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Running Au Natural

Don’t worry, I’m talking about food choices, not your wardrobe.

After a pretty long hiatus (originally kicked off by the need for sinus surgery), I am finally back in a running routine, and I’m kind of giddy about it. Running has been one of those things that just kind of, well, got left off the scales in this whole finding balance thing, because with everything else on my plate right now, I just couldn’t seem to make the time.

But make the time I must, because, simply put, I’m a nicer person when I run. It helps me deal with stress so I don’t snap at the Guy or Kiddo for some slight thing. The struggle always is that when I’m the most stressed is when I have the least time to run. I’m making it a priority, though, because it really is a vital component of my own emotional well-being. So back on the scales it goes.

I started getting back in a running routine right about the same time as we started really ditching processed foods. At first, I was running 2-3 miles, which means I don’t really need to worry much about “fuel.” For the non-runners, “fuel” is the runner geek term we use to say “food” when it relates to running–I think it makes us feel cool or special or something. Regardless, “fuel” needs vary depending on how far you’re running, and whether you’re talking about pre-run, mid-run or post-run fuel.

Generally, food before a run should be high in carbs, but with a low glycemic index to provide lasting energy. During a run, your body needs to replace lost fluid and electrolytes. You’ll also need more carbs, but this time in the more quickly digestible form of glucose. The longer the run, the greater the need to make sure you’re taking in calories and electrolytes during the run. If I run three miles or less, I stick with water, unless it’s blazingly hot and I’m sweating and stinking to high heaven. After a run, protein helps repair and rebuild the muscles you’ve just spend several miles tearing down, ultimately making them stronger.

For a lot of runners (myself included until recently), fuel comes in the form of commercialized, highly processed (and highly marketed) products such as Gatorade or other “sports” drinks, energy gels/bars and protein drinks and bars (which, honestly taste unbearably chalky to me). When you take a minute to look at all the chemicals in these options and realize that there’s not much “real” food going into your body, it almost feels like you’re undoing the good you just did by running.


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