Running Camp Notes: Nutrition Tips for High School Runners
First and foremost, check with your doctor before you take any supplements, including specific vitamins. You should be able to obtain most or all of the nutrients you need if you are eating a well-balanced diet, but some people have trouble absorbing certain things and may need to supplement in certain situations.
General Nutrition Philosophy
Treat your body like a race engine and food is fuel for your body. In order to get quality output when you are training and racing, you need to put quality fuel in. This means choosing REAL food, not processed stuff, whenever possible and eating a large variety of things. But that also means always making sure your are having enough. Running low on fuel will not allow for proper recovery.
All macronutrient types are good. If you see a diet approach that arbitrarily restricts one type or another, it is not based on good scientific evidence. We need carbohydrates (and lots of them) for energy needs, protein for muscle building and repair, fat for brain development and nutrient absorption, just to name a few things. Try to get in all types at all meals.
Growing bodies need more calories. Athletes’ bodies need more calories. So, high school runners need to eat a lot. If you are hungry, you should eat! As long as you choose high-quality foods, you will not overeat if you rely on your body’s natural hunger signals. Most importantly, never try to mix “dieting” and training. You will get less out of your body and set yourself up for bigger problems in the future.
Think of timing your meals and snacks in terms of your training and recovery needs. Before runs, you should fuel and hydrate with simpler choices (more carbohydrates, less protein and fat) so that you have easily digestible calories for energy needs while training. Following runs, you should focus more on protein and carbs for muscle repair and adaptation. At other times of the day, incorporate more good fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts, GOOD cheese, GOOD fish) to help with other repair processes and nutrient absorption.
Personally, I find it works to have a carb-focused meal or snack about 1 hour before a run, a protein-heavy meal or snack within 30 minutes after a run, and balanced meals the rest of the day. Remember also that your digestive system can be trained to perform well before/during/after runs just like your muscles. Experiment with different options to find what sits well for you and makes you feel strong during runs.
Some Other General Nutrition Tips for Runners
Eat lots of colorful veggies and fruits. The more you “eat the rainbow,” the more you will absorb vitamins and minerals that support overall health.
Don’t cut out all sweets if you like them, but do keep them to just a couple per week.
Don’t treat food, particularly junk food, as a reward.
Don’t frame running as a punishment for eating/overeating.
Make sure you add electrolytes to your fluids in some way during hotter months when you sweat more.
Check out Shalane Flanagan/Elyse Kopecky books for good options that can fit any dietary needs (gluten intolerance, vegetarian/vegan, etc)
Eat more than you think you need to as long as you’re eating HIGH-QUALITY stuff.