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Thursday, May 21, 2009


This week's theme is ... Runners version of Eat This Not That. Pass along some of your tips of food you have found helps your running. Tell us about what foods you have cut out or reduced because they don't help your running. And even better, tell us what "good" foods you substitute for the "bad" ones.

You know, it's strange because the way I eat and the way I think about food changed quite a bit when I joined Weight Watchers in 1998, but honestly the biggest (and I think the best) changes have happened since I started running. Granted, a lot of these changes are also due to Todd and the lifestyle that we lead together, but running plays a key factor.

Basically, there's nothing that I don't eat. There is nothing that is off limits. The difference between me now and the me that existed before running is that I judge food not on taste, like I might have before Weight Watchers, and not on calories or points, like I would have when I was on Weight Watchers. I judge food now by how it makes me feel.

Case in point: Arby's. I love Arby's. I used to eat at Arby's regularly, even when I was on Weight Watchers. It wasn't like Burger King, which I gave up and where I have only eaten since in a state of duress... No, I used to save WW Points for Arby's. Well, I realized a little while ago that I don't eat at Arby's anymore. Given the choice, I'd rather eat many other things than eat there. And it's not because of calories, because trust me, after a 15 mile run, I can eat what I want. It's about how Arby's makes me feel, and all of that grease and fat makes me feel like crap. If I go to my favorite fast food restaurant - Salsarita's - I eat healthy chicken and black beans, maybe some avocado. I feel energized and satisfied and not heavy and horrible.

I think you really need to be active to understand this, though. When I was on WW, I was still fairly sedentary. If I'd had more energy from eating this over that, I don't know that I would have even noticed. But, I notice now. I notice when I skip meals. I notice when I eat out for lunch instead of eating something healthy. I notice when we order a pizza instead of cooking something. Once you get used to choosing foods like this, the other stuff, the bad stuff, isn't even good anymore.

So, here's a little list of what I eat and don't eat (or at least try not to eat), because of how it makes me feel:
  • I don't eat overly sugary or fatty breakfasts. Donuts, pastries, danishes... They don't keep me full anymore and make me feel terrible. As much as I used to love Krispy Kreme, I haven't had one in ages.
  • I do eat protein and some sugar. Before running, I eat half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. On a normal breakfast day, I'll eat oatmeal with peanut butter or a high fiber cereal and milk. I love eggs, so an ideal breakfast is 2 eggs (fried in Pam), whole wheat toast, and Smart Balance Spread. A treat is an Egg McMuffin, which is a surprisingly good for you breakfast as long as you don't get hash browns.
  • I don't eat heavy, greasy meals. We recently tried Five Guys and it was too much for me. A burger and fries is over the top, although I will eat a burger with no fries. Or, Todd and I will split an order of fries sometimes.
  • I do eat at restaurants that offer plenty of choices for lean protein and vegetables.
  • I don't eat out that much at all, and if I do, I make it worth it. I can't stand chain restaurants anymore. I think TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesdays, and the like are disgusting. I'd much rather have quality sushi, or a nice grilled salmon and veggies.
  • I do eat at home a lot. I love cooking a nutritious meal for us.
  • I don't waste my time on foods that I don't like.
  • I do eat foods that I love, regardless of calorie count.
  • I don't eat a lot of foods marketed as "Light" or "Healthy" or "Diet" - Snackwells, 100 Calorie Packs, Baked potato chips, light butter and bread... All of those things are processed and leave you feeling unsatisfied.
  • I do eat real foods that I love - real butter, real cookies (homemade, processed grocery store cookies suck), etc.
  • I avoid Trans Fats, preservatives and High Fructose Corn Syrup, although I'm not perfect in this regard.
  • I don't worry so much about sodium.
There you have it. I eat healthy all the time, or at least I try to, so there isn't a lot that I can say about what I eat with regards to running. I can definitely say that I still eat a plate of spaghetti the night before a long run, because that's what I enjoy. I know there have been some studies out there that say carb loading is a myth, but I don't care. Carbs are why I run.

On another note, a major thing I'm doing this year is using chocolate milk as a recovery after my long runs. How awesome is that? A chocolate milk! Yum!


tfh said...

You make SUCH a good point, and one I hadn't deeply thought about, about how running makes me so much more aware of how certain foods affect my energy levels and how I feel. These are great tips.

V- said...

Chocolate milk: Right...I remember you and Todd talking about this as the power recovery food of the Kenyans. Some truth to that?

Like you, I don't worry about counting calories - I pretty much eat freely (which is whatever Bruce puts in front of me most days). We've been eating healthy homecooked meals and adding a lot of variety to the menu. Lots of chicken, steak (to keep my iron count up), pasta (something I used to avoid to stay lean - now it's necessary running fuel), rice (ditto), olive oil, garlic, broccoli, asparagus, spinach, water chesnuts and baby corn (he rocks the wok!). And I'm a snacker - my weakness these days is pretzel goldfish (lots of salt, but I don't care), Promax bars (cookies and creme) and nutty trail mixes (the GOOD deluxe nuts - no peanuts! Gimme almonds, walnuts, cashews and pecans with my cranberries please!)

I do find that with the running and working out I don't have to worry so much about what I eat (or even how much I eat) if concentrating on the physique. But you're absolutely right about the energy factor. With the training we do, we can't tolerate crap. So we no longer crave crap. Good healthy foods are where it's at for runners. V-

merrymishaps said...

Wow, you're doing so great with healthy eating!

We treated ourselves to chocolate milk a few times when I was marathon training, but I don't know why I don't drink it post-run all the time!

Kim said...

Well, wait. A couple things.

First of all, I'm far from perfect. I think I've gotten the "what" down pretty well, even if I'm on vacation I will usually make mostly good choices. I choose the right foods or close to it about 90% of the time at home and about 75% of the time on vacation. I think that's good.

But, I still have two problems - portion control and sugar. I mention in my post that I don't eat a lot of heavy, greasy things and that is true, but I DO have a soft spot for sugar - ice cream, sorbet, sometimes some candy, lots of fruits, that type of thing. So, I'm far from perfect.

Portion control? That's why I need to still keep a food diary. When I evaluate what I'm going to eat, I don't necessarily think about calorie content - the lowest calorie thing is not always the winner like it has been before in my past. However, I do have to keep track of what I eat so that I know when to stop. That's really my major downfall of why I still have trouble losing weight. I can still overeat on "good" foods.

If I could get the portion control under control, I'm assuming that I would lose weight really fast. But then again, losing weight (fast or not) is not really my biggest goal right now.

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