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Diet Plan for Runners

By May Zhu on Sep 24, 2021

Proper nutrition for runners can help boost performance by ensuring adequate nutrients to optimize energy. Because running is a high-impact aerobic exercise, runners expend a higher amount of energy which requires a diet with an adequate amount of calories and the right mix of both macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Including healthy, nutrient-dense snacks throughout the day can be a helpful way for runners to get enough calories to support maximum performance. Prioritizing snacks in their whole food forms is a helpful way to ensure a well-balanced diet. These options include high-quality meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and whole-grains. Reducing foods with added sugars in the diet overall can help prioritize nutrient-rich options that help provide longer lasting energy. 

Here’s a list of healthy foods for runners based on dietary preferences: 

Paleo Food Options for Runners

  • Vegetables - any vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, any leafy greens, beets 
  • Fruits - berries, apples, pears, cherries 
  • Lean meats and proteins - poultry, beef, seafood, eggs  
  • Snacks made from whole foods such as plantain chips, dried fruits without added sugars, or Chomps meat sticks 
  • Cassava based foods and snacks
  • Nuts and Seeds - almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachios, walnuts  

Whole-30 Approved Food Options for Runners 

Avocado Toast
  • Vegetables - all vegetables  
  • Fruits - all fruits 
  • Lean meats and proteins - poultry, beef, seafood, eggs
  • Snacks made from whole foods such as plantain chips, dried fruits without added sugars, or Chomps meat sticks  
  • Nuts and Seeds - almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachios, walnuts 

Keto Food Options for Runners 

  • Fish - salmon, tuna 
  • Lean Meats - poultry such as turkey or chicken, beef
  • Seafood - crab, shrimp, lobster 
  • Lower-carbohydrate fruits such as avocados and coconuts, berries in small servings  
  • Eggs 
  • Meat sticks such as Chomps Turkey or Beef 
  • Leafy Greens 
  • Lower-carbohydrate vegetables such as mushrooms, artichokes, cabbage, cucumbers, onions, celery, zucchini 
  • Nuts and Seeds - pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds 
  • Coconut, avocado, olive oils 

Weight Watcher’s Food Options for Runners 

  • Vegetables - all 
  • Fruits - all 
  • Dairy - nonfat plain yogurt, low-fat cheese  
  • Beans and Legumes 
  • Whole-grains such as rice, oats, quinoa 
  • Proteins such as fish, poultry, lean beef, seafood 
  • Low calorie snacks such as popcorn, Chomps meat sticks 

Here are a few sample meal ideas for runners as a part of a generally healthy and nutrient-dense diet that prioritizes protein and fiber-rich foods. However, remember that individualized metrics such as age, height, weight, and personal factors will change the total amount of daily energy needed.

Breakfast Options:

  • Sweet potato hash with scrambled eggs and spinach 
  • Oatmeal with almond or peanut butter and fresh or frozen berries, side of scrambled or hard-boiled eggs  

Lunch Options:

Snack Options

Dinner Options

  • Roasted salmon with wild rice and side salad
  • Chickpea pasta with pesto, grilled chicken, green beans 

Focusing on whole, minimally processed foods will provide a variety of nutrients in a runner’s diet. In addition, combining quality protein sources with fiber-rich foods will provide runners with longer lasting energy. For more healthy, high-protein, and portable whole food snack options, visit the Chomps store for a variety of flavors and options that fit your specific needs. 

About the author

May Zhu

May is a Registered Dietitian and nutrition media consultant based in Chicago, IL. She’s also the founder of Nutrition Happens, a nutrition counseling private practice where she helps women discover healthier relationships with food by building sustainable eating habits for life. May earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition from Clemson University and also has a Master’s degree in Business Administration. You can follow May online at Nutrition Happens (http://www.nutritionhappens.com) or on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/nutritionhappens) for weekly seasonal meal ideas and health tips.

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