Eating and Running
Does eating affect your running? Our #TrainingTuesday runners weigh in.
What are your typical eating habits?
Amy: About 4 months ago I moved out on my own for the first time and my eating habits drastically changed. I used to eat mostly healthy food during the week and occasionally eat out on the weekends. After moving, being exhausted from working and commuting all day, I swapped out my grilled chicken salad for a few dollar tacos on the way home. While I am trying to cut down on the fast food, I currently eat out a few times a week, mainly for the convenience and price. Unfortunately I’ve found it’s cheaper to eat fried chicken at a drive thru than to grill your own and roast some vegetables.
Kate: Having lived with my parents for the past year, my diet is a mix of “trying to be healthy” and “whatever they’re having.” We do love to cook, and my dad and I share a love for grilled asparagus. But when lives are busy, it sometimes feels like it makes more sense to order takeout. I mix in a lot of healthy options, like smoothies for breakfast, or tuna salad made with Greek yogurt on whole wheat bread, or veggie sticks as a snack. At the same time, I eat out at least once a week with a lot of drive-through for early breakfasts or late dinners.
Do certain foods make running easier or harder for you?
A: Yes! Ever since I started eating more fast food, I feel slower and more sluggish. The more I train and the more I run, the more I want to eat healthier. Eating healthier gives me more energy, makes me feel less bloated, and motivates me to work harder. Plus I don’t cramp up and feel sick on my runs.
K: Absolutely. Like Amy, I always notice that crappy food makes me feel crappy, and healthy food makes me feel good—and those things carry over into my exercise. Caffeine gives me tons of problems. If I drink a big coffee at any point before running, I end up overexerting myself and feeling sick. But “healthy” foods don’t automatically make me feel better, either: I’ve learned that I need to balance carbs and protein to feel good. Broccoli and hummus is a great snack, but if I don’t pair it with a piece of pita I end up feeling tired and cranky.
Are you looking to change your eating habits?
A: I think training for a run and exercising more in general, has naturally made me change my habits. I used to justify eating fast food with “well I’m going to the gym later so it’s ok.” But going to the gym after eating three tacos for lunch, is as terrible of an idea as it sounds. Learning how my body reacts to working out after eating certain foods has been a challenging process, but it has helped me cut out foods I shouldn’t be eating. I’m looking to severely limit my fast food intake and start grilling more lean protein and vegetables. I’ve found planning meals around my busy schedule helps to make better decisions. But let’s be realistic, a life without tacos is not the life I want to live. I still look forward to cheat days!
K: Sometimes I look at what I eat and I get really discouraged with myself, even though I’m doing my best to take care of my body. Food and eating are such value-laden topics in our society, and everyone has an opinion about what’s “good” and “bad.” When it comes to eating, my main goal is to eat without judgment. I’ve found that when I stop judging myself for eating “unhealthy” things, I feel more confident and pick more nutritious choices. My life is busy and complex, and health is only one factor that goes into my eating habits!
So am I looking to change? It’s complicated. Part of me wants to be the healthiest eater out there, who shows tons of discipline and eats one piece of chocolate a week and savors it. But part of me knows that that’s not who I am. I’m the kind of person who has fruit and yogurt for breakfast, and goes home after work to put her feet up and eat a sleeve of cookies. My goal is to find healthy ways of being myself.
A: Because I’m on a corporate team, I’ve switched to run the 5K instead of the 10K race. And to be honest, once I made the switch, I took a little break from my training, justifying it with, “oh it’s a shorter distance, I can take today off and it’ll be ok.” If you couldn’t tell, I’m excellent at making excuses to skip working out. However, I’m back on track and have decided to continue training as if I were running a 10K. My overall goal is to get back in shape and be able to run longer distances, so I’m looking forward to the challenge.
K: Running is hard work. I’ll have a great day where I feel like I’m on the top of the world, and the next day every step feels like a major hurdle. I’m paying close attention to my aches and pains to sort out what’s normal soreness versus what might need more care. Sometimes I feel like it’s absolutely impossible, and that I won’t make it to a 5K. But all I can do is keep getting back out there, and even on the hardest of days I feel really good about what I’m able to accomplish.