Tag Archives: clean eating

Nutrition for Runners – The Basics

Having a solid training plan is just one piece of a huge jigsaw puzzle to becoming a better runner. Many runners put in the hard work through many hours of training but when it comes to nutrition, they make careless mistakes.


Source: Foody Ideas on Pinterest

Many live by the notion that if you work hard enough, you can get away with eating whatever you want! True? Not quite. While it may be true that you may not gain a significant amount of weight, you may be compromising performance. Eating unhealthy, processed “junk” could lead to a compromised immune system (amongst others) which would derail your performance goals.

What’s #trending?

There is something about new trends and fads that keep us motivated. When our daily routine seems all too mundane, we turn to something fresh and new.

Diet and nutrition go through the same motions. One minute meat is good and carbs are bad and the next thing you know the tables turn. It is not surprising that many people actually don’t know what a healthy meal looks like because well, the rules keep changing. And I don’t blame them. The DASH diet, Weight Watchers, Atkins diet, Mayo Clinic diet, the cabbage soup diet, the South Beach diet, the TLC diet, the Mediterranean diet…… and the list goes on.

So, what should runners eat?

The problem with these diets is that some of them completely eliminate one food group or the other. While they may help you to lose some weight in the short term, they are not sustainable for the average runner.

Let’s take the DASH diet as an example. Foods that are allowed in this diet are mainly low in saturated fat, trans-fat, sodium, excess sugar and cholesterol. It is a typical heart healthy diet that should be followed by certain groups of people. However, as an athlete, you need not cut your sodium intake.

When it comes to deciding what to eat to support your daily activities including your run, there is no one size fits all. What works for one person, may not work for you.

Here is a general guide to get you started!


There are many similarities when you think about basic health, fitness and running. Of course, there are many other aspects about nutrition that can enhance performance. But for now, we will focus on eating for general health.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThink about it: our diets are centered on building a strong antioxidant defence system to fight off cancer and other diseases, we eat to maintain low body fat to reduce the risk of heart diseases and diabetes.

In effect, having a strong immune system would mean that you are able to fight off oxidative stress caused by running (which may lead to muscle soreness, fatigue etc) and having a lean body composition would translate to less energy cost of movement which would enhance performance.

The Plate Guide

I like Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate guide which is an extension of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA’s) MyPlate guide to address a few deficiencies.

Healty Eating PlateCopyright © 2011, Harvard University. For more information about The Healthy Eating Plate, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, www.thenutritionsource.org, and Harvard Health Publications, www.health.harvard.edu.


According to the Healthy Eating Plate, half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables. They are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties which are good for general health because they have a protective mechanism against many chronic diseases.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetHalf plate of VEGES – CHECKED!

As for running performance, a strong antioxidant defence system would mean that you are able to recover from training that would otherwise place undue stress on your muscles (muscle fatigue, muscle soreness etc).

Go for:

Think of eating the RAINBOW! Go for colour and eat from a wide variety. Berries, broccoli, spinach, apples, bananas, cabbage, cauliflower, grapefruit, carrots, pumpkin, kale, tomatoes, watermelon, pineapple, mangoes, asparagus, figs, lemons……

Your mother was right, EAT YOUR VEGES.


To some runners, grains are a big part of their diet because it is the richest source of carbohydrate. They help in topping off glycogen stores just before a run. The fibre from grains also improves digestive function (to keep the tubes clear of unwanted waste) and reduces the risk of colon cancer.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetWholewheat chocolate pancakes! Eating healthy can be yummy too!

Go for:

Think “whole” and “brown” (No, not that! Ewwww!). This includes brown rice, whole wheat pasta, wholemeal bread, oats, quinoa, barley……

Compared to their “white” counterparts, whole grains offer more vitamins, minerals and fibre. Also, they are digested more slowly and keep you feeling fuller for longer. This prevents the unwanted insulin spike and blood sugar crash that would otherwise occur when consuming more refined grains (white rice, white bread etc).


This can either be from plant or animal sources. Protein is essential to everyone and especially to runners as you need the materials to repair/build up muscle tissue that has been broken down/damaged.


Go for:

Lean meats (fish, chicken, turkey), legumes, beans, seeds……

Some meats are better than others as they contain less saturated fat and more unsaturated fat. Avoid meats that are processed, high in trans-fat and saturated fats which can increase LDL cholesterol levels.

Opt to eat cold water fish such as salmon, herring or mackerel. They contain omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) that are found in animals. These fats significantly reduce the risk of heart diseases. They are also thought to improve cardiac efficiency during exercise which would translate to better running performance.

A dash of Plant Oils

Healthy vegetable oils are among the best plant base sources of healthy fats. They are antioxidant rich and offer essential omega-3 polyunsaturated fats that support cardiovascular and nervous system function.

Go for:

Plant oils from nuts, seeds, olive, canola, soy, sunflower, flaxseeds……

IMG_0767Avocados also offer a rich source of healthy fats!

Drink Up!

Hydration is a big part of running. When you run (especially on a hot day), you lose significant amounts of water. Water needs to be replaced to bring the body temperatures back to optimal conditions.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetFruit infused water! Great way to rehydrate post-run!

Go for:

WATER, coffee or tea.

Water would be your best bet. Avoid isotonic drinks that contain too much sugar unless you have been out running for over 2 hours. Most of the time, these drinks add more empty calories and sugar which are the major causes of obesity. Coffee has been known to give you a mental boost, improve mental alertness and reduce a runner’s perception of effort. Drink a cuppa just before you head out for your run! Tea offers many antioxidant properties and is also relaxing to take just before bed.


This is the best part about Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate! I like how they incorporate any form of activity to complete the healthy living picture. When it comes to diet and exercise, there needs to be a balance. Having one or the other would not lead to a healthy lifestyle. Similarly, runners who train hard but fail to eat well will not be able to perform to the best of their abilities.


Staying active is also a big part of weight control. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week or 75 minutes a week of vigorous activity. Also, it is important to incorporate 2/3 days per week of muscle strengthening exercises. These simple steps will help you to achieve fitness and maintain a lean body mass.

Runners will not have a problem moving but most of the time, they neglect strength training. Remember to throw in a few strength training sessions to maintain muscle mass which can lead to an overall increase in metabolism.

*Stay away from processed and fried foods!

*Currently working on a Ebook incorporating STRENGTH training and RUNNING! Stay tuned!*

Sweet potato…SWEET POTATO!

One of my all time favourite foods would have to be sweet potatoes! My love for sweet potatoes knows no bounds. I even made up my very own sweet potato song! It goes something like this: SWEET POTATO SWEET POTATO!!!!!!!!!! Yeah, that’s about it. With a tune, of course.

Sweet potatoes are grown all around the world. They are often associated with war-time and poverty because they are easy to obtain, grow, harvest and prepare.


Why sweet potatoes? Because they’re so delish and comes with a truckload of nutrients that are good for you.



Many people have the idea that carbs are the enemy when it comes to losing weight. Well, not all carbs are bad carbs. You just need to eat the right carbs! The good ones are complex carbohydrates – SWEET POTATOES! As a runner, I need carbs to fuel my short and long runs. I don’t enjoy eating rice or noodles as much as bread. To switch things up (instead of eating bread EVERY DAY), I’ve added sweet potatoes into my daily meals. One cup of mashed sweet potatoes contain about 58 grams of carbohydrates. They are easily digested and will fuel you for at least an hour.  Sweet potatoes also act to regulate blood sugar levels. As they are slow digesting carbohydrates, sugars are released slowly into the blood stream preventing the sudden spike of insulin.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is good for both the eyes and the immune system. During training, the body weakens and the immune system goes down. One medium sized sweet potato will supply 100% of your daily needs, keeping your immune system up and running.


This yellowish-orange tuber is a big hint of what it contains, you got that right – BETA-CAROTENE. Beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, is an antioxidant. Like all antioxidants, they prevent the formation of free radicals through oxidation. Free radicals are capable of cell damage which could lead to the development of chronic diseases (heart diseases or cancer). Beta-carotene also protects your skin from the sun by deflecting harmful UV rays. They are also thought to prevent macular degeneration and vision loss.

Vitamin C

The familiar vitamin C is another powerful antioxidant. It prevents free radicals that are created through oxidative stress. They also have anti-ageing properties and are able to boost collagen formation, leaving your skin bright and smooth. Running puts a lot of stress on the body. It is always good to have vitamin C in your diet!


The anti-inflammatory properties are attributed to the purple sweet potato. Their deep rich purple tones come from the anthocyanin pigment. Studies have shown that they prevent unwanted inflammation by deactivating certain important inflammatory precursors (COX-2, iNOS). In our digestive tract, they are also capable of lowering the risk of oxygen radicals and heavy metals.


A trace element, often overlooked, is involved in bone metabolism and the metabolism of carbohydrates.

ImageWhat I normally have for lunch: Salad, tuna, egg, avocado and… SWEET POTATO!

To reap the full benefits of this tuber, it is important to incorporate some fat in your diet. Some fat is needed for the efficient uptake of beta-carotene and vitamin A as they are fat soluble. One tablespoon of olive oil or some avocado would do the trick (3-5grams).

Sweet potatoes are so easy to prepare! Their natural sweetness allows you to consume them on their own. No sugar, salt or dressing needed! Roast or boil them and they are good to go! GOOGLE sweet potato and you’ll find a whole selection of different ways to incorporate them into your daily diet.

There is absolutely NO reason why SWEET POTATOES should not be on your plate! HAPPY EATING!

Where do vegetarians get their protein?

Before we jump into where vegetarians/vegans get their protein, we need to know how much protein our body needs to function optimally. The Institute of Medicine suggests that the average adult should consume about 46-56 grams of protein a day. By looking at it in terms of percentage, 10-35% of your daily calories would have to consist of proteins. Unless you’re a serious body builder or somebody who is keeping track of your macros, you probably wouldn’t give a hoot about these numbers. To help you visualise this, one large chicken breast contains about 30 grams of protein. So, if you’re happy, healthy and eating a perfectly normal diet, you should be getting enough proteins into your system, maybe even more.

Many plant-based proteins lack certain amino acids that are found in animal protein. Vegetarians/vegans would need to combine a few plant-based proteins, like tofu and brown rice, in order to get the complete set of essential amino acids that are found in animal protein.

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My personal favourite green proteins in no particular order are:

  • TOFU!
  • Black beans
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Quinoa (you can buy cereals that contain them)
  • Chickpeas
  • Brown Rice
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chia seeds

Just thinking about that list makes me HUNGRY! If you cannot stand their individual taste, there are many ways that you can incorporate them into your meals. You can toss them in your salad, make soups or even add them to your breakfast yoghurt or froyo!

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Froyo and pumpkin seeds, my favourite! Trust me, your taste buds would sing! Also, you’ll be getting plenty of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that come with eating plant-based proteins (plus points!).

Don’t worry if you end up consuming too much protein, just as long as they’re plant-based proteins. Recent studies have shown that increasing plant-based protein intake to 20-25% of calories while cutting out refined carbohydrates can reduce the risk of heart disease.

I still get stares and I can feel the people around me rolling their eyes when I eat a very vege-fied meal. Even my kakak has a few things to say about my lifestyle. Well, I don’t really blame them. Throughout history, meaty meals were a symbol of an affluent lifestyle. Meals without meat were for the poor. These are just perceptions that humans have created.

Do it for yourself and your health. Famous Olympic coach Joe Vigil did not say “…eat as though you were a poor man…” for no reason! That translates to lots of whole grains and vegetables!


Have you eaten your veges?