You are what you eat.
I’ve heard people say that 1,000 times over the course of my life but it wasn’t until the past couple of years that I really realized that the foundation for a great running program isn’t necessarily the miles that you put in but what you put in your body to fuel you for your running. You literally are made up of exactly what you eat.
If you leave out the nutrition aspect of running—whether your running is for fun, weight loss, to stay in shape or to train to race—I truly believe you are shooting yourself in your foot. A healthy body needs nutrients, not just calories. A runner who is burning through more calories than an average person needs to focus on quality even more so than the average person or they end up in a situation where their body is just processing more junk. Simply put, you can’t get away with eating whatever you want if you run and still expect to be healthy. You may end up thin if you only focus on calories—in my opinion, that’s not what you should focus on as a runner. Focus instead on being healthy and strong and you will help ward off illness and injuries.
My approach to nutrition is simple: Eat whole foods that aren’t processed. I try to stay away from anything in a box and lean on fruits, vegetables and protein to get me through the day. The faster I recover from a run, the quicker I can be out there doing it again. The more miles you can safely run, the stronger runner you will become.
It can be a struggle not to overeat with the amount of miles that I try to run, so I pick foods that are nutrient-dense and filling but not high in calories. If you stay away from processed, fake foods you typically don’t have to count calories and can listen to the cues your body is sending you. Drinking water and tea throughout the day also helps curb the insatiable appetite I seem to have during summer training months!
Immediately after long runs, I always eat a protein-rich snack or meal. An easy way to do this is to bring some protein powder in a bottle and add water post run. This aids in the recovery process and helps to keep you from binging on chips and pizza later in the night.
I promise I’m not all boring though; I do have a crazy sweet tooth and am really into cupcakes. My favorites are vegan and gluten free from a local Leesburg, Va. cupcake place. Sometimes thinking about a treat later on that day is the only thing that gets me through 20-mile long runs!
I fully believe when you make nutrition a key focus in your training, you will see your body transform in a good way and you will be surprised at how your running also improves by fueling your body with food that helps it instead of working against it.
For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.