Runners—heck, humans—have a very close relationship with food. We need it for fuel. We need it to help with our recovery. Oh, and we love it.
There are a lot of stereotypes about runners but some of the most common ones involve what we’re eating. If someone knows you are a runner they often assume certain things about what you’re putting into your body. But just like our training plans and running shoes, what runners eat varies from person to person.
So just to save us all some time, here are some common food-related questions runners get asked over and over and over…
“You eat donuts??!” (Or replace “donuts” with pizza.)
Just because someone runs doesn’t mean they spend the rest of their day picking beets and carrots from their garden and making freshly squeezed organic juices all the time. Someone who spends a lot of time running probably has very little time to bake whole grain bread from scratch. Running, especially training for a race, is a hobby that often calls for five to six days a week of practice. So, if you have any leftovers—send them my way.
As hard as it is to believe, runners are people too. We like donuts and cake and cookies and…well now I’m hungry, but you get the idea. We eat “normal” food. Some of us do follow a gluten-free raw diet, but there’s also a big segment of the population that’s hitting up Donut World after their run.
“Shouldn’t you be eating pasta??”
Runners carb-load. It’s a common part of training for a race and preparation before a big run.
Most people think carbs and immediately picture heaping bowls of spaghetti. Yes, spaghetti is a good way to top off your carbohydrate storage before a race. But there are so many other ways to fill up on the good stuff; we’re not limited to pasta.
More importantly, runners have to listen to their bodies and some need specific foods before a big run to keep their tummy happy. There’s no ONE set formula for this.
You’re going to eat all that??
Yes. Yes, I am in fact going to eat ALL of this food in front of me. And I’m probably going to get dessert after. And a second dessert when I get home.
Running, especially training for a race, can wake the Hunger Monster inside your belly. It’s both scary and impressive how much someone can eat the day after a long run. If you’re going to hang around a hungry runner, just stand by with napkins and leave the judgment at home.
Are you carb-loading??
Maybe. Sometimes. Yes. Not today.
Just because I’m eating something carb-a-licious doesn’t mean I’m carb-loading. Sometimes I just want a soft pretzel. Maybe I didn’t realize I already had four breadsticks when I go grab for a fifth. I don’t need to run to justify eating bread.
How do you eat while you RUN?!
Training for a long-distance race requires eating in the middle of a run. Surprisingly this is NOT fun. It’s not snack time. It’s often a warm gel that was stuck in our butt pocket or a smashed granola bar that is now paper thin.
It’s a necessary evil and it takes a while to master the art of eating AND running at the same time. But yeah, we do that.
Want to go out for Indian food tonight?
Um. I have to run 11 miles in the morning. Would you want to eat Indian food from a food truck on the corner of Sketchy Street and Shady Avenue before running?
Yeah. Let’s stick with the usual routine and play that dangerous game when there’s better access to a bathroom. Thanks.
Can’t you eat whatever you want??
Running is a great way to get fit and burn calories. But it is a lot easier to eat 800 calories than it is to run 800 calories off. And runners need to prioritize nutrition. So the first things on our plate are often whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins. Maybe this wouldn’t be our first choice foods but fueling up with healthy options helps keep us running strong.
What do you eat before you run?
This is probably one of the common questions that has a fairly predictable answer. Most runners eat carbs that are easy to digest before a run, like bananas, toast, bagels, oatmeal…
The real fun comes later.