It's Valentine's Day, and the chocolate is overflowing in our homes, stores and offices today! If only that chocolate could efficiently fuel our running as well as some of those so-called superfoods and be calorie free...we can dream. For new and even veteran runners, what foods to eat and when to eat them is confusing, particularly because there is no single magic formula and the science continues to evolve. Nonethless, we do know that an appropriate combination of the right carbs and protein, along with plenty of fruits and vegetables, will efficiently fuel your running, regardless of your training goals, and satisfy your appetite.
WHAT TO EAT
Ideally, a runner's diet should consist of 60% carbs, 25% protein, and 15% fat.
Carbs: Carbohydrates are essential for runners, and not all carbs are created equal...i.e., Wonder Bread is not a wonder food! Embrace the whole grain and look for foods that are 100% whole grain. Any of the following whole grains provide excellent running fuel--100% whole grain bread, sweet potatoes, 100% whole grain cerals, such as Kashi brand, steel cut oatmeal, beans, quinoa (rich in protein too), and whole wheat pasta, along with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Protein: Another component of a runner's fuel is protein. Protein helps the body rebuild muscle fibers stressed during a run, which helps to minimize running-related injuries. Some superstar protein sources include eggs, nuts (particularly almonds), lean meats, fish (particularly salmon), beans, and low-fat dairy (particularly Greek yogurt).
Fats: Good fats are good for the heart and the appetite--eating good fats protects the heart and provides a sense of fullness. Avocados, nuts, peanut butter, olive oil are all excellent sources of good fat.
WHEN TO EAT:
Whether you choose to eat six small meals, or three meals and some snacks, just try to have a small carbohydrate meal or snack one hour prior to your run. More importantly, within a half hour of completing your run, make sure to refuel your glycogen stores and rebuild those muscle fibers with a protein/carbohydrate meal, such as yogurt topped with fruit and granola, or one of our favorite treats, low-fat chocolate milk--yes chocolate is a runner-friendly food! Most importantly, enjoy your food and don't stress about it. Happy Valentine's Day and Happy Eating!