Don't Cut Too Many Calories1 of 11
When it comes to weight loss, runners should think of calories in terms of energy. If you don't take in enough calories, you won't have the energy you need to fuel your workouts. This means that you'll likely end up burning fewer calories.
"If you're eating right for your sport, you can lose the excess weight in a healthy way without experiencing fatigue and poor workouts," says Barbara Lewin, a registered dietitian, sports nutritionist and founder of sports-nutritionist.com. "It's not about deprivation. If you're eating for energy, the weight will come off."
Eat Breakfast2 of 11
"Breakfast is literally 'breaking the fast,'" Lewin says. "You want to jumpstart your metabolism and start burning those calories; if you're really not hungry, you need to look at what you've been eating the night before."
Put simply, eating a good breakfast can set you up for optimal calorie burn and energy levels the rest of the day. Just make sure it's a balanced breakfast that includes carbohydrates to help fuel your workout. Oatmeal with nut butter and fruit or toast with an egg white are great options that include both carbs and protein.
Hit the Weights3 of 11
By including strength training in your workout routine, you burn extra calories and achieve that lean look. Not only will this help tone your muscles, it'll also bump up your metabolism so you keep burning long after leaving the gym.
"Getting to the gym three times a week just for 30 minutes to do a simple circuit routine is probably better and more efficient than adding in a longer run," says Regina Hammond, a registered dietitian and USA Triathlon certified coach.
Time Your Meals4 of 11
It's important for athletes to time their nutrition in order to best fuel the muscles.
"If your workouts are in the morning, your dinner definitely shouldn't be your biggest meal," Lewin says. "Make sure that you're getting adequate amounts of carbs prior to your workout and have a recovery snack that contains carbohydrates and a little protein, like fat-free chocolate milk or, if you're vegan, you can use almond milk, a banana and a scoop of plant protein with some ice in the blender."
Don't Overdo the Sports Nutritionals5 of 11
There's a time and a place for nutritionals, like gels and sports drinks.
"There's no reason to use them in most cases if your workout is less than an hour," Lewin says.
While the electrolytes, sugar and other ingredients can play an important role when you're out for a long run or during a race, you're better off reaching for a piece of fruit and a glass of water before or after a shorter run.
Plan Ahead6 of 11
When you plan out your meals for the week, you're more likely to stay on the track of healthy eating.
"Planning and sticking to a routine tends to remove some of the chatter involved in making food decisions," Hammond says. "It also removes the risk of eating impulse foods that almost always affect blood sugar levels and make us the victims of craving and grazing."
Don't Forget to Snack7 of 11
Depending on what time of day you run, it's important to keep your energy levels up. To do this, be sure to include some healthy snacks in your meal planning.
"Most people have a good sense of how much they can eat before a run," Hammond says. "Ideally, you would eat a lunch and snack two hours before your run."
While life can get busy and it's easy to skip lunch amidst the hustle and bustle, a healthy lunch and small pre-workout snack can mean all the difference to your running performance.
Slow Down8 of 11
If you wolf down your meals in a matter of seconds, you're far more likely to overeat.
"It takes time for that signal from the stomach to reach the brain and say 'I've had enough to eat,'" says Lewin. "If you're downing a meal too quickly, you're body doesn't have time to register satiation."
When you focus on getting in touch with those signals, you become more in tune with how much your body needs to perform optimally and feel good.
Increase the Intensity9 of 11
If you've been doing nothing but easy running, injecting a bit of intensity into your routine can help increase calorie burn.
"Training at or above 80 percent of VO2max two times a week is good for fitness gains and weight loss," Hammond says. By replacing a 45-minute run with intervals or a tempo workout, you'll prompt weight loss, as well as gain fitness.
Avoid Big Dinners10 of 11
"Try to have a lighter dinner with more vegetables," Lewin says. "People don't think they can gain weight from eating too much protein, so they are often cutting out carbs, but as an athlete, you need those carbs to fuel your muscles."
She suggests meals such as veggie stir fry with brown rice or salmon with a sweet potato and salad to keep you from over consuming protein, while taking in more fiber to make you feel full.