Run For Your Life: The Runger Games – Tips for Managing Your Runner’s Appetite
When I first started training, I heard comments from people like, “Make sure you don’t get too skinny with all that running!” OR “Great, now you can eat whatever you want!” Well let me tell you, a) I didn’t get too skinny and b) just because you’re training, doesn’t mean you can let your diet and nutrition slack. In fact, quite the opposite.
However, I did experience a new phenomenon. Normally, I could eat at any given time – “Sure, I could eat!” was pretty much my go to phrase. Then, the RUNGER hit and it went from that to, “I’ve GOT TO EAT,” all the live long day!
This threw me for a loop at first, and had me questioning and reevaluating my diet. Dealing with my constant Runger was a trial-and-error thing at the start, and I began to refer to my battle to deal with it as: The Runger Games. After a while, I managed to come out on top by following some basic guidelines. While I certainly have not found the perfect formula yet, these principles can help you manage that RUNGER without sacrificing your weight, health, or goals as tributes.
Never underestimate the power of H2O to fill you up and do your body good. Did you know that thirst is often mistaken for hunger? Make sure that you’re filling up with water not only to manage your appetite but to enjoy the many benefits water has for your health.
QUALITY not QUANTITY
High quality foods include: vegetables, fruits, nuts & seeds, lean meats & fish, whole grains, and dairy. Have these foods on hand, prepared, at all times. If you’re unprepared , you’re setting yourself up to fail. These foods are nutrient-dense, and guess what? Your body actually craves nutrients! If you don’t give it the nutrients it needs, you’ll go after whatever you can get until your body is satisfied. So, save yourself the calories and the trouble, and give it the good stuff.
Make sure your meals are balanced with high quality foods – carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats should be eaten together to maximize benefits and keep runger in check!
You should eat your post-race meal within an hour after running. Be smart, and make this one of your regularly scheduled meals and not an “extra” meal.
KEEP IT IN CHECK
Does this sound familiar? “I just ran x number of miles, I can chow down on whatever I want!” or, “I’m training, I can eat everythinggg!!” If you think you can and should eat any amount of whatever, you’re setting yourself up for trouble! Letting your discipline or concerns about the types and quantities of food you can eat fall to the wayside just because you’re running is counterproductive. Be mindful of your eats and choose your indulgences purposefully. Yes, you need to eat plenty of wholesome foods, but it is not a free for all! Keep it in check!
DON’T BE AN ENERGY JUNKIE
There are so many products out there in terms of gels, bars, blocks, and drinks. While these can be useful, they have their right place and time for fueling – on a long run! Race energy products are not a food group, so just make sure to use them properly.
Ahhh yes, carb loading. Big perk. But don’t get it twisted – it doesn’t mean that you need to add more calories, but that more of the calories you’re meant to consume should come from carbs leading up to a long run or race. Easy to digest options are tortillas, rice, oatmeal, bread, and pancakes (my personal running fave). Keep in mind that it’s easy to load these foods up with toppings that, well, aren’t in your body’s best interest. There are plenty of healthy (and in my opinion, more delicious and satisfying) ways to have a love affair with carbs. PS: Fruits & veggies count as carbs, too. They’re high in fiber, so not best for right before a run, but don’t forget that not all carbs come in sandwich or pasta form!
Running is a lifestyle, and so is the food and nutrition that comes along with it. Our bodies need efficient, nutritious fuel regardless of what type of activity we engage in, but when we are physically active and asking the body to perform a certain athletic job (AKA RUN), it’s important to give it the tools it needs to do that job. Running is not an excuse to eat whatever, but a reason to eat better. We all have our moments, but if your nutrition is solid, your appetite will work itself out naturally.
So, try not to get caught up in The Runger Games – be informed, be prepared, be reasonable…
And may the odds be ever in your favor!
Let’s Chat: How has your diet changed due to running? Do you have any tips for managing Runger? What’s your favorite pre/post run meal?
(Ruthie is a teacher and health and fitness blogger. She is a dedicated runner, enthusiastic healthy-eater, and devoted work out experimenter. Her goal is to educate, inspire, and entertain others along their quest for health and happiness. Follow her on Twitter @SWHealthyBlog and at her blog, She’s Wicked Healthy.)