Running to Eat or Eating to Run?

Truth: I love to eat.

Bigger Truth: This has prevented me from becoming a better runner.

I love nut butter - peanut butter specifically, but I don't discriminate. I love it with a passion so deep that I will put it on anything and everything. I'm obsessed with ice cream - gelato, frozen yogurt, Ben & Jerry's. I really dig this Australian licorice. Sugar is my vice (hence the name of my blog). Everyone has weaknesses that need to be accepted and I am a promoter of enjoying those weaknesses and vices because life is short.  

This is what my cabinet currently looks like - can you say, "Obsessed?"

This is what my cabinet currently looks like - can you say, "Obsessed?"

Because of these weaknesses and that mentality that "life is short," I've really struggled with the concept of eating to run and fueling my body to make myself a better runner, up until recently. The concept of running and racing so you can consume more food is embedded in your mind before your first race ever takes place. There's the beer garden after the race, the hugely unnecessary carbo load dinners to get you "prepped" for race day, and the binge afterwards that is your reward for running any distance - 10K, 13.1, 26.2 etc.

When I signed up for the Big Sur Marathon, I knew that I would have to change my eating habits. Nothing major, because I've always been on the healthier side, eating veggies and fruit at every meal. It was more of the realization that I had to look at food as my fuel rather than as my reward. Running a marathon is no joke (neither is 13.1, but I've accomplished that distance, so 26.2 is scary as all hell right now). Fueling my body appropriately for every run during my training and every race up until the marathon is going to help me in the long run (pun intended). Yes, I can still indulge every once in a while (or every night if I'm just smart about my vices), but I have to keep myself on track and change my mindset to the "eat to run" way of life.

Here are a few things I've tried to live by so I can eat to run:

  • Eat Whole: Seriously, just eat real food. Avoid the processed junk, check your ingredient lists and make fresh food a way of life. This may mean more than one trip to the grocery store every week, but nobody said being healthy was easy.
  • Meal Prep: Put those whole foods to work. When you spend the money and extra hour a week or twice a week to prep all of those sliced veggies for sandwiches, yogurt bowls topped with fruit, snack bags filled with edamame, you have a tendency to eat it.
  • Fruits & Veggies Are My Jam: These should be the star of the show. I go by the rule that I can eat as many of these as I want. For dessert, I eat bananas, blueberries and strawberries with a scoop of Nutella (vice) or banana and peanut butter (vice) on a rice cake. This prevents feelings of deprivation for sure.
  • Incorporate Protein: I try to consume at least 20 grams of protein at every meal for my weight and activity level. Protein takes longer to digest so it keeps you full for longer, and it also helps with muscle recovery after long runs or weight lifting. Protein comes in many forms so be creative - greek yogurt, protein powder, beans, meat, Go Macro bars.
  • Drink Water: My drink of choice at every meal (except happy hour! and my coffee). Hydration is the key to running long distances. To switch it up and add vitamins, I use Nuun tablets. I also like lemon and fruit in my water.
  • Carbs: Make them complex so you avoid junk carbs. Stop thinking they are the end all, be all of running fuel. Try spaghetti squash as a substitute for pasta, use a wrap instead of bread for your sandwich and stuff it full of veggies to make up for it. 
  • Eat Constantly: I try to never go hungry. I have breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, workout, dinner, dessert. This prevents the tendency to overeat when I'm starved and keeps my energy levels up. 

Eating to run is really about caring for your body. This amazing thing is going to literally carry you 13.1 or 26.2 or longer. I figure if I'm nice enough to it, it may just get me that sub-4 marathon finish my first time trying. We'll see!

How do you eat to run?