Top 5 Nutrition Mistakes Runners Make
How do we eat for performance, when we don’t even know how to EAT to begin with?
When it comes to making decisions, we make 200+ food decisions per day (or something like that) The internal dialogue we have with ourselves….does this sound familiar?
What should I have for breakfast? Is toast ok? Can I have cream in my coffee? Oh that donut looks good?! MMM, someone brought muffins to work, but I already had a donut, should I have a muffin too? What’s for lunch, I should probably have a salad. But then I’ll be hungry by 3 and not home till 7, maybe I stop at the drive thru? That’s not good is it? One time can’t hurt. Sure, I’ll have fries with that, yeah the pop too, but not diet pop, that’s not good for me is it? Ahh well, I’ll start eating healthy tomorrow…
The reality is, most of us just sit down, we eat, and hope for the best. I like to think my decisions are informed as a dietitian, because my thoughts are fully consumed with food which filters through my nutrition focused mind, and I like to share that with my clients-- knowledge is power!
When sh*# gets real complicated...
You decide you want to run and or have been running, and now training for a race-- like a marathon, half- marathon, 10k….let’s just see how confused we can possibly get. How do we know how to eat for performance, when we don’t even know how to EAT to begin with? Exactly….I know right, shocking, but didn’t think of that before. My main message is first and most importantly, let’s work on that foundation diet, day in, day out, let’s create a stable base, before we start doing handstands…learn to walk before we run, learn to boil water before we cook..yeah you get the picture. This happens to be my specialty, and if you are interested in tackling your current eating plan click here and I can help you out.
Ok, back to the confusing part, eating for performance. Having the pleasure of talking with runners in the 2 half-marathon clinics that I have done, and other runners in general, I realize that a lot of us are making very similar and crucial mistakes. Where if we cleaned these areas up a bit, we would improve our foundation eating, and performance--hah a win win!
Let me give it to you straight-- the Top 5 Nutrition Mistakes that Runners Make, this isn’t quantified or qualified scientifically, this is my observations from repeat offenders, I am simply categorizing it and creating actionable steps that we can take NOW!
1. We wait until it’s too late- to fuel or hydrate
The night before your race is too late! Your nutrition intake and hydration in weeks up to your run, aka your baseline diet and eating throughout your training weeks are major key! Don’t wait, get on your nutrition game ASAP. Try the healthy plate-- this is a great place to start as it ensures a balance of our macro nutrients like protein and carbohydrate, healthy fats and those veggies that are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to help regulate your body after the assault of training you are putting it through!
Here’s the Bottom Line:
Don’t neglect your nutrition during training, as you are also training your body to use nutrients effectively to perform, and to recover. If you have no clue what you are doing, it is worth seeking help and figure it out…#heretohelp :)
2. We focus on weight, not health or performance
It's not all about the calories in, calories out, it never is, nor should it be! Ask yourself….Why do I run? Don’t run to punish yourself for what you ate today, or what you did the day before, or what you are doing this weekend! You are an athlete! It is time to start thinking of yourself as one and athletes fuel to improve, fuel to perform, fuel to recover and fuel to stay healthy.
Here's the Bottom Line:
When you start your training program, shift your focus to fueling your body to meet the increased performance demands, not on counting calories.
3. We try to outrun our fork
Just because you run, doesn’t mean you can eat anything and everything you want, c’mon, let’s be reasonable here. Every mile that we run, we burn only an average of 100 calories, doesn’t matter if you’re fast or slow. We can beat the system by counting calories either, that is no way to live or train. What you should focus on, is consistency in your meals- aim for 3 meals daily, with snacks as needed preferably timed to support when you run. Consider this tip: If your last meal is greater than 3 hours before your run, you should have a small snack to fuel that run.
Here’s the Bottom Line:
Eat “normally” focusing on balanced meals, with balanced timing Still choose nutrient dense foods according to that healthy plate we see above. If your last meal is greater than 3 hours before your run, you should have a small snack to fuel that run. What kind of snack you ask? Well I’m a huge fan of homemade energy bites like these Peanut Butter Date Energy bites. But stay tuned for a deeper dive into some snack options in future blog posts. Check out some snack recipes here or watch the video below for Peanut Butter Date Energy Bites.
We try to be the Carbdashians
And by that I mean, we increase our intake of carbohydrates, not because we need to, but we want to, YAY running means carb loading, all the time….which is not the case! Carbs are fuel for the brain and the muscles, and the preferred fuel actually! So this is a natural though process, plus carbs=comfort as they stimulate serotonin production making us feel oh so good, no wonder why we love ‘em! Our bodies however are amazing machines with the ability to store excess carb in the form of glycogen in the liver and muscles, which means at any one given time we probably have a good supply of glycogen for energy avaiable, making carb loading something we do not need to practice regularly. There are some good indications to do this before races, and that’s something I will cover in future posts!
Here's the Bottom Line:
Focus on that balanced plate we discussed with equal ratios of protein to carbohydrates to start, share the love a little bit, and don’t try to Ceep up with the Carbdashians.
5. We try living on sports nutrition and supplements
We all like shiny new things, even when it comes to food! Trying new foods, snacks, or in this case supplements or sports nutrition can be very attractive to a runner, and somewhat addictive, but is it always necessary? The reality is we can run full out for 90 minutes before we empty out our glycogen stores –how often do we do that? If moderate to intense exercise lasts longer than 90 minutes, it is recommended to take in carbohydrates to keep muscles adequately fueled. During my whole training for the half marathon I did not eat a thing during my runs, just some fluid. I tested out some Honey Stinger Chews once, and did use them on race day, but did not depend on them. The focus was always food first, and anything else is an added boost, not a replacement.
Here's the Bottom Line:
Use these sparingly if you need them but focus on high quality foods first, and monitor how your body reacts to these new supplements.
Ok those are MY top 5 nutrition mistakes I see runners make, as well as having made them myself! Again this is not hard fast research from surveying thousands of runners, this is from experience in my running community, "in the trenches" if you will. Let me remind you, like I remind my clients...YOU are the expert in your own life! You may consult experts in other disciplines like dietitians, personal trainers, chiropractors, physiotherapists etc. and it is important to take the expert opinion and cross reference it with your own life, what will work for you, and what won’t? My hope for you is to reflect on these Top 5 Mistakes, and find some action steps you can take today to improve your health and performance and more importantly increase your confidence in the nutrition plan you follow/ are making for yourself.
Have other running related nutrition questions? Please send me a message via the contact portion of my site, click here and scroll down, I'd love to hear more from you. Or DM me on Instagram @saladsaresweet
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