Reasons we don't exercise
Must I go on a strict diet to be a runner?
Short answer: No you will not have to give up the food you love. The problem is not that the food we eat is bad, it's the amount we eat of it. Even fast food, admittedly not the best food, is ok in small amounts. But if fast and processed food is all you eat, you're making fitness and weight control very difficult for yourself.
If you enjoy your food and are slightly overweight, there is no point in draconian measures to make you lose weight. Any extreme program, whether it's fitness training, speical diets, or eliminating all the foods you love, is likely to misfire if it's too difficult to implement.
The aim of turning your life around with running is not to minimize your fun and enjoyment while maximising your discomfort. The goal is to enable you to enjoy life more.
When you are lighter, more flexible, and fitter, you feel better. You cope better with stress. You have stronger sex drive. You don't get out of breath climbing stairs or walking the dog. Your focus improves at work and at home. When you're in shape, you even become more attractive to other people.
This task is made easier by combining exercise with healthy eating habits. It probably means cutting back on portion sizes of some of the foods you've been eating, i.e. fast and processed food. It means cutting back on sugared drinks. It will also mean limiting the amount of red meat you eat.
But is also means making your diet more exciting by introducing much more variety, more fresh fruit and vegetables.
The best way to improve your running is to build simple, sustainable training habits.
(Amby Burfoot, winner Boston Marathon, 1968)
Runners don't benefit from special or fad diets which focus on one food group over others. You will feel best and perform best if you eat a wide variety of foods.
You should eat carbs before and after running. Carbohydrates are the most efficient energy source for your body, much more so than protein and fat, though you do have to eat both of those as well.
You might find, I certainly did, that I ate as much, if not more, as a runner than I did before. All that extra activity has to be fueled somehow. In my case, I ate more and yet lost weight because I was running so much.
But also, my eating habits improved. I cut out sugared soda altogether. I stopped eating candy and pastries. I stopped eating creamy sauces. I pretty much eliminated fast food. I stopped drinking alcohol.
I ate much more pasta, brown rice, fresh salsa, fish, lean meat, way more fruit, much more salad than ever before. I developed a liking for sushi and spicy Korean food.
And I developed a taste for sparkling mineral water: Gerolsteiner, Perrier, Apollinaris, and Ramlosa.
Does this sound extreme? It's not the strictest diet by any means. But the thing is, it works for me. I enjoy my food, I eat well, and I'm happy with my race weight.
You need to do what works for you. Remember: variety; fresh fruit and vegetables; drink plenty of water; don't drink too much alcohol; cut down on fast and processed food. And breakfast is important!