!)
If you’re living in the dorms, a trick that I use is to go straight to the salad bar to fill your plate with veggies first. For me, if I see a bunch of vegetables and greens on my plate, I am more motivated to eat healthier before I go to the hot foods section. When you eventually get to the hot foods section, look at the nutrition values! Every food in the dining hall has a nutrition value card next to it. If you are questioning whether it is healthy for you, it probably isn’t.
- Cherry tomatoes
- Green peppers
- Red beans
- One form of starch (potato, rice or bread)
- White meat or fish – grilled chicken and salmon are the best!
- Water with lemon
If you have a sweet tooth, you aren’t alone, but this where you have to be careful. Many of us think that if we eat a piece of cake, we can run it off the next day. However, this isn’t the case! An overload of sugar can lead to an imbalance in the calorie intake/outtake equation. I am not telling you to deprive yourself of dessert, but I am telling you that you should limit yourself to three days out of the week where you are allowed to eat a light dessert. (Light means a small portion.) If you have constantly crave chocolate like me, I recommend buying a package of Hershey kisses. I eat 1 after dinner, since each piece has 22 calories.
At this time, I recommend that you stop eating after 8:00 p.m. This gives your body plenty of time to digest and balance your metabolism. Avoiding late night snacks will also help you get ready for a big breakfast the following day!
Also, I hope you noticed that I drink water with every meal and constantly throughout the day. Once again, I emphasize DRINKING WATER! Staying hydrated is the easiest tool to staying healthy and fit!
Happy eating and training :)