We've all been there—dreaming of how weeks of long runs will melt away unwanted pounds…until reality hits, and you find yourself surrounded by empty ice cream cartons and a wicked sugar hangover.
If there's one thing certain in distance running, it's that sooner or later, you'll be hit by relentless hunger, affectionately referred to in the running community as "runger." Runger typically accompanies a long, steady state of running, and how you manage it can mean the difference between mourning the loss of your favorite skinny jeans and feeling light on your feet.
Eat to Refuel
Registered dietician and former collegiate cross-country runner Ryann Prillman says that paying attention to macronutrients and the type of food you're putting in your body is the key to managing the intense hunger you experience after a run.
"While exact percentages vary for each person, a good goal is to aim to take in carbohydrates and protein on a one-to-four ratio after a workout," she says.
Shooting for this balance not only helps replenish energy, but also builds back the muscles that break down during tough training.
Prillman emphasizes a realistic approach in her nutrition counseling. She knows that increasingly busy schedules make working out hard enough for runners, let alone finding the time to plan proper fueling.
If one thing has to be cut in a time-crunch, it often ends up being the food prep that can accompany thoughtful, healthy eating. With an already-stretched calendar and the ravenous runger monster looming, it's no wonder many runners struggle to stay full and soon find themselves eating multiple bags of potato chips in one sitting.
The key to avoiding empty calories is proper planning, but it doesn't have to be as involved as you think.
"You don't have to do a huge grocery trip," Prillman says. "Skip the fast food restaurant and hit the gas station where you can often find string cheese, pieces of fruit and bags of mixed nuts. I've even seen whole grain tuna sandwiches and yogurt as options."
Even Starbucks has several protein-heavy snack packs available for latte-loving runners.