Luckily, finding the ideal runner’s diet does not have to be complicated. All it takes is an understanding of some basic principles, which you can then adapt according to your personal requirements. Follow these steps to make meal prep easy.
Step 1. Focus on whole foods
Eating whole foods means foods that do not contain any added sugar, salt and/or preservatives. Think vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and lean meats. The best whole foods for runners have a high nutrient density and include eggs, bananas, blueberries, walnuts, salmon, avocados, spinach, and oats, to name just a few. Foods like these should be the building blocks of all your meals and snacks.
Step 2. Balance your food groups
Your body needs the right mix of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats for optimal performance. Carbohydrates provide energy, proteins help build and repair muscle, while healthy fats help your body work better overall (assisting in the absorption of vitamins, for example). So how much of each do you need? This varies according to the intensity of your training. In general, the more intense your training is, the higher your carbohydrate intake should be. This is especially true in a marathon training diet, for example. Spread your protein intake throughout the day to stay satiated.
Step 3. Plan ahead
Once you understand these basics, you can create meals you enjoy. Stock your fridge accordingly and experiment. By planning ahead, you can avoid mindlessly grabbing an energy bar whenever hunger strikes. Meal prep does not have to be elaborate, however. Some excellent quick staples in a runner’s diet include smoothies, whole-grain muffins (which you can store in the freezer and take out as needed), or low-fat yogurt topped with fruit. Cook up something versatile like brown rice or quinoa. Store it in the fridge to add into leafy-green salads or eat it with a side of baked chicken breast for lunch or dinner over a few days.
A nutrient-rich runner’s diet will ensure your body always has the energy it needs. Of course, don’t forget to hydrate. And finally, listen to your body’s cues and be flexible. If you feel good overall, you’re on the right track. If something is off, continue to calibrate until you find what works for you.