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Nutrition for Runners – Just in Time for the Vancouver Sun Run

female runner

Nutrition for athletes has been researched and explored since the origin of the Olympics. Athletes of this generation benefit from years of scientific explorations and the wisdom and experience of athletes and trainers who have worked hard for their own (and now our) benefit.

Healthy Foods for Runners

There isn’t really a specific diet for runners to follow. The key is to enjoy a balanced diet that includes three meals a day with snacks in between meals if you need them. In this case, ‘balanced’ means having three out of the four food groups present at each meal.

Examples of Balanced Meals

  • Salmon with Roasted Vegetables on Brown Rice
  • Lentil and Vegetable Stew with Whole Grain Roll & Skim Milk
  • Asian Beef and Vegetable Stir-fry over Japanese Noodles
  • Classic Tomato Meat Sauce Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Green Beans

asian-stirfry Nutrition for Runners - Just in Time for the Vancouver Sun Run

Whole grains, lots of vegetables and fruit, and lean protein are preferred to keep the cardiovascular system and gastrointestinal system healthy. Lean protein provides the amino acid building blocks required to build and repair muscle tissues, especially since running involves the largest muscle groups in the body – leg muscles. Healthy fats such as vegetable oil, soft margarine and those from nuts, seeds, and avocado are required as part of a healthy diet.

However, keeping the total amount of fat (from animal and plant sources) to less than thirty percent of your daily calories is best. Runners benefit from maintaining a healthy weight because it improves their efficiency and overall performance. When meal planning, keep in mind that eating foods high in fiber and fat before runs can cause digestive issues or lethargy because they take longer to digest.

Nutrition for Runners Marathon

For those who have or are thinking about signing up for a marathon, half-marathon, 10K or 5K walk or run, you need to be a bit more specific about your food intake than the recreational runner who isn’t training for a planned event.  The following guidelines will help you schedule meals so you minimize undesirable side effects during your runs such as dehydration, cramping, and nausea.

 If Eating Two Hours or More before Running

Balanced meal with grains, vegetables and protein. This can be a lighter meal if you find two hours isn’t long enough for you to digest everything prior to your run.

If Eating One Hour before Running

Liquid meals such as a meal replacement drink or fruit and yogurt smoothie will be best because fluids digest quicker. This will reduce your risks of cramping, and nausea during your run. If you have what I like to call an “iron stomach,” you may tolerate a regular meal of solid food, but don’t leave it until race day to try something new.

If You Run First Thing in the Morning

Have a balanced meal the night before with grains, vegetables and protein. This is very important to help you build some glycogen stores. In the morning, drink either diluted sports drink or fruit juice (or if you prefer, water and an energy gel or shot bloc gummy). This will prevent low blood sugars (even if you’re not diabetic) and keep you from feeling lightheaded during a 30 to 45 minute run.

Hydration for Runners

 water-fountain-1024x768 Nutrition for Runners - Just in Time for the Vancouver Sun Run

The general guideline for fluid intake:

Timing Amount of Fluid
2 hours before running 2 cups
10-15 min before running 1 to 2 cups
Every 15-20 min during run 1/3 – ½ cup
Immediately after training 1 – 3 cups


However, you may require less or more depending on your sweat losses, tolerance for fluid intake and body size. The key is to drink enough, but not too much or too little. Over hydration can cause a condition called hyponatremia, where the salt level in your blood becomes too low, causing symptoms of nausea, fatigue, and muscle cramps. Dehydration increases your body temperature and your overall risk of heat stroke and heart related illness. Rehydration will improve post-exercise recovery so it’s important to drink plenty of fluids after your run, especially after long runs or when running in hot weather.

Vitamins for Runners

If you’re eating balanced meals and snacks and don’t have pre-existing health conditions that require isolated supplements for treatment, you should be fine with just a one-a-day multivitamin/mineral.

Vitamin D supplementation may be useful for runners who live in climates that don’t get much sun exposure or if they wear sunscreen or clothing that covers most skin surfaces when outdoors. Adults generally require 600 IU per day, unless additional therapeutic doses are required to treat a deficiency or osteoporosis.

Calcium will be important if your diet doesn’t provide enough. One convenient way to check whether you need to eat more calcium containing foods or take a supplement is to use the BC Dairy Association’s Interactive Calcium Calculator (see “references”).






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Healthy Lifestyle Tips For Parties & Holidays

holiday turkey


Hurray! Another holiday season is upon us and there’s a reason to party, get together with old friends, and recall stories of the past and talk about plans for the future. Good times, indeed. Don’t let the holidays bring a damper to your party because you’re worried about putting on weight. Remember, during the holidays, wanting to lose weight fast isn’t realistic. The goal should be to maintain your current weight until the holidays have past, and then resume your weight loss pursuits. Following the healthy living tips below will be much easier and more effective than any diet plan you’ll encounter.


1. Before arriving at a party, have a small snack so you’re not starving on arrival. Curb your appetite with some cheese and crackers or veggies and hummus or yogurt with fruit about an hour before your party. It’ll prevent overeating, guaranteed. (Note: Having a protein-containing snack between lunch and dinner is one of those healthy lifestyle habits that help curb cravings and prevent overeating whether you’re headed home for a ‘regular meal’ or a party!)

2. Tackle the buffet table with some tact. For the first round, fill your plate with vegetables, fruits, lean meats and small amounts of starch. If you go for a second round, choose small portions of other foods, which shouldn’t be too hard at this point since you’ll likely be getting full already from your first healthy plate.

3. Many popular “diets that work for sure” over restrict portion sizes and make it difficult for people to sustain healthy living while achieving their weight goals. Instead of following a strict regime that’s hard to maintain, use ‘the plate method’ as a guide. Fill your plate with half vegetables, a quarter lean protein, and a quarter grains at each meal.

4. Cocktail parties mean finger foods. The best healthy eating tips involve helping people become more mindful of their eating. Be very selective of what you place in your plate because chances are you’ll nibble at it without thinking how much you’re consuming. Choose raw veggies like cucumber, broccoli florets and baby carrots, which are nutritionally dense but low in calories. If you’re feeling extra motivated, skip the dip.

5. Alcoholic beverages still fit into this ‘diet plan’ but take it in moderation. Generally, men are allowed up to 2 standard drinks per day while women have their maximum set at 1-1.5 standard drinks per day. Calories from drinks can add up, so try to choose drinks mixed with diet pop or club soda versus juices and regular sodas.

6. Start a new holiday tradition by building physical activity into the celebration festivities. Healthy lifestyle choices require daily commitment. With the support of family and friends, the process will be much more enjoyable and everyone you care about will reap the benefits of better health too! Ideas of where to start include: Before serving dinner, have everyone go for a half hour walk together instead of sitting around the couch. It’ll be a great way to relieve stress and boost your metabolism a bit before eating. For more exercise tips, consider going to your local fitness center and asking one of the class instructors or personal trainers.

TRY THIS HEALTHY RECIPE (Courtesy of Dietitians of Canada)


Canada’s National Nutrition Month

national nutrition month theme

In Canada, the national nutrition month is in March. The Dietitians of Canada collaborates with their official sponsors to determine a theme and launches a campaign to promote healthy eating habits for all Canadians. Many Canadians are benefiting from the consumer friendly resources put forth by each year’s campaign and enjoy the fact that the healthy eating tips are shared in popular social media platforms such as twitter as well as more traditional printable resources.


One of my favorite themes was 2012’s “Get the Real Deal on Your Meal” where 39 popular food myths were busted by registered dietitians. At the time, I had the privilege of working with a group of colleagues to promote the campaign to the public and thoroughly enjoyed seeing everyday people learn more about the truth behind eating well. In fact, I attribute part of my desire for Food Mysteries to that experience of seeing people’s eyes light up when they busted food myths with us.


Here’s the article I wrote for Tidbits of Vancouver, a local Vancouver newspaper, that was published:


Myth #23: Frozen and canned vegetables and fruit are not as nutritious as fresh.


When it comes to fruits and vegetables, many people would argue that fresh is best. The truth is frozen and canned produce can be just as nutritious as fresh. Produce is picked at the peak of ripeness and nutrition and frozen or canned right away sealing in all that nutrient goodness. Frozen and canned produce is usually peeled, pitted, and sliced for your convenience, making it even easier for you to make healthy meals. Out of season, fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive and have often travelled a long distance, so frozen or canned are often a more economical option. It’s also a practical way to enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables all year round. To keep it healthy, look for no-salt-added canned vegetables, fruit canned in its own juices and plain frozen fruits and vegetables.


Now that you know that frozen and canned produce are healthy options, there’s no hiding behind the excuse of “it’s too hard to enough fruits and veggies.” Sneak more produce in your diet with the following tips:

  • Toss a handful of frozen berries into fresh yogurt or hot cereal for breakfast
  • Blend milk, yogurt, and frozen fruit together for a yummy smoothie treat
  • Build a tasty fruit salad with canned fruit mixed with some fresh seasonal fruit
  • Liven up your favorite soup, stew, or pasta sauce with a splash of color from canned or frozen vegetables
  • Power up your comfort foods by adding antioxidant-rich vegetables like frozen broccoli and cauliflower to macaroni and cheese
  • Tantalize your taste buds by adding fresh basil and ricotta cheese to canned tomatoes for a quick and easy pasta sauce


This summer, try freezing and canning all that delicious local produce from the farmer’s market so you can enjoy it all year round.

For information and resources including the following:

  • national nutrition month ideas
  • national nutrition month recipes
  • national nutrition month activities

Please visit: http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-Month/