7 Running Nutrition Myths Debunked (GUEST POST)
NOTE FROM COACH CARL:
I get a lot of emails with nutrition questions and a lot of requests to provide nutrition advice. There’s just one problem — I have no training in nutrition! I can help when it comes to fueling for your long run, but when it comes to the big picture, I like to turn to a professional.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Morgan Bettini, MS, RDN, E-RYT for several years now — both referring clients to her and using her services myself. What I like about her approach is she takes a “real-world” approach. It’s not about making you fit into a specific box, it’s about coming up with a plan that works for you, your life, and your nutrition preferences / goals.
I asked her to help dispel some of the classic misunderstandings that she hears from runners over and over again. I think she did a great job covering a broad range of running-related topics while still going into good details on the topics.
If you need specific nutrition advice, I would definitely encourage you to reach out to Morgan. She offers a great “15 min consult” service that is perfect to get your specific questions answered.
Without further ado …
Myth #1: I need to carb load like crazy the night before a race.
When we talk about carb loading, it’s really more of a slow and steady progression a few days out from a long race (carb loading is not necessary for those shorter 5ks and 10ks), not a big dose the night before.
The amount of additional carbohydrates consumed and the total volume needed is relatively minimal in comparison to what many people believe. For example, carb loading for a few days may look like an additional serving or two of fruit, an additional snack, or an extra serving of a starchy vegetable at dinner.
Carb loading is not eating mounds and mounds of pizza and pasta all at once the night before a race. Doing that will negatively impact your performance. This is especially true if you’ve never consumed that amount of food before a race.
Myth #2: Eating late is not healthy.
This really depends on your training schedule and tolerance to eating early in the morning before your run. If you’re planning a long run or an intense workout at 6am without having breakfast beforehand and your dinner was at 6 p.m, you do not have enough glycogen stores to properly fuel your body. In this case, an evening snack after dinner would be a good idea.
Depending on your needs, something like a small bowl of cereal, or a piece of fruit and nut butter can help give you the energy you need for an optimal workout the next morning.
Myth #3: I just ate, I can’t possibly be hungry.
I work with a lot of runners who don’t realize they’re not eating enough for their training program. Most of the time this is because they’re also trying to shed weight or body fat.
Here’s the thing…hunger is a biological physical sign. If you feel thirsty, you don’t think “I just had water, how can I be thirsty?” No. You drink a glass of water.
If you’re feeling hungry (grumbles or emptiness in the belly, trouble concentrating/thinking, headache, irritable or easily agitated), then eat something. If you continue to under fuel your training, your body will go into protection mode and actually hold on to excess pounds versus shedding them.
Myth #4: Water is all I need to hydrate.
Not necessarily. Depending on the distance you’re running, how much you sweat, and the temperature at which you are moving your body, you may need more than water. If you are a heavy sweater, running in elevated temperatures, or running in the cold with multiple layers, consuming electrolytes from food is not enough for runs one hour or more.
Electrolyte tabs have been around for a while now and can be a great option pre-run, post-run, or throughout the day depending on your hydration needs. I recommend trying the “running sweat test” to get a better idea of how much you sweat and how much fluid you need to hydrate (and rehydrate). You can details on the running sweat test at www.runningsweattest.com.
Myth #5: Fiber is not my running friend.
Fiber is absolutely a runner’s friend.
High fiber foods like oats, beans, and apples can help provide sustained energy. Since fiber takes longer to digest, the carbohydrates in these foods slowly enter the bloodstream, providing a steady and sustained source of fuel.
If you’re not used to eating a higher fiber diet (more than 25 grams of fiber per day), increasing the amount of fiber you’re consuming takes time (weeks or months for some people), patience, and adequate water.
Resistant starches like oats, greener bananas, and cooled potatoes are a great place to start to increase overall fiber and introduce prebiotic fiber to help support your gut and to help you feel your best.
Myth #6: I can eat whatever I want since I’m running!
If you’re eating particular foods to “burn” them off later, that’s not a sustainable way to eat (or run). It’s ok to honor your cravings. It’s also ok to want to nourish your body in the best way possible. Running nutrition is not black or white. It’s not an all or nothing. It involves a lot of gray.
When it comes to eating, one of the questions I have clients ask themselves is: “Would I still want to eat this if there was absolutely zero possibility it would change my body or change my running?”
If the answer is yes, enjoy and savor XYZ. If the answer is no, it gives you some food for thought to get curious and unpack what beliefs you have about particular foods.
And on the opposite side of the spectrum…
Myth #7: This ____ diet is fantastic for running!
There is no “one size fits all.” Diets or nutrition plans that are trying to be “one size fits all” are inherently flawed from the beginning (and should be an invitation to run in the opposite direction).
Nutrition and especially running nutrition is a journey of learning and discovering what works best for your body. That doesn’t mean it will work best for your friend’s body or your training buddy’s body. In my experience of working with runners (especially those who have GI conditions), nutrition is a trial and error process that requires patience.
Similar to running where we don’t all run the same pace or the same distance (for a multitude of reasons), we can’t expect running nutrition to be the same for everyone.
About Morgan Bettini, MS, RDN, E-RYT
Morgan Bettini is a plant-based Registered Dietitian and Yoga Teacher who specializes in working with athletes and individuals with GI conditions. She dishes up a hefty dose of wellness advice in her blog and newsletter at morganbettini.com .
If you have a nutrition question you’d like to get answered, check out her “Ask the Dietitian” service at morganbettini.com/product/ask-the-dietitian-15-minute-consults/.