As runners we need to take more responsibility for what we eat. We not only need to control how often we eat, but what actually goes in the food we eat. If you don’t already consistently cook your own meals, you need to make a commitment to do so. Unhealthy meals are one of those things can sabotage a good training run or a race (along with rest and recovery). In the way it degrades our running effort, food can also enhance our training efforts and lead to peak race performance.
So, how can we as runners improve our diets when we cook for ourselves? First thing would be to evaluate or cooking skills and the kind of foods we eat. There are tons of simple recipes that take little prep time and minutes to cook. For novice cooks, start simple before moving on to ambitious recipes. Cooking, like running, can be overwhelming when we bite off more than we can chew. In the same we gradually build up miles and incorporate interval training, we need to start with stir fry and omelettes before trying stews and breads. Like running, cooking becomes part of our lifestyle when we enjoy and find time to do it.
After, we need to think about what we like to eat and then research recipes for them. What is it about the food that we love? Think about the ingredients and how they taste. More likely than not, I bet we already have (or can easily purchase) the ingredients needed to replicate the recipe in our own homes.
Next, evaluate the recipe’s ingredients. Look for how you can make the meal more healthy by substitution or subtraction. Banana bread, for example, is a great breakfast or snack item, but recipes mostly call for white flour, butter, and vegetable oil. Instead, use whole wheat flour, sour cream or plain yogurt, and canola or another healthy oil substitute (olive oil). Below are some substitution examples from Jennifer Broxterman, a Registered Dietician and Sports Nutritionist.
Don’t let your running go the way of your diet. Eat right and train right. (With that in mind, we should also allow ourselves to savor and enjoy food. It’s OK to not be fanatical about what we eat. Just practice moderation).