14 Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Your Diet
It’s almost the new year, so you’ll start seeing a lot of commercials for dieting and ways to improve your health. Although eating more “greens” is a step in the right direction, there’s a lot of things you can do to help improve your diet. Whether you want to enhance your nutritional practices for health reasons, weight loss purposes or as a personal goal, there are many ways to sensibly accomplish your goal. Following are a few of my favorite.
If you’re training for a race, you’re going to have to fuel properly. Each of the following recommendations will help.
1. Avoid Drinking Your Calories Take time to evaluate the number of calories you are drinking in a single sitting. Some drinks contain as many as 150 calories in a single serving. Multiply that by three, and it’s easy to consume one-third of your calories for the day by way of beverage.
2. Increase Your Fruit Intake Fruit is an excellent way to boost your fiber intake, protect your immunity, and get a pretty steady dose of antioxidants.
3. Increase Your Vegetable Intake Get your veggies every day. Vegetables are a wonderful source of calcium, fiber, and antioxidants and can protect you from multiple diseases and illness.
4. Bake It or Grill It. Don’t Fry It Stay away from those fried foods as much as possible. They may be tasty but are not suitable for your diet or body. Baked or grilled foods tend to carry less fat which is good for the heart.
5. Make a Grocery List Make a grocery list before you visit the grocery store. Drafting a grocery list will save you from buying unnecessary foods or beverages.
6. Skip Deprivation of Foods A healthy diet should not equate to deprivation. Allow yourself to indulge in the foods or meals you like from time to time. This action will enable you to avoid binge eating or experiences feelings of guilt.
7. Limit Processed Foods This is tough, but is one of the best ways to improve your diet. So many processed foods such as cookies, chips, cereals, anything in a wrapper, sodas and especially candy can adversely affect your long term health. Processed foods contain a large amount of sugar, chemicals, high-fructose corn syrup and most important, they hold a large number of “empty” calories, salt and fat. The bottomline is that the combination of ingredients in processed foods, if consumed regularly, have been proven to increase the odds that you’ll suffer from heart disease, diabetes, obesity and stroke.
8. Increase Your Fiber Intake Your digestive tract loves fiber. Fiber supports the efficient movement of material through your system. Fiber also helps your stomach to feel full after meals and has proven to be useful in promoting weight loss.
9. Eating Enough Calcium Calcium is necessary for bone health, heart health and muscle function. Make sure you eat a diet that contains low-fat dairy and green leafy vegetables.
10. Drink Plenty of Water Water assists with digestion and can support weight loss efforts. Obviously water has no calories and consuming it regularly ensures proper hydration. As a runner, I like to think of water as the highway for the calories/energy to get to your muscles. Without getting too complex about the role water plays for runners, just remember that it’s absolutely essential to drink plenty of water before & after your workouts. If you’re running for 1+ hour or it’s really hot and/or outside, then it’s not essential to drink during your run (although I leave it up to people to gauge their own thirst)
11. Go Vegan for One Day There’s countless studies about the value of a vegan diet. I think the key to this diet is ensuring you consume sufficient protein. In fact, the best rule with any diet is keep your diet balanced. Go vegan for a day! This decision will not only help to boost your veggie intake, but it will add variety to your diet.
12. Enjoy Your Morning Coffee I’m totally on-board with this one. I love coffee. Numerous studies contradict each other regarding whether or not coffee is good for you. Other research shows that coffee provides stimulation for the mind, promotes heart health and boosts your metabolism.
13. Track Your Meals I think this habit of tracking your meals, can help you to subconsciously get your arms around the foods you are eating and promote a healthier approach.
14. Eat Fish! Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids which are a complete plus for the brain and your body. Cold water fish are a great source of healthy fats. Salmon is my favorite, but Tuna Steaks a good alternative. Omega-3s help to reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Medical advice should always be obtained from a qualified medical professional for any health conditions or symptoms associated with them. Every possible effort has been made in preparing and researching this material. We make no warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability of its contents or any omissions.
To reap the benefits of your long distance training, you need to consume healthy foods so you can properly fuel your body, build muscle & recover from hard & long workouts. As you get progress through your training for your race, you will find that what you eat impacts how feel both during and after your workouts and ultimately how long it takes you to complete your race.
Also, to get prepared for your race, you must stay healthy while you train. This means you need to build a strong immune system. It’s easy to get tired and even run down during your training if you don’t properly recover. In this post I will speak to the importance of diet during your training. I will also provide some sample meals. Although, exercise helps build the number of germ fighting cells in your body, eating the right foods also helps. Healthy runners have a diet that includes a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein, lean fats, vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron and vitamins C & E for a strong immune system.
Timing of your food consumption is critical
It’s important to eat nutrient-dense calories & drink plenty of water prior to your main workout of the day. Also, to limit post exercise muscle damage and speed the recovery process you need to consume both protein & carbohydrates soon after your runs. This is especially important in the 30 – 45 minutes following a hard run and then a few hours later to have a bigger meal. This helps to ensure optimal recovery.
Just like each person’s training is different because of their goals, mileage and athletic abilities, the same is for nutrition. Each runner’s body can responds differently to foods. It’s important that you try different healthy foods and time consumption so you can optimize your performance and avoid any GI issues.
Here’s some proven strategies that I follow & share with runners I coach.
Avoid empty calories and focus on eating foods that give me the most nutrients per calorie. These include good sources of whole grains and starches (like brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and pasta), lean proteins (lean meat, fish, Greek yogurt, eggs and beans), healthy fats (salmon, avocados, nuts, and olive oil), and of course, colorful fruits and veggies which provide antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. For pre- and post-workout snacks, I recommend fruits, fresh cut vegetables, healthy (meaning not a ton of sugar and full of natural ingredients) granola or energy bars, fruit, nuts, and Greek yogurt. My focus is to time the healthiest eating around my runs so I’m fueling when I need it and not just grazing or snacking at odd hours with “bad food.”
Here’s some examples of healthy meals:
Recovery Breakfast Whole wheat toast with peanut or almond butter 4-6 ozs.of low fat Greek Yogurt + Banana 8-10 ozs of Orange juice + 12 ozs of Water *I like to make myself a breakfast sandwich that includes a toasted whole grain English muffin, cheddar cheese, scrambled or easy over egg and turkey bacon or sausage. Include some hot sauce for a little “kick.”
Recovery Lunch Turkey or chicken sandwich with spinach, tomato and mustard on whole grain bread Orange, Apple or cup of mixed fruit (not sweetened fruit salad from a can) 4-6 ozs of mixed raw vegetables (carrot sticks, broccoli, sliced red/yellow peppers, pea pods, etc) 8-10 ozs of unsweetened plain soy milk or almond milk 12 ozs of Water
Avoid processed foods. A good place to start is to cut back on food that comes from a plastic wrapper. If you must purchase packaged food, then choose those with the fewest and most familiar ingredients.
Recovery Dinner Whole grain pasta with tomato sauce & meatballs (turkey or meatless) or grilled chicken Or Baked Salmon + baked sweet or russet potato with nonfat Greek Yogurt & Brummel & Brown Yogurt butter. Garden salad with spinach, kale, yellow/red/orange peppers, sliced carrots, sliced avocado, cranberries and/or blueberries, sunflower seeds and oil/vinegar dressing Steamed broccoli or mixed vegetables + Whole wheat dinner role 12 ozs of Water
The bottomline for your diet is that just like with your training, there are no shortcuts or 3-4 foods you can consume that will make-up for not eating a well balanced diet. You don’t have to be too strict, just be aware of what & when you eat and listen to how your body reacts.
On the day of the race, never eat anything that you haven’t previously tested during your training.
Following are my workouts for the week of June 11th.
Monday June 11th – short run @ easy pace
The purpose of this run was to recover from the previous days’ long run. It’s very important to go easy throughout this run, especially considering the next days’ workout is going to be tough.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 6.7 miles, 53:28 minutes, ave pace 7:56
Tuesday June 12th – Strength run 10 x 800s
This was a tough workout. I couldn’t run on the High School track, so I just ran on neighborhood surface streets near the track (not optimal). I was tired the last 3-4, but I pushed through. My times weren’t near target (3:05-3:16), but the stimulus of the workout achieved it’s goal.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 9.9 miles, 1:21:53 minutes, ave pace 8:14
Wednesday June 13th – short run @ easy pace + strides
5 mile easy run + strides. The purpose of this run was to recover from the previous days’ very demanding run.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 5 miles, 43:09 minutes, ave pace 8:33
Thursday June 14th – Off Day
Rest & Recovery Day
Friday June 15th – Long Tempo Run
The purpose of today’s workout was to build strength. I increased the distance by a mile from my last tempo. Paces are the same, as shown in the image below. After a 1 mile warm-up, I complete 9 miles at marathon pace. As you can see, I was right on pace for the duration of the tempo. The extra day of rest (completing this workout on Friday instead of Thursday as my scheduled called out) really helped. I’m happy with this run, especially after struggling through the Yasso 800s on Tuesday.
Run Distance, Time, & Average Pace: 11.6 miles, 1:22:12 minutes, ave pace 7:04
Saturday June 16th – short run @ easy pace + 15 minutes of conditioning exercises at gym
The purpose of this run was to recover from the previous days’ intense workout. The conditioning exercises weren’t too intense, but they help to build strength & improve flexibility.
Run Distance, Time, & Average Pace: 5.4 miles, 43:34 minutes, ave pace 7:58
Sunday June 17th– Medium Run @ easy pace
A slightly longer run than typical easy days, but at an easy pace. As we get closer to the race, I am shortening some of my runs.
Run Distance, Time, Pace: 8.5 miles, 1:07:13 minutes, ave pace 7:50