The Whole Foods Diet
Eating seems so simple and easy.
Open up the cereal box, pour. Add milk. That’s breakfast.
Or grill the steak, steam the broccoli and bake a potato. That’s dinner.
But when you’re running, you need to pay particular attention to your eating.
Eating is fuel for the body, and you need to give your body high grade fuel in order to get high grade results.
“It is pretty basic,” agreed registered dietitian Emily Wargo, MS, RD, LDN and Clinical Dietitian with St. Luke’s University Health Network. “You don’t need to follow the fad diets, and it seems like there are a million of them. What you want to do is the whole foods diet.”
Whole food is pretty much what it means, eating foods that aren’t pre-packaged conglomerates of cool-sounding names with lists of ingredients that even a PhD would have trouble pronouncing.
- Carbs – “Make sure you eat your plants – your fruits and your veggies – and make sure you’re getting whole grains with lots of good fiber,” Wargo said.
- Low-fat dairy products including low fat yogurt.
- Lean protein – Chicken, turkey and fish.
- Limit red meat – For a healthy diet, Wargo says, the recommendations are for red meat just once or twice a week.
In addition, she stresses that women of child-bearing age should pay attention to make sure they get enough iron in their diet.
“If you’re eating a whole foods diet, you’ll be getting all your nutrients you need from that,” Wargo said. “You don’t necessarily need to go into supplements like creatine or amino acids.”
With a running or exercise program, there are certain considerations to take in calorie-wise based on what your body needs to function properly, but the carbohydrate intake from fruits and vegetables is really the only food source that needs to increase in consumption.
Scientists base dietary needs on kilograms of bodyweight. To find your bodyweight in kilograms, divide the number of pounds you weigh by 2.2. A 165-pound person weights 75 kilograms.
Dietitians recommend carbohydrate consumption at:
- 3-5 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for people who exercise 30 minutes a day.
- 5-7 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for people who exercise an hour a day.
- 6-10 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for people who exercise 1-3 hours a day.
- 8-12 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for more extreme, elite athletes.
Other than that, active people should eat about 1.2-2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day, with the rest of your caloric intake – about 25 percent of your calories – coming from healthy fats.
Timing of meals is critical, Wargo said.
“You definitely don’t want to exercise on an empty stomach. You want to make sure you have fuel in the tank when you exercise.”
She suggests people who like to run in the morning eat or drink about 100-200 calories worth of carbohydrate with a little lean protein mixed in before they begin running.
For people who run in the middle of the day or at the end of the day, they should time their last meal about 3-4 hours prior to the run, making sure that meal includes high quality carbohydrates, low fiber and lean protein because fiber and fat are hard to digest and could cause stomach issues during the run.
A post-workout meal should be the same a morning pre-workout meal at least 30 minutes after finishing up.
Her go-to snacks for pre- and post-run include:
- Energy bars like RXBARS. “They can be a little expensive, but the ingredient list is minimal and they’re gluten free.
- Low fat Greek yogurt with no added sugars or preservatives.
- Dry cereal like multi-grain Cheerio’s and Cinnamon Chex.
- Whole wheat bagels with natural peanut butter.
Hydration is equally important to successful running. Wargo said you should drink water throughout the day, and consume at least 16 ounces 2-3 hours before a race or run, and hydrate during the run as well. If it’s a long run of more than 90-minutes, electrolyte replacement sports drinks and energy gels and goos become necessary to replace lost nutrients while re-energizing.
Some people find caffeine beneficial, she said.
Wargo recommends not making any hydration or food changes immediately before a race. Try them on some long runs first to see if they work for you otherwise you could have stomach issues or other problems trying something new on race day.