You Can’t Outrun a Bad Diet

We as runners are mostly Type-A people who want to do everything correctly. We follow run plans to the letter and plan our races a year in advance. We set big goals and drive everyone around us nuts by over-analyzing data on how we feel and how we can improve. This being said, we are not great about our nutrition, which to me, is a huge problem. We’ve all heard the phrase “you are what you eat” and we tend to still argue that running “allows” us to eat what we want. This is just not true. You can run and run and run but you will never outrun a bad diet. How can we expect ourselves to perform at our best off of food that is over-processed and lacking in nutrients we need to rebuild? Why do we continually push ourselves to improve, but neglect the food that will actually help us reach these goals? You can have the best training plan in the world but without the recovery to support it through your nutrition, you are running a race uphill all the time. Who wants that? So what would Coach want you to do? What I do myself to make sure I’m supporting my active lifestyle so I can have energy in my runs AND throughout my day.

Read on for my tips for healthy nutrition 👇

Nutrition Tips for Runners
  1. Know Your Weaknesses!
    My weakness is under-eating. I’m not a big foodie and in general, I see eating as a hassle. This may sound nice to many of you but it has honestly caused many problems in my athletic life. I have had stress fractures, been sick a lot, and have underperformed on many occasions because of this. I also absolutely despise tracking my food. It takes time and it annoys me. Here is the kicker though – if I don’t track, it is too easy for me to under eat. So if my goal is to run a lot and perform well I have to get over that and track anyway. How important are your goals? Find your weaknesses in your diet or life that prevent you from hitting your nutrition goals.  Instead of making excuses as to why you can’t change, think about just how important that goal is to you and find a way to change it, even if it makes you uncomfortable. GROWTH mentality. You cannot grow if you continue to settle for your weakest links and make excuses for them. Part of the amazing thing about growing up is you learn yourself better. That is not an excuse to accept your weaknesses.
  2. Seek Out Expert Advice.
    I have given you many tools for nutrition. Tools I believe in. Get off the internet! I love the book The New Rules for Half Marathon and Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald. I also like Lean Habits for Lifelong Nutrition by Georgie Fear. Both of these books have great approaches to getting nutrient-dense and quality food in your diet to fuel your runs. If you need more help than that, both Coach Rachel Bozich and I can help you with the Macronutrients you need daily. Just ask.
  3. Take Out the Garbage.
    You will eat things that are easy, even if they are not healthy. Take away your ability to take the easy road. COOK YOUR FOOD. We all like to eat out, I get it, but the amount of extra fat and salt you get in a restaurant will easily add extra pounds to the waistline – even if it appears to be healthy. Eat out less, and if you have to, choose grilled options with sauces on the side. I also hear many of you say you can’t afford a nutritionist or extra help from doctors. I’d be willing to bet if you cut out all the eating out you’d find your wallet would get bigger too 😉
  4. Whole Foods 80% of the Time 
    I hate to break it to you, but no one over eats apples. They tend to not be as tasty after you eat 4 in a row though. Whole foods have fewer calories and if you filled up your diet with more of them you would be surprised at how much energy you have. Focus on consuming more nutrient-dense whole foods like fruits and vegetables combined with quality meats, and whole grains. Also keep in mind that 50% of your diet needs to come from carbohydrates and there are so many healthy options that you should not have to worry about overeating. In fact, it’s extremely hard to overeat when you choose these options 80% of the time.  Most packaged processed carbs have far too much fat and added sugar. Pay attention and read the labels! You are in charge of your health. 
  5. QUIT THE DIETS! 
    Diets harm your body. They slow your metabolism down and set you up for failure by using fear of foods to restrict your calorie intake. Really, If you eat well 80% of the time, then 20% of the time you can have and enjoy the “bad” foods that are easy. Nothing is off-limits as long as it’s in moderation. Even white bread has a purpose. White bread is great for carbo-loading the day before a hard workout or race. As is Swedish fish! So as long as you don’t have an allergy go for it occasionally!
  6. Food Timing 
    Food timing is important for runners. You need to eat something before most runs. If the workout is longer than an hour you need to eat something halfway through every time. Train your body to handle nutrition by setting your timing in stone and doing it every time. No excuses. Set yourself up for success. If you have a harder workout, eat more the day before and the day of for recovery. The biggest mistake runners make is during a recovery week they will slash their calories because they are not running as much. If you do this, it negates your recovery process. You need extra calories to recover and rebuild for your next block of training. Also, a recovery shake after a hard workout is important. Try to do this within an hour of the workout. You don’t need these for easy run days but runs over 90 minutes and hard days do it!
  7. Alcohol
    I know we runners love alcohol, unfortunately, it doesn’t love you, and it belongs in the 20% category, under treats. It makes anxiety and depression worse and inhibits your recovery. Set yourself up for success, that is all I will say about that.
  8. Don’t Think a Marathon Will Help You Lose Weight! 
    It won’t, and it honestly shouldn’t, especially if you are a female. If you have some weight you want to lose, choose the offseason to do it. Your body does better losing weight when you strength train and run or cross-train 45 minutes to an hour a day. More than that and your body like to hold onto fat to protect its organs and fight you.  In order to avoid harming yourself with a stress fracture, immune system trouble, thyroid burnout, or RED S syndrome it is imperative that you eat to perform while marathon training.  I am very strict about this. Sign up for a marathon because you want to run it, not to lose weight.

Please ask if you need help. I need you guys to be better about this. Your training and health depend on it.

Danielle O'Neil

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