Ready to run fast and kick some asphalt? Better fuel up first. Shalane Flanagan, the Olympic marathoner, and Elyse Kopecky, a chef and nutrition coach, teamed up to create an unexpectedly delicious new cookbook for runners. Here are a few of their top nutrition tips for athletes at all levels.
Ditch the packages. “The biggest trap that runners fall into is that they have so many products pushed at them, claiming to be high in protein, low in calories, you name it,” says Kopecky. “But packaged foods are nutrient-poor fixes that will leave you feeling hungry. If you come home starving, they’re easy to fall back on, and if you’re counting calories, you’re more likely to grab a food that already has a number on it, but is lacking in nutrition.”
Start cooking real food. Kopecky loves to say, “Whole foods don’t have nutrition labels. We really want runners to slow down and take the time to cook, and understand how easy it is to cook from scratch. If Shalane can do it after 26 miles at altitude, you can too!” Even if you’re not a foodie, try her spicy peanut sauce, which you can drizzle over brown rice and veggies after an evening run.
Embrace healthy fats. Flanagan’s breakthrough was getting over the fat-free craze of their college days. “That was the biggest game changer: embracing butter, coconut oil, dark chicken thighs, and grass-fed beef. Now, eating more healthy fats, I feel more satiated, and I’m not running hungry all the time.”
Don’t obsess over the scale. Flanagan checks her weight from time to time, but she knows she’s made race weight when her clothes fit and she feels fast. “I don’t obsess over the scale anymore. And I don’t fluctuate as much between in season and off season. Close to competition, I stop drinking wine and beer, two of my favorite indulgences! But otherwise, my diet stays exactly the same.”
Let your body find its best weight. Like many female athletes, Elyse suffered from amenorrhea for many years. But she now has a beautiful baby girl, and she thanks healthy fats for that. Instead of deprivation, consider your long-term health. “When people focus on weight loss as an end goal, everything suffers, and it’s easy to get into an unhealthy mindset. Instead of going through so many fluctuations, just focus on whole foods and real foods, and let your body find its best healthy weight. There is no one healthy body type for a runner. We come in all shapes and sizes. Celebrate and support yours.”
Hungry for more? Flanagan and Kopecky shared three of their “indulgently delicious” recipes with Fitbit readers.
Get the full recipe for Superhero Muffins.
Get the full recipe for Kale-Radicchio Salad with Farro.
Get the full recipe for High-Altitude Bison Meatballs with Simple Marinara.
Photos by Alan Weiner.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.