For endurance runners of all abilities following certain food habits can have a massive impact on how you perform over those long miles.
Always aim to eat high-quality foods. Everyone has their weaknesses so if you can stick to the right foods 90% of the time, you are on the right track – even elite athletes give themselves a reward occasionally.
High-quality foods include vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and grains and when food shopping, ask yourself will this food have a positive impact or a negative impact on my health.
Also, an important point worth noting is try and eat a high-quality version of culturally normal foods to you. Don’t try and replicate the diet of the top African athletes – because of our genetic makeup we all react differently to foods, so aim for high quality culturally normal foods.
Enjoy what you eat
All too often recreational runners apply restrictions to their diet that end up making them unhappy, and this can have as much a negative effect, as eating unhealthy foods. Very few endurance runners who are unhappy their diet will have long-term running success.
One of the worst traits seen in recreational runners is restricting calories, which leads to feeling unhappy about it, and then binge-eating to make up for that restricting.
Compared to runners at the elite level, almost none will set or be advised to set calorie limits. In most cases, elite runners will be conscious of their portion size but will rely on appetite and body awareness (and happiness!) to manage their eating.
Don’t exclude or minimise carbohydrates from your diet, eat a carb-centred diet. This doesn’t mean overeating carbs, it simply means ensuring slow releasing energy carbohydrates like rice and healthy grains are present in the majority of meals.
Many non-elite athletes might try a low-to-no carb approach, but all endurance athletes are still eating a carbohydrate entered diet.