Start Running Now: Our Get-Going Guide [Part 2]

Hi there, fellow runner. Today we will discuss nutrition matters for beginners and the most performance-defeating nutrition mistakes (and how to fix them). In case that you’re looking for a pill to lose weight fast or magically enhance your mile time without the extra effort and work, it’s probably time to sober up. There’s no quick fix. You have to work hard, train smart, and EAT RIGHT in order to get the results you are seeking. Here’s a get-going guide on how to start running with a proper nutrition.

Peanut butter on a slice of bread

Avoid the extra carbs

Pasta, bread, pancakes, bagels, potatoes – sometimes you just can’t get enough, I know that. However, you should be well aware of the fact that running four miles at an easy pace will burn just 300 to 400 calories, an amount quite modest that doesn’t require lumberjack portions of carbohydrates before or after. I’m an advocate of eating healthy foods in small snacks throughout the day. And yes, you can have a snack one or two hours before the run.

If you’re looking to get lean or just to maintain your weight, know that skipping meals is not the key to success.

Your body does not demand special foods after workouts – just a snack with little protein and a few carbs.

Carbohydrates (plenty of bread)

Drink water only when you are thirsty

Runners sweat much. Thus, they need to drink plenty of water, electrolytes (ionised salts in cells, tissue and blood) and sugar when they run for more than 1 hour and a half, especially in hot weather. However, winter is coming (haha) and you have to assess your needs. You’re not a seasoned runner. You will not need sports drinks or an advanced hydration strategy if you’re going for a 5k. Sip some water right before your run and a little more after. That should do it. Skip the additional calories in sweetened drinks.

Beginners do not need sports drink, mainly because they are not running far enough.

Water bottles on a table

Eat real food

Runners tend to be driven and results-orientated people. Even beginners are the same. When confronted with miracle cures, short-cuts and amazing benefits from supplement manufacturers, they are easily swayed. Although some whey protein can be great for ultramarathoners, eating simple and unprocessed natural foods is the key to great end results.

As a sixth-year medical student, I have read plenty of studies on this matter and I have to say that every time one of those supplement or vitamin studies produces negatives results, I’m actually reassured that focusing on quality foods is the best possible advice.

I have always considered that the healthy foods out there are the real foods – the quality fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean proteins, and whole grains packed with everything a runners needs. 

Vegetables in kitchen

How to lose weight

Bad news – you won’t automatically drop 6 pounds just because you run. Nutrition is also very important. Reducing your daily food intake is key to losing weight. You burn roughly 100 calories for each mile. Cut out some chocolate or a biscuit to add another 200 calories to your weight-loss journey. It’s simple mathematics. If you reduce calorie consumption by just 100 calories per day, you will theoretically drop 4.5kg in one year.

Cut calories by avoiding fried foods and by eating smaller portions.

Dark chocolate as a snack between runs

The most performance-defeating nutrition mistakes

  • You give up when it gets tough

The Fix: Train at threshold. It’s a fast pace that you can maintain for about 1 hour, or 10K race pace for beginners. Threshold running boosts the metabolism and gets you fit fast. Always increase the pace as you progress.

Your running mechanics needs to be efficient.  Remember that brand-new runners get results quickly, once the body adapts to running consistently, progress often slows, and they need to elevate their training stimulus to keep getting results.

  • You aim to be fast and skinny simultaneously

The Fix: Focus on getting enough fuel to meet the elevated performance demands, not on counting calories. Start your training with weight-loss efforts, but after the base-building phase ends shift to getting enough fuel.

Remember that you can’t do both simultaneously. If you feel weak between workouts and perform poorly in yoru runs, you might not be eating enough.

  • You think you can eat whatever you want just because you are a runner

The Fix: Most people eat extra calories for the additional calories they burn through running (or any kind of exercise). Manage your nutrition with high-quality foods, become aware of satiety signals and pay attention to timing.

Yes, you can treat yourself sometimes. But don’t forget that your post-run reward is part of your total daily calorie intake.

  • You drink too much coffee

The Fix: Caffeine can increase performance, but it can also aid in glycogen restoration. What does that mean? Caffeine is involved in the process of restoring energy supplies to the muscles.

Beginners should know that we all metabolize caffeine differently. Drinking coffee regularly can make those effects less potent on race day. Try to experiment with the caffeine intake while you are training – particularly in hard workouts. You need to find out what is the exact amount that your intestinal system can handle at one time.

Bottom line: Find what is the amount of caffeine you can tolerate before hard workouts, and then hold off until race day.

Runners on a cloudy day

Finally

Proper nutrition should be part of your running schedule, not something you start to do only in the weeks prior to a race.

Running as a form of exercise has very particular nutritional requirements. Performance, endurance and recovery require patience and proper planning. You will need to focus on not only what you eat but when you eat. Plan your nutrition wisely and don’t forget to consume all nutrients, including complex carbs, proteins, AND fats. Balance you meals, drink plenty of water and get your vitamins and minerals.

GEAR

Stay tuned for Part Three of our get-going guide on how to start running! November 23rd is the date.

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