Top 10 nutrition tips
If you want to be a runner you need to eat properly. Simple as that. You need to eat the right things in the right quantity at the right time. Sounds too much like hard work? It's not, it's fun and the results make it all worthwhile.
Get a plan
You're reading this article so you've made a good start and taken the first step on the road to healthier eating that will help you run more strongly. The encouraging news is that since you are running you will need more fuel so you'll probably eat more but judge it carefully and you can lose weight too. The standard guidelines for men is a daily calorie intake of 2,500 and for women 2,000. However a steady paced run of say 5 or 6 miles could see you use around 500 calories.
Working on that basis if you're an average man and can keep your calorific intake at meals to say breakfast (400), lunch (800) and dinner (800) then even with a couple of apples thrown in, you'll still be able to enjoy 2 or 3 drinks at the weekend and not put on weight. And if you're running two or three times a week you'll need to supplement your diet.
Where to start? That would be with a healthy 'big shop'. Plenty of fruit and veg, some nutritious oily fish like salmon which contains omega 3 (a good source of protein), lots of pasta and rice, wholemeal bread, bagels, lean chicken for grilling. You get the picture - push the trolley quickly past the cake shelves, forget about the Coca-Cola and remember that pizza should really be a treat. No rocket science there just a decision to have a well-stocked fridge that minimises the temptation to nip out for a curry.
Timing is crucial
Conventional wisdom says stock up for the day with a healthy breakfast - cereal or toast with a banana is a good start. Also crucial if it's an early running day when you should eat 1 to 2 hours before heading out. And that's true for a run at any time of day - make sure you're properly fuelled. A rumbling tummy means a crap session.
After-exercise is a key time too . You will recover from a run much faster if you eat some carbohydrate within half an hour of finishing. Good snack choices then are bagel with jam or banana or cereal with semi-skimmed milk.
A little and often
Lots of runners are advocates of grazing - four or five smaller meals over the course of the day. Or a couple of big meals supplemented by sensible snacks. It certainly keeps your blood sugar levels up and prevents tiredness. But make sure you're not snacking on rubbish - avoid high-fat snacks such as crisps and chocolate. Go for high-carb and low-fat - beans on wholemeal toast and fruit and nuts are good choices.
The Waterboys and... girls
Everyone should drink lots of water. And that's doubly true of runners - plenty during the day, stock up before running and replenish afterwards.
Eat for health and strength
Start to identify the foods that will meet your protein and carbohydrate requirements - we mentioned salmon and grilled chicken earlier but you might also consider home made soups, tuna, or vegetarian lasagne. The occasional lean steak or well-trimmed pork chop is good for protein and can help build body strength. Lots of accompanying vegetables and plenty of carbs in the form of pasta, rice and potatoes. Baked potato and beans - ideal! And steaming is a good cooking method especially for fish and vegetables.
A little boost
If you know you're in for a hard run - your long run at the weekend for example - give yourself a boost before by consuming a half bottle of an isotonic drink (like Lucozade) or downing a gel. You can drink the other half on the move or at the end. And during the run? Some people swear by jaffa cakes or jelly babies. My nibble of choice - tablet; it's virtually a performance enhancing drug.
We're all creatures of habit - make your dietary habits good ones. Learn how to make 'Sticky Fruity Flapjacks' and bake a batch once a month. Always take a banana in your training bag or always head for the kitchen after your post-race stretch and put on the grill for toast. Always stock up on potatoes for baking at the supermarket, make that loaf a wholemeal one and never forget the bagels!
Treats are OK
Runners are human - so it's ok to occasionally fall off the wagon and enjoy a 'forbidden' treat. For me a special treat is a big Galaxy Bar with proper coffee after a sizeable (but healthy) Saturday brunch that follows my long run. Heaven! My pal Stevie is a curry addict but restricts his favourite Lamb Rogan Josh to a once-a-fortnight blow-out. Says it tastes all the better for the anticipation.
Another drinks alert and supporting what we said earlier. Regular use of energy drinks is good - they have a high carbohydrate and electrolyte content which will replace the energy you burn and salts you sweat out.
Enjoy the view
The majority of people if running two or three times per week and sticking to 2,000/2,500 calories per day intake will shed a few pounds. And they'll certainly be more honed and toned. After a few months of running and sensible eating take a look in the mirror. That's the best medal you'll get!