If you frequently work out, you might have heard the saying, “Healthy bodies are made in the kitchen, not in the gym.” Even if you’re a highly dedicated runner, you simply won’t be able to perform at your best if you don’t prioritize nutrition. You’re more likely to suffer from fatigue and uncomfortable muscle cramps, or you may even require longer recovery periods between workouts.
If you think your diet has some room for improvement, this brief guide can help you create a balanced plan that won’t leave you feeling undernourished or overstuffed (while we dispel a few common nutrition myths). Here’s what you need to know:
Understand Your Calorie Needs
No matter whether you want to lose, maintain, or gain weight, it’s wise to know how many calories your body requires to keep you performing at your best. Runners often take their Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) into account to make sure they aren’t undereating. You can use a TDEE calculator to determine how many calories you need everyday based on your age, weight, height, activity level, and body fat percentage.
If you just want to know how many calories you burn during a workout, you can input your current weight, running pace, and duration of your workout into this handy calculator here. Just keep in mind that your caloric output can vary slightly depending on weather conditions, level of incline, gender, and other factors.
Keep Your Diet Interesting
If you find yourself throwing the same 12 items into your cart every time you go grocery shopping, you’re definitely not alone. It can be easy to get stuck in a rut when planning and preparing foods to fuel your workouts. Even if you always get “healthy” ingredients, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. In fact, depriving yourself of your favorite foods might even make cravings worse!
If you need some motivation to switch things up, try keeping a food journal for a week. This simple exercise can help you recognize where you need to make changes in your daily life. For instance, if you struggle to avoid high-calorie snacks at night, you might need to add more protein to your dinner or make healthier snacks ahead of time to avoid polishing off an entire bag of chips!
Add These Foods to Your List
If you’re getting tired of your current meal plan, consider picking up some of these superfoods suggested by Runner’s World:
- Almonds. A small handful of almonds contains plenty of vitamin E, and they can decrease LDL cholesterol.
- Eggs. One egg can provide 10% of your daily protein needs and 30% of your vitamin K needs.
- Sweet potatoes. Although one potato is a mere 100 calories, it packs in over 250% of the DV of vitamin A and contains good amounts of vitamin C, iron, and potassium.
- Black beans. One cup of canned black beans will provide 30% of the DV for protein, and nearly 60% of your daily fiber and folate needs.
- Dark chocolate. The antioxidants in dark chocolate can ease inflammation and have even been shown to improve heart health in some studies. Sweet!