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An ideal day of eating for a distance runner

A dietitian's guide to healthy and sustainable eating

Running is hard on the body, which is why proper recovery from your run is essential to longevity in the sport. Jennifer Sygo is a registered dietitian and runner who helps Team Canada athletes make good nutrition choices every day. A big part of a nutrition appointment is walking your practitioner through what you eat in a day, and they’ll provide guidance from there. We asked Sygo what her ideal day would look like for a runner, and she noted that this varies from person to person.

“This is all dependent on their goals, where this runner is coming from to start, their lifestyle and their relationship with food,” she says. “There’s no perfect diet, and there are so many roads that lead to Rome.” With that said, here are her basic principles.

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The guidelines to healthy and sustainable eating

Rule One: regular meals and snacks. “I’m looking for no more than four hours between meals and snacks. If you’re doing intermittent fasting, this is different a story. But for most of my clients, no more than four hours is the rule.”

Rule Two: a good source of carbs and protein with every meal and snack. “For some people it might be whole grains and for others it’d be fruits and veggies. I’d also recommend higher-carb meals and snacks to be timed around training. So if you work out in the evening, make sure your dinner has some pasta or rice with it.”

Rule Three: make sure there’s a lot of colour on your plate. “I like to see brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and whole grains. Foods with lots of colour are high in antioxidants, which means they’re helping you heal from the hard work you’ve done.”

Rule Four: make sure you’re hydrating and getting enough fluids. “Sipping water all day is the easiest way to stay hydrated.”

Rule Five: fun snacks and treats. “I also look for pleasure in a person’s diet. I want runners to be having treats and eating foods they enjoy.”

Sygo feels if a person is following these five rules, they’re probably doing a pretty good job with their diet.

Glass of water

Meal ideas

Here are some meal ideas from Sygo that check all of the nutritional boxes.

Breakfast Option One: oatmeal or overnight oats with milk, coconut yogurt or protein powder and some berries and nuts on top.

Breakfast Option Two: avocado toast with eggs and a bowl of berries.

Snack Number One: a handful of almonds and an apple or grapes and cheese.

Lunch: salad with leftover sweet potato, chicken or tofu, walnuts and seeds and some other brightly coloured veggies.

Snack Number Two: cottage cheese with berries or peanut butter on toast.

Dinner: salmon, tofu or steak with some quinoa and asparagus and a spinach salad.

End of day treat: chocolate, wine or whatever fun snack you love.

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