If you’re an avid runner – whether it be a distance runner that is training for a half-marathon or marathon, or just someone who likes to get around the neighborhood regularly – you’ve probably sought out advice on what to eat to support your exercise habit. You’ve probably heard all sorts of opinions, many of which might be contradictory.
Some will tell you to eat a banana and a bagel before setting off on your run. Others may tell you to go on an empty stomach so you burn some more fat for energy. Some may preach drinking lots of water, while others will tell you to go with sports drinks instead.
So who do you believe when it comes to the best diet to support your running habit?
What Diet is Best for Runners?
You might think that there is a scientific answer to this question that undoubtedly provides the best solution, but the fact of the matter is that there is no one runner diet, according to this article in the New York Times. All of us are built differently, and our bodies respond to the food and drink we consume in a different way, that the true answer to what is the best diet for a runner is entirely dependent on what works best for you.
However, I say this with the caveat that eating anything you want means you can get by without eating anything at all. It is extremely important to have something in your belly for sustenance and to provide energy, especially if you are going on a long run. What that food entails is entirely up to you.
It’s all about trial and error and finding out what works best for you and then setting guidelines going forward. Some people may like the energy provided by whole food carbohydrates like fruit or a whole grain pasta. Others may wanter quicker, yet more sugary, carbohydrates that come in the form of candy bars or other snacks. Again, what works best for you is not the universal answer for everybody else.
If you are a competitive runner and have a race coming up, it is best to prepare ahead of time and figure out what is the optimal eating plan for your body. You don’t want to be experimenting in the days leading up to race day. Trying something new could lead to cramping, lack of energy, and sluggishness during your race (also, if you feel these symptoms, it may also be a sign of an iron deficiency). Instead, during your training period, keep a food diary of what you ate and keep a log of your runs. Alongside each day, write down how you felt during and after your run. Observe what kinds of food consumption lead to your best performance and overall wellbeing.
With enough trial and error and tweaking your diet, you will find the perfect plan that keeps your hunger satisfied, keeps you feeling the best throughout your run, and leads to peak performance. If you have any unique foods you like to eat before a run, be sure to share it in the comments below!