Planning out your meals and nutrition strategies may be just as important as planning out your training schedule in preparation for race day! Viewing your nutrition habits as a lifestyle, rather than as a training diet, will help you establish sustainable nutrition practices leading up to, during, and after your race.
To simplify all of the nutrition recommendations you may see out there, the one piece of advice that will help set you up for success is: Be prepared! That’s right. Planning your trips to the grocery store, planning out your meals for the week, and prepping your most time-consuming foods in advance, among other things, will help you succeed in the kitchen and go the distance!
Below I have listed my top five tips for meal planning for runners:
1. Aim for at least three food groups at every meal.
When planning and prepping meals for the week, balance and variety are key. Eating a well-rounded meal that includes multiple food groups will allow our bodies to obtain the key nutrients it needs to perform at its best, especially during high intensity training days.
For example, a dinner of salmon filets topped with fresh fruit salsa and paired with a side of brown rice and roasted cauliflower not only includes an array of delicious flavors but incorporates a variety of both food groups and nutrients.
2. Stock up on grab-and-go snacks that contain carbs, protein and fat.
If planning meals is often on the forefront of our mind, planning snacks may take a back seat on our list of priorities. To make snacking as easy and convenient as possible, while still staying balanced, choose grab-and-go options that contain all three of our key macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Some examples include NuGo Nutrition protein bars
, roasted chickpeas, roasted edamame, Greek yogurt or cottage cheese cups. If you do not have the time to have a full meal pre- or post-run, stocking up on plenty of snacks — particularly those rich in carbohydrates — is a must!
3. Cook once, eat twice.
Preparing large batches of time-consuming foods at the beginning of the week will not only save you time, but more importantly, it will increase the likelihood that you will make more nutrient-dense food choices throughout the week.
For example, boiling a large batch of quinoa and storing it in the refrigerator will allow you to easily grab a quick, fiber-rich grain throughout the week that you can quickly heat and season in a variety of ways. You can throw it over greens one day for a hearty salad and you can sauté it with some diced chicken and bell peppers for a simple and delicious stir fry another day.
4. Prep your produce!
Have you ever purchased fruits and vegetables from the grocery store and put them away in the refrigerator, only to pull them out two weeks later to find them rotten and no longer able to be used? It’s okay. Me too! An easy solution is to prep your produce right when you get home from the grocery store; this will significantly increase your consumption of those fruits and vegetables.
This tip is perfect for you if you often find yourself making your morning omelet without those bell peppers you bought because chopping them each morning is such a hassle. As soon as you get home from the grocery store, wash and chop the peppers into small pieces and place them into a plastic baggie or air-tight container so you have them ready to go!
This can be done with many fruits and vegetables – you’ll thank me later!
5. Stock up on carbohydrate-rich options.
When planning out meals and snacks, not only do we want to make sure they taste good, but we also want to make sure they contain plenty of carbohydrates to fuel our runs! Choose foods that are packed with carbs to keep you feeling full of energy — whole grains, sweet potatoes, fresh fruit, etc.
Hopefully these tips provide some inspiration and clarity for making training a bit easier when it comes to meal planning and prepping! Happy running!
Joannah Konecny, RD is a New Jersey-based Registered Dietitian and business owner of Jo’s Foods that Fit, LLC. Her mission is to guide individuals toward better nutrition by improving both their lifestyle habits and their mindset. Through this, she helps clients increase their confidence and love their bodies. Joannah has a passion for discovering new food products and developing healthy recipes with them! You can follow her journey on Instagram, her website or via her blog posts at NuGo Nutrition.