2 Simple Diet Truths Every Runner Needs to Know

The next time you finish a 5K, look around at the post-race party and note what everyone is eating. For the most part, the foods that runners think are healthy—and believe they "earn"—are far from healthy.

Instead of boosting runners' recovery and helping them stay lean, these foods are sabotaging their health.

More: Top 10 Nutrition Myths

The sad truth: most runners don't eat very well. They use excuses like, "If the furnace is hot enough, it will burn anything." This means that as long as they're running a good amount, they will burn off the calories. While that might be partly true, should processed food, extra dessert, and as many carbohydrates as you can stuff in your face be considered "fueling" properly?

I don't think so. And while a growing high school track athlete can certainly get away with poor dietary habits, most adult runners can't. Sooner or later bad food choices will impact every runner, resulting in weight gain, poor recovery after races and challenging workouts, and not feeling your best during hard training.

Many experts believe the next big performance gains will come from better nutrition. Here's how to better fuel your body for enhanced running performance.

More: How Runners Can Lose Fat and Improve Body Composition

Focus on Real Food

Sounds simple doesn't it? But most runners love non-foods that masquerade as actual food, such as:

  • Muffins and bagels
  • Vegetarian burgers
  • Processed energy bars, gels and blocks
  • Crackers and cookies
  • Almost every prepared food in the frozen aisle

These aren't whole, real foods—they're food products that were created in a lab. If your great-great-grandmother wouldn't recognize what you're eating as food, then it's not food. Would she look at a sugary marshmallow cereal and think that was breakfast? Does a soy burger with 47 ingredients look like a wholesome meal choice? I don't think so.

More: Should Cleanses Be a Part of a Runner's Diet?

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