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Nutrition for Runners: 6 Tips to Fuel Your Run

Getting serious about running requires a revamp of your everyday eating habits, whether you want to or not. Feeling good is a big motivator, so in order to feel your best, there are some guidelines you’ll want to follow to be a healthier, more successful runner.

Here are some ways you can incorporate better fuel for your brain and your body. 

Get rid of the junk
You may have kids or a partner that don’t need to have a clean diet like you do, but it’s better for everyone. Gently try to push these habits in the household as much as possible, you may not win, but you can’t not try. Limit the high-sugar, high-fat, processed foods that you usually toss in your cart (mainly for the kids’ lunches, right?), instead stock up on fresh fruits, veggies, nuts and whole grains. Still easy to pack in lunches and grab for a quick snack, but they’re not going to bog you down and leave you feeling sluggish. Make a quinoa salad on a Sunday to have for the week or portion salad fixings for easy assembly. Fuel your run while keeping your heart healthy, your cholesterol low and your blood sugar stable.

Run on empty (sometimes)
If your run takes place early in the morning, you may not have the time–or the stomach–to eat and digest any food beforehand. Running for an hour or less on an empty stomach is probably fine, as long as you’re staying hydrated. However, for longer runs, fuel is essential. Running long distances on an empty stomach will make you fatigue sooner and you’ll have a difficult time meeting your training goals. Plus, those energy gels are no fun on an empty stomach. A few light pre-run ideas:

-Whole wheat English muffin with nut butter
-Avocado toast with Himalayan salt (the pink stuff)
-1/2 cup of yogurt and granola (not fat-free)
-A banana

Keep it simple
Go for familiar foods that are easy on the system, not too high in fat or fiber. Carbohydrates boost your energy without upsetting your stomach, but we’re not talking a bag of tortilla chips. It’s important to stick to complex carbohydrates like grains, breads, veggies and beans. They take longer to convert to glucose (sugars) and are then stored as glycogen (stored as dietary sugars) in the muscles or liver, to be used when needed during physical activity. 

Time it right
When it comes to fueling up before a run, timing is incredibly important. You will want to eat one of the light pre-run meals mentioned above (or something else that works for you) at least 30 minutes before your run. Within 20 minutes of finishing your run, have a protein-rich snack to repair muscle tissue and carbs to restock your spent energy stores. Doing so kick starts the recovery process so your body can get itself ready for your next run. Generation UCAN has some great options for pre- and post-run nutrition, used and loved by founder Linda Quirk herself!

Can’t stress this enough. Water (and other fluids, but stick with mostly water) is a key component to overall fitness because it regulates body temperature, moves waste from your body, ensures that your joints are lubricated, and helps flush out the damaged cells that lead to inflammation. Staying adequately hydrated can also help control cravings, because it’s pretty easy to mistake thirst for hunger. There’s no set recommendation for daily fluid intake, but a good rule of thumb is to aim to drink about half your bodyweight in ounces each day. Might sound like a lot, but remember that fruits and vegetables also help you stay hydrated, and they’re full of antioxidants that boost muscle recovery as well as immunity.  

Balance it out
Even if you’re not running to lose weight, you still need a proper mix of foods and nutrients to feel energized and to stay injury free. As a general rule, remember that about 55 percent of your daily calories should come from complex carbs, 25 percent from protein, and another 15-20 percent should come from unsaturated fats. No need to obsess though - at each meal divide your plate so that about half has complex carb, a quarter has protein and the other quarter has healthy fats.

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