The Runner's Diet
A smart weight-loss plan starts with these nutritious foods
HOW MUCH 50 to 55 percent of total calories
WHY YOU NEED IT The body prefers carbs as the main fuel source when you run, so they should be the cornerstone of a runner's diet.
WHERE TO GET IT Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and lentils are rich in complex carbs and fiber (both slow digestion and supply a steady stream of energy), as well as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that speed recovery and protect against diseases.
HOW MUCH 25 to 30 percent of total calories
WHY YOU NEED IT You need this nutrient to absorb fat-soluble vitamins; foods high in fat also keep you satisfied, so you eat less.
WHERE TO GET IT Nuts, seeds, and avocados are rich in heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Olive oil contains oleic acid, and may help suppress your appetite. Other healthy choices include canola, grapeseed, flaxseed, and hempseed oils.
HOW MUCH 15 to 25 percent of total calories
WHY YOU NEED IT Protein speeds muscle repair and recovery. High-protein foods are satisfying and take longer to digest.
WHERE TO GET IT Cuts of beef and pork labeled "loin" and skinless poultry have a healthy protein-to-fat ratio. Fatty fish are rich in omega-3s. Tofu is a lean protein source, while low-fat dairy like milk and yogurt provide calcium. Eggs are loaded with vitamins A, K, and D.
THE MYTH: Mini-meals are better than three hearty ones
THE TRUTH: Many dieters believe eating several small meals a day is a guaranteed way to quash hunger. But scientists have not turned up substantial evidence that eating frequency really matters, according to a review of research by scientists at Newcastle University and Griffith University in Australia. In fact, a 2009 study with more than 10,000 subjects reported that between-meal nibblers were 69 percent more likely to pack on pounds over five years. Frequent noshing only works if you choose nutritious foods and control portion sizes. After all, it's not hard to turn six small meals into six large ones. Again, it all comes back to calories. "You can eat three times a day or 10, as long as you have the same caloric intake that will induce weight loss," says Gidus.
Still, runners need snacks. Eating something small prerun followed by a postrun snack or meal can improve performance and recovery, says Gidus. If you run at lunch, nibble on some dried fruit or yogurt before heading out, and eat a mix of carbs and protein, like a turkey sandwich. For the rest of the day, Gidus recommends tuning into your hunger to tell you when to grab a fork and knife.
CAPACITY: Warm up for 10 minutes. Do six 400-meter runs (or about 90 seconds on a treadmill) at your mile race pace or slightly faster. The interval should be considerably faster than the previous workouts. Between each interval, complete a two-minute recovery jog.
THE MYTH: You can "make up" weekend splurges.
THE TRUTH: The two s-days represent about 30 percent of the week, so too many slip-ups will put you on bad terms with the scale. Case in point: Dieters in a 2008 study dropped pounds during the week, but stopped losing weight on the weekend because they ate too much. "By feasting on whatever you want on the weekend, you'll cancel out five days' worth of healthy eating," says Felicia Stoler, R.D., nutrition coordinator for the New York City Marathon.When it comes to shedding pounds, consistency is key. "Aim to consume a similar number of calories on Tuesday as you would Saturday," says Stoler. She suggests weighing yourself Friday and again Monday. "Any weight gain is a sign you shouldn't have eaten the extra slice of pizza."