Tips on How to Eat Healthy for New Runners

Keep It Simple

Eating well is actually easier than you think—don’t overcomplicate it. For easy runs that last less than 60 minutes, you likely don’t need to eat anything beforehand, but you should focus on recovery meals with carbs and protein to replenish, like oatmeal with a dollop of Greek yogurt, or two eggs and toast.

For harder, longer, or more intense runs, the perfect preworkout meal is one you already know. Familiar foods that are easy on your system (think: toast, a half a bagel, an energy bar), low in fat and fiber, and high in carbs will boost your energy without upsetting your stomach.

Reaching for snacks that are fresh rather than packaged, such as an apple and nut butter or carrots and hummus instead of a bag of chips will help keep you feeling full longer and power your miles.

Focus on Fresh

Make a clean eating food list before you head to the grocery store so you don’t get distracted with unhealthy items.

Limit the high-sugar, high-fat foods you toss in your cart. Instead, stock your fridge with fruits, veggies, and whole grains, so they’ll be there when mealtime rolls around. Those foods will keep you feeling good when you’re working out, plus they’ll keep your heart healthy, your cholesterol low, and your blood sugar stable.

Try to avoid packaged foods as much as possible, opting for fresh instead. If you do have to purchase packaged foods, consider how much it was processed before buying. Noshing on fresh produce is some of the healthiest food to eat.

Drink Up

Hydration is important, and not just when you’re exercising. Fluids regulate body temperature, move waste from your body, ensure that your joints are adequately lubricated, and help flush out the damaged cells that can lead to inflammation.

Balance It Out

Even if you’re not exercising with a goal of losing weight, you still need the right mix of foods and nutrients to feel energized on your runs and to stay injury-free. About 55 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates (including fruits, veggies, and whole grains), 25 percent should come from protein, and another 15 to 20 percent should come from unsaturated fats.

But there’s no need to obsess. At each meal, just simply devote half of your plate to healthy carbs and veggies, one-quarter of your plate to protein, and another quarter to healthy fats.

Time It Right

When it comes to fueling your workout, timing is everything. As mentioned above, before hard workouts, you’ll want to have something that will give you a boost of energy without leaving you with an upset stomach on the road. So focus on carbs, and foods that are low in fiber and low in fat.

In general, the bigger the meal, the more time you’ll need to digest. Each person is different, but you’ll want to eat at least 30 minutes before you head out so you don’t have GI distress when you’re on the road. Within 20 minutes of finishing your workout, have a protein-rich snack to repair muscle tissue, and carbohydrates to restock your spent energy stores. This will kick start the recovery process so that you can bounce back quickly for your next workout.

What you eat before you hit the road or the gym all depends on when you’re exercising and what kind of workout you’re planning. Many people don’t have the time—or the stomach—to eat and digest food before a workout, especially if that workout is taking place in the early morning.

For an easy workout of one hour or less, going without food or drink probably won’t do you any harm. (Just make sure you’re staying hydrated.) But for any event that’s longer or more intense, preworkout fuel is critical. Go out on empty and you’ll fatigue sooner, plus you’ll have a much tougher time meeting your goals.