Healthy Eating Tips for Running and Losing Weight

March 8, 2012

marathon_runnerRunning can be an excellent choice for someone looking to lose weight. Running increases the heart rate which in turn burns calories and strengthens the heart. It is important to remember proper nutrition in order to get the most benefit from this form of exercise. What a runner should eat will vary depending on whether one is simply running to lose weight or training for a distance run such as a 5k or marathon. One benefit of running is choosing easily identifiable goals with time and distance and measuring your performance. Get a strength building running workout plan to maximize your goals.

Pre-Race

It is important to get a good mix of carbohydrates and protein for maximum performance. Carbohydrates are the fuel that the body uses in the muscles to keep the body going. Starches and sugars, such as potatoes or white breads, are only good as short term fuel sources. Good sources of carbohydrates include:

  • Beans
  • Brown rice
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables
  • Whole grains

When fueling for a long race, a runner should store up energy in the form of carbohydrates. A more casual runner would not need as high an amount of carbohydrates due to less burn off during a run. It is also important not to eat large meals too soon before a race. A full stomach can lead to feeling sluggish and can lower performance.

Mid-Race

While running it is important to maintain a balance of fluids and electrolytes in order to prevent cramping and dehydration. Regular water is good but does not replace salt and nutrients lost through sweating. On the other hand, watch out for too much bad salt getting into your eating schedule and dehydrating you for your run. Good sources of these essentials would include:

  • Sports drinks
  • Enhanced water
  • Fruit smoothies

If engaged in a long distance run, the body can only go two to three hours without ingesting more fuel. A quick pick me-up may be essential to having the stamina to finish a race. This may include:

  • Fruit
  • Energy bars
  • Granola
  • Trail mix

Anything that boosts the amount of sugar in the blood can give the muscles what they need to move on. Even candy could work in a pinch. Bananas are ideal because they not only have the essential sugar needed but add potassium back in to the body which is one of the elements needed for ideal muscle movement. Low potassium levels are
known to cause cramping even in sedentary people.

Post-Race

After a run, it is important to have an intake of protein in order for the muscles to have the tools they need to rebuild themselves. Without protein, the muscles cannot regenerate from the tearing caused by the exercise. A runner does not need as much protein as a body builder but does still need an adequate amount especially if the runner’s goal is weight loss as muscle burns more calories than fat. Good sources of protein include:

  • Lean meat
  • Beans
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Nuts

Recent studies have even shown that the best recovery drink after a workout is chocolate milk!

Meal Planning

The ideal runner’s diet should have a balance of complex carbohydrates and protein. Beans and legumes are ideal in their composition but should be balanced with plenty of water to avoid constipation. High fiber foods have also been shown to be a strong component in aiding weight loss; these foods help a person feel full for a longer period while tending to be lower in calories.

A sample menu of a runner’s diet could look like the following:

Breakfast:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 slice whole grain toast
  • 1 serving berries

Morning Snack:

  • 1 carton yogurt
  • 1 serving almonds

Lunch (Sandwich and Salad):

  • 2 slices whole grain bread
  • 1 serving turkey breast
  • 1 slice Provolone cheese
  • 1 serving mixed greens
  • 1 serving salad dressing of choice
  • 1 serving tomatoes
  • 1 serving sliced peppers

Afternoon Snack:

  • 8 oz milk
  • 1 banana

Dinner (Three Bean Chili):

  • 1 serving variety of beans (black, pinto, and kidney are good)
  • 1 serving tomatoes
  • 1 serving corn kernels(frozen or fresh is best)
  • 1 serving shredded cheese

It is very rare to be able to get every nutrient needed through diet alone so finding a good multivitamin is also a good idea for both those running for weight loss and those who plan to train for a race. It is also healthy to eat a variety of foods and not limit nutrition sources. A low-carbohydrate diet is not a good idea for the serious runner. Processed foods are tempting in their convenient nature but should be consumed in moderation rather than being used as a major food source.

Running is an excellent source of exercise and can be enjoyable. Properly fueling the body and maintaining a healthy balance keeps a runner going strong.

Author Bio: Ben M. is a fitness instructor and personal health consultant who lives on the Southern California coast with his wife. He advises people concerning health concerns, giving the benefits of a private health insurance plan.



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