How to create a nutrition strategy

5 minReading time

On the surface, running is as simple as lacing up and hitting the pavement (or the mud). Yet when you look a little deeper, there are many other factors that can have an enormous impact on your running and performance. Nutrition is one of those key elements — it’s essential to strike the right balance of macro and micronutrients to properly fuel your run. By creating a nutrition strategy, you’ll ensure that you’re taking in all the right nutrients to maximize your running performance.

1. Know your training and eating schedule

Taking the time to look over your schedule is one of the most important ways to guarantee success. When you eat is critical to your workouts and, conversely, the timing of your workout is critical to when and how much you eat. Planning your workouts ahead of time also helps you figure out how much you need to eat on certain days or at specific mealtimes. It’s not only important to make sure you’re taking in enough energy, but also that the meals are varied and well-balanced. Not eating enough energy for your requirements causes the body to use up protein as energy instead of for its main functions, such as preventing infections or recovering and rebuilding muscles (1). 

When eating a varied diet without excluding any type of foods, nutrient deficiencies are quite rare. However, for women of a fertile age, it can be good to keep track of iron intake to prevent any deficiencies. A good tip is to use a food tracking tool like Lifesum that helps you reach your nutritional goals. After you have registered your individual settings such as gender, activity level, age and height, Lifesum will provide you with a recommendation for how much you should eat in order to meet your energy requirements. You can also see if you’re eating enough carbohydrates, protein and fat.

2. Schedule your meals

When you know how much you need to eat each day and what time you’ll be working out, next it’s time to plan when and what you should eat to optimize your workout!

If you like to work out in the morning, it’s best to grab something small beforehand and eat a bigger meal afterwards. If you’re training around midday, you’ll want something light before the workout and something heavier afterwards. When you’re working out at night, you might not want a very heavy meal. However, you’ll need to make sure to fill up your glycogen storage – which you can do by eating carbohydrates, as well as enough protein to nourish your muscles.

If you know that it will be some time after your workout until you’re able to eat a full meal, bring a snack that you can eat straight after. When you’re taking part in a race or competition, the ideal strategy is to eat a proper, carbohydrate-rich meal a few hours before the race, followed by a smaller snack one hour beforehand. Afterwards, eat a snack that includes both carbohydrates and protein (1).

3. Fluid intake & nutrition strategy

A nutritional strategy does not only include planning your meals and snacks – you’ll also need to think about your water intake. Women over the age of 19 are recommended to drink around 9 cups (2.2 liters) of water per day, while men over the age of 19 should drink 13 cups (3 liters) per day (2). It’s better to drink smaller amounts spaced evenly throughout the day rather than a large amount just before the workout, since that can cause stomach discomfort. The amount you sweat during your workout regulates how much water you need to drink. Your water requirements also depend on the climate. When working out in conditions with warm temperatures or high humidity, your body will try to cool itself down with heavier sweating – which will lead to an increased water requirement (3).

4. Plan your meals

Once you figure out when you will be training and eating, the next step is to determine what to eat. When it comes to food, it’s harder to make good choices when those options are limited. Drawing up a healthy grocery list or designing a loose meal plan for the week are both great ways to ensure that you end up eating in a way that fuels both everyday activities and workouts. Make sure to always have enough food at home to be able to prepare a nutritious meal – and while you are cooking, make an extra portion and you’ll have your lunch box ready for the next day! It can also help to plan what you’ll do if you’re eating out. For example, looking at menus ahead of time gives you some idea of what healthy options will be available.

5. Have a few snacks that are always “good to go”

Finding a few snacks that you love and can easily grab before leaving home is a great way to ensure healthier eating – you’ll know that you have the right fuel on hand before and after every workout. While there are a vast number of healthy snacks out there, they may not all be equally convenient, or even appetizing. Take a few minutes to think about what snacks are both nutritious and require little preparation. Some good examples include nuts, fruit, and jerky.

6. Keep the right foods at home

While finding great on-the-go snacks can sometimes be a challenge, buying the right foods to have at home is a whole lot easier. Start by stocking up on good sources of carbs, like potato, rice, barley, pasta and fruit. You’ll also want to invest in healthy proteins such as fish, soybeans, tofu, eggs, turkey and chicken. Finally, you’ll need to get some good sources of fat into your diet. Options include fatty fish, avocado, nuts, virgin olive oil, virgin canola oil and peanut butter. These types of foods provide us with essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6. Including a healthy fat source in every meal will also help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K (4). It will help you increase the energy of the meal, without having to add enormous amounts of food to reach your energy targets (1). Make sure to include a few vegetables with every meal to get all the vitamins and minerals needed. Eating a wide variety of these ensures you get enough micronutrients!

References

  1. Andersson, A. Idrottsnutrition. I Näringslära för högskolan, Abrahamsson, L., Andersson, A., Nilsson, G (red.),160-179. Stockholm: Liber AB, 2013.
  2. Institute of Medicine. 2005. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/10925
  3. Sveriges Olympiska Kommitté (SOK). Kostrekommendationer för olympiska idrottare. 2016.
  4. Livsmedelsverket. Fleromättat fett omega 3 och omega 6. 2019. https://www.livsmedelsverket.se/livsmedel-och-innehall/naringsamne/fett/fleromattat-fett-omega-3-och-omega-6/

With Lifesum, tracking your healthy habits (and the not so healthy ones) becomes a breeze. We’ll help you pick the right food, and eat the right portion sizes, to reach your personal health goals.

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