Diet Tips for Beginner Runners
When it comes to diet tips for beginner runners, there’s a tidal wave of info available in books and on the web, each with a more unique and different approach than the last.
But when you strip back all the “revelations” athlete nutrition and diet tips for beginner runners have made over the past few years, we’re left with a solid base of advice and knowledge that served the runners of the pre-digital generation perfectly.
That isn’t to say we can’t take advantage of new sciences and technologies – developments in nutrition have literally changed the game for some athletes in some sports. But it all begins with knowing the basics and going from there.
At The Running Bee Foundation, thousands of eager runners attend our amazing running events throughout the year, and many of them will be employing a good foundation diet in the lead up to race day.
With this in mind, if you’re a relative newbie, here are just a few diet tips for beginner runners we think you could use to your advantage:
The Right Carbs at the Right Time
Whether you’re a professional runner or you’re average Joe on the street, everybody has heard the timeless tip – “Load up on carbs before going on a run!”
While this is classic, and is pretty accurate in many ways, it’s not without its faults. Especially when it comes to diet tips for beginner runners.
For starters, what type of carbs should you be eating? Is it advisable to take down an entire cake before a run?! (Obviously not…)
Another thing: How many carbs should you have before running? Surely too much will weight you down and make you feel sluggish, right?
It’s true – eating a carb-heavy meal before a run is a great way to offer your body some quick-to-hand energy and will keep you going all the way through to the finish line.
But, as we’ve discussed above, you need to be careful about exactly what you’re putting in your body.
Some carbs will give you a quick energy boost when you need it, others will sit in your stomach and weigh you down.
Pasta is a traditional option the night before a race. But only make it an average-sized portion. Pasta digests much slower than many carbs and could still be sat in your stomach (or worse, get stored as fat) before race day.
Bananas, oats and white toast with a sugary preserve (all in moderation, of course) act as good breakfasts and/or pre-race snacks.
If in doubt, put in the time in the weeks leading up to race day to see what carbs work best for you, and when.
Limit Sugary Treats and Drinks
This one is a given, but we just thought we’d drive the point home!
Sugar is fantastic for many things. Unfortunately for athletes and runners, the things it is good for are best avoided when you’re in training.
This includes things like chocolate, baked goods, cakes and other desserts. Basically all the stuff in the world that tastes good!
Why should you avoid all these? Probably because they’re so heavy in sugar (or both saturated fats and sugars) that you’ll end up piling on the pounds and not being able to burn them off in good time for race day.
Not only this, but certain sugars and fats (mostly the ones found in desserts) are pre-disposed to end up getting stored as fat and are a thousand times more difficult to burn off than other fats and sugars.
Natural fats and sugars, like the ones found in many fruits and nuts, are the ones you should allow yourself the freedom to stock up on as they have a bunch of nutritional benefits. Speaking of fruit…
Vary your Fruit and Veg
If you aren’t a fruit-or-veg type of person, you’re going to struggle reading this next bit…
For those of us that try to fit in our 5 a day recommended fruit and veg intake, we usually stick to a select number of favourites. If you can call them favourites.
The usual suspects include things like lettuce and cucumbers for salads. And apples and bananas for a quick snack.
But limiting yourself to just a few of these choices, especially when in training for a run, can be detrimental.
This is because you aren’t taking advantage of the wide variety of fruit and veg available, and all the nutritional value that comes along with it.
For example peppers, pomegranates and tomatoes are all great choices for boosting vitamin levels, as well as filling you up.
Why? Recent studies have shown that more colourful veggies and fruits are linked to being more beneficial to your body’s wellbeing and can actually reduce the risk of ailments like heart and brain disease.
So the next time you’re at the supermarket, think to yourself – “the brighter, the better!”
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Water is literally the key to life. So it should come as no surprise that it’s the key to injecting life into your run!
We could all do with drinking a little more water – so many of us tend to neglect drinking the recommended eight glasses (or 2 litres) of water each day and instead opt to drink simply when we feel like it.
But, for athletes, the importance of getting enough water into your body cannot be understated, both in training, pre and post-race.
The amount of energy you expend and the amount of liquid you lose through sweat means you need to keep yourself regularly topped up before, during and after your run if you want to maintain top performance and avoid any unnecessary fatigue-related injury.
Drinking a glass (or so) of water before your run will prepare your body for the race ahead, and carrying a bottle of water with you when you run will allow you to replace any lost hydration as and when you feel tiredness and fatigue setting in.
Then, be sure to get plenty of fluids after your race, too. This will aid in the recovery process and get you up to speed for your next run or training session.
Meat, Fish & Proteins
Any personal trainer will tell you that the key to building and maintaining strength for training is to get the right amount of protein in your diet.
This is usually found in the form of meats and fish, although there are vegan and vegetarian alternatives available.
And while many medical experts deter people from consuming too much red meat regularly (and rightly so) it can still prove to be an exceptional source of protein when you’re training. Rich in multiple vitamins and iron, there’s a reason so many athletes love a good steak!
Although, if you’re looking for a lesser-risk alternative, chicken is always a favourite (though its recommended you stick with the darker parts of the meat – thighs etc. – to feel the full nutritional effects).
Then of course, there’s fish, which everybody agrees is not only great for those looking to trim calories on a diet, but is a fantastic element of any diet as a whole. Cod and salmon (not battered or fried – sorry!) are clear picks, but with all the amazing choices from our ocean, you’ll never run out of options!
Low in all the bad stuff and high in everything you want, if you’re looking for a filling, low-fat meal you can never go wrong with a good piece of fish.
At The Running Bee Foundation, we help encourage active and healthy lifestyles by offering grants to healthy living initiatives in the community, to tackle childhood obesity.
Could you or someone you know benefit from a Running Bee grant?…