To be the best runner you can be, you need to be as lean as possible, but if you don’t eat enough you aren’t going to have enough energy to perform at your best.
Luckily, there are ways to lose body fat without compromising performance – it’s just a case of being streetwise with your food choices.
It’s often believed that if you do enough running then you can eat whatever you like and still be lean. Although this may work for some – those blessed with a super fast metabolism – the majority of people need to be mindful of what they put into their bodies if they want to be as lean as possible.
There’s a saying, you can’t out train a bad diet, and it’s true; often one’s appetite goes up in line with the volume of training so if you have a bad diet, and by that I mean regularly consuming a lot of sugar or processed foods, then the elusive leanness you’re after may never come, even with a high volume of running.
Using the equation 3,500 calories = 1 pound (0.45kg) of fat, you need to cut about 500 calories from your typical diet each day to lose 1 pound of fat per week (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500). This is a sensible calorie deficit to create, ensuring you still have enough energy to perform well in your training sessions.
So let’s look at the foods that give us lots of energy and a boost in performance, and those that provide calories, but drain our vital resources and can make you perform badly…
Food in its natural state provides perfect parcels of nutrition, with vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fibre to help us digest and absorb everything we need from it. The further our food strays from this basis, the unhealthier and the more confusing it becomes for your body.
Your body is the greatest machine on earth and when you eat proper food it functions like a well-oiled engine. It responds to healthy eating because it’s designed to do so.
So focus your diet on fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, pulses, dairy or alternatives, nuts, seeds, oils and whole grains. Add lean meat and fish if you’re not vegetarian.
Be moderate with alcohol, coffee and dark chocolate but try to avoid the following processed foods which are proinflammatory, causing chaos in the body and can drain your energy: cakes, biscuits, crisps, pastries, artificially sweetened drinks, yogurts and diet products, processed breakfast cereals, fast food and processed meat substitutes.
Also check protein shake labels to ensure there are no artificial sweeteners. Certain brands are getting better but some still have a long way to go in cleaning up their act!