The best diet for runners is Consistency - DOC

The best diet for runners is Consistency

Today on the Doc On the Run Podcast, we’re talking about how the best diet for runners is consistency.

Whether you’re trying to get down to your race weight, or you’re trying to figure out how you can build more muscle, and build tissue faster after you have a strong workout and you’re trying to recover faster, diet may be one of the things that you’re really thinking about modifying.

I get questions about diet nutrition all the time from injured athletes, and of course, the whole point is to try to figure out how to rebuild that tissue that has been damaged just a little bit faster. One of the questions I get most often is, “What diet is really the best for runners?”

Well, a simple analogy to this is thinking about what type of exercise is actually best? I mean, is it best for you to just run all the time? Should you do workouts in the gym? Should you do some variable stuff? Should you ride a bike? What should you do if you’re a runner? Well, what helps the most is doing anything consistently.

Think about this. If you sign up for a race, you will definitely train more. 

Most people listening to this are going to believe that they are active. They’re going to think of themselves as reasonably active people. And even if that’s true, if you’re not training for a specific event, if you’re not signed up for a race, if you’re not going to run with a running group on a regular schedule, you probably will not train as much as when you actually are signed up for an event and working toward a specific goal.

With that idea in mind, you have to realize that diets are and really always have been prone to lots of popular trends. If you think about this, there’s all this debate all the time going on about, “Do you really need more protein? Do you really need to eat like a cave man? Do you really need to build protein with protein? You have to eat protein or meat to build protein.” Many people think and have thought for a very long time that that’s true.

But I mean think about it, do rhinos or gorillas eat meat? No. But they’re some of the biggest, most muscular animals on the planet. If you’re a runner and you’re trying to recover faster, you’re trying to build tissue faster, you’re trying to actually be at your best as a runner, you may really start thinking about, you should modify your diet. And when you start thinking about that, of course, and you do an online search about diets, it can be really dizzying trying to figure out what’s best.

There’s an interesting study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association several years ago that tried to compare all of these different weight loss diets, some of them very trendy, a lot of them you would know, and they’re trying to figure out what was most effective, and what was really best in terms of having an effect on changing somebody’s body composition.

The first conclusion from this study, was that any diet at all was superior to no diet at all.

Now that’s not really a surprise. So if you are paying attention to what you eat, and you’re tracking what you eat, and you’re really thoughtful about it, and you actually stop for just a second and try to analyze whether or not something’s good for you before you make a decision regarding your eating, that’s going to help.

Also, one of the things that’s really interesting from this study is that, if you have some kind of support group, if you have colleagues that you check in with, anybody that can help you stay on track, that also really helps. But the bottom line from this study was that the diet that you can actually stick to is going to be the most effective.

Last night, I was having dinner with somebody and he was asking me about diet and exercise, and he was asking me about making some changes in his diet. I know that this is a completely new change for him. If you go to a complete like raw vegan diet from where he is in his dietary routine, that would be a huge jump and a huge difference. It would be highly unlikely that he would be able to make that sort of switch and stick with it long-term.

One of the basic suggestions I made to him was like instead of actually trying to remove things, take away things, deny yourself things, saying “I won’t eat candy, I won’t eat sugar, I won’t eat French fries, I won’t eat hamburgers, I won’t eat carbohydrates.” Rather than doing that, just try to add something that you know is healthy, like a salad on regular basis if you don’t eat salad.

Now that’s a very basic idea that can really make a huge change if you haven’t been modifying your diet or monitoring your diet at all. Of course, most runners are usually fairly regimented and fairly good about monitoring what they’re eating and making sure that mostly what they’re eating is going to be helpful, and help build tissue to help rebuild that running body after every workout.

The first thing is that you should pick a diet that you think you can stick to and you should stick to it. You should also have friends that support you in your endeavor. So if you have friends that you’re training with and you’re doing the same diet at the same time, having an accountability partner can make a huge difference in terms of your longevity with that routine.

Then the other thing is, is that you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you slip-up. You have to stay on track, but realize that everybody is going to make mistakes. And, this time of year with holidays coming up, it can be very difficult to stick to a diet in a way that’s really strict and rigid. But again, go back to the analogy of exercise. If you have a training plan on your refrigerator and you have specific blocks of training you’re supposed to do, but then you get sick, or you get stressed out, or something happens, you have a family emergency and you miss a workout, it’s not the end of the world.

You’re still going to be able to run your marathon. You’re still going to be able to finish your race, and just one day of a mistake does not mean that the whole thing is a failure. So you have to just stay with things consistently, but if you can stay with any diet consistently, it will be more effective than a diet that seems like it might have a bigger effect, but you can’t stick with for any long period of time.

That’s the long and the short of it. The very best consistent, that’s the long and the short of it. The very best diet for any runner is a diet you can stick with, one that you can do consistently, just like your training. So make sure that you do your workouts. Make sure that you eat as soon as you can after those workouts to rebuild and restore all of your glycogen stores, and rebuild muscle as you need to. 

Just remember, that the whole goal of doing a workout is to sustain tissue damage so that you can rebuild it and become stronger after that. When you get an over-training injury, it’s really just an exaggerated version of that tissue damage.

You have to basically make sure that you’re just trying to continue to rebuild tissue, and your nutrition is supporting that idea even if you feel like you should cut back calories because you’re not doing all your workouts. It’s not about eliminating food that can rebuild the tissue just because you’re going to gain weight if you’re injured, so you have to be thoughtful about this. 

You have to be reasonable about it, and then make sure that your friends are surrounding you and involved in this same idea so that you can stick to your plan. If you do all that, you really can get back to running, as quickly as possible. 

So yes, maybe you wanted to keep building fitness over that period that you were in the boot and you can’t, but that’s okay. You can start today.


If you have a question that you would like answered as a future addition of the Doc On The Run Podcast, send it to me And then make sure you join me for the next edition of the Doc On The Run Podcast!