Running is an easy and affordable form of exercise for many college students. If you are a runner, you have probably noticed that you have more energy on certain runs over others. Take a look at your food choices. Everything that you eat and drink has a direct impact on your body. Understanding how to properly nourish your body will help maximize your running performance and enjoy the sport even more.
Carbohydrates are the foundation of a runner’s diet because they are the body’s preferred source of fuel. However, some carbohydrates are better than others. Try choosing whole grains, fruits and vegetables, rather than processed foods. Whole foods are higher in protein, antioxidants and fiber than plain white bread, flour and rice. Try adding bulgur to salads, or having a side of brown rice or quinoa with your dinner. Oats are also a great option to help fuel your body with whole grains.
Protein is also a very important component of a runner’s diet. High quality protein can aid in muscle recovery that will pay off during your next run. Just like carbohydrates, some protein sources are better for you than others. If you eat meat, stick to lean cuts of protein. Chicken breast is one of the leanest sources of protein, and can be prepared quickly and easily. A roasted turkey breast on whole grain bread can make for a tasty sandwich. Plant based foods don’t have as much protein as animal products, but nuts, nut butters and legumes are all smart alternatives. Post-workout chocolate skim or low-fat milk also helps repair muscles by providing glycogen (energy storage) to the body.
Ditch the Diet Foods
While diet foods might seem appealing with their catchy slogans and claims on the packages, they are usually low in carbohydrates, fiber and protein. Moreover, diet snacks probably won’t keep you satisfied and you are likely to overeat other unhealthy foods. Diet foods are often laden with sugar, artificial sweeteners and chemicals that have no nutritional value. When you go for your run, you want to feel energized and invigorated. Stick to real, natural foods that will nourish your body properly.
Hydration is Key
Proper hydration, especially when running in the warm, summer months, is extremely crucial for maximizing your running performance. On runs that are 30 minutes or less, water should do the trick. For a longer time span, drinks with electrolytes such as Gatorade or Smart Water are good for recovering muscles. A great tip is to chill your water because drinking cold beverages before and during exercise helps boost endurance. Focus on taking frequent, small sips rather than massive gulps to make your hydration effective. Remember, quenching your thirst isn’t just important during your workout, so make sure to drink water between meals to help replace fluid that is lost during your run.
Always keep in mind that fresh, real foods are the best way to go for maximizing your running performance. Focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and lots of water to keep you energized throughout the day and especially during your run, and avoid artificial snacks. Following these simple tips will help enhance your energy and provide for an enjoyable run.
Photo credits to: Laura Asbury, Stefani Pappas