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  • Writer's pictureJackie K

What runners should eat on a rest day

If you're like many runners out there, you might find it hard to take a rest day. I know I've struggled with this a lot, and sometimes still do.

One thing that some runners find hard to accept is that they're often more hungry on their rest days than they are on their active days! Trust me, this is completely normal... nothing has gone wrong!

Some runners think that they shouldn't be eating - at least, not as much - on a rest day as they should on a day that they go for a run. But is that true?? Do you need to eat less on a rest day? Do you need to eat differently on a day that you don't go for a run?

🥪 Don't restrict your intake

This is not the day to cut back drastically on your intake. Your body is still recovering from yesterday's run and/or workouts... and likely the ones before it too! It can take ~48 hours to recover from a hard workout... and in order to recover properly, you need to eat.

If you're taking an extended break (like a week or more) and you're significantly less active, you probably don't need to eat quite as much as normal. But if you're in the middle of a heavy training cycle and you get one day off a week (or less!), the amount of food you eat should be about the same.

🥪 Eat regular meals and snacks

Keep up with your regular eating schedule... hopefully that already includes regular meals and snacks! Eating every few hours helps keep your metabolism going... and you're less likely to get super hungry if you do!

Balance your meals for your rest day. Eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, which should make up about 50% of your plate. Complex carbs (like whole grains, starchy vegetables, fruits, or legumes) should make up about 25% of your plate, while lean proteins (like eggs, poultry, or tofu) should make up the final 25%. Add some healthy fats (like oils, avocado, or nuts) to make it a balanced meal. Click here for an idea of what this plate might look like.

Snacks should be more than just one food. For great snack ideas for runners, look no further.

🥪 Choose high quality foods

Just like a normal (running) day, you need to eat real food. But just like a normal (running) day, it's okay to eat a cookie (or some chips, or a slice of pizza, or a glass of wine or bottle of beer) too. Just make sure those aren't the only things you eat.

You still need carbs. Carbs will provide energy, fiber, and vitamins. Eating them today helps make sure there's plenty of stored carbs in your muscles for energy on your run tomorrow.

You still need protein. Protein assists in muscle growth and recovery.

You still need fats. Fat will help keep inflammation down (wahoo!) and help make sure you stay full and satisfied.

You still need vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Fruits and veggies give you lots of vitamins and minerals that help keep you healthy, keep you full, and help you recover.

🥪 You still need carbs

Just because you're not running all the miles doesn't mean your body doesn't need energy. On training days, you can get away with eating more simple carbs. On rest days, make sure most of the carbs you eat are complex carbs. For example, you might have more brown rice, quinoa, root vegetables, and berries... and less regular pasta, white rice, crackers, or bananas.

Plus, eating carbs today means more glycogen (read: stored energy) for your run tomorrow. Skip out today and you'll feel sluggish on the run tomorrow. Boooooo.

🥪 Stay hydrated!

You might not be sweating as much, but your body still needs water! Keep a water bottle handy and sip on it throughout the day. You don't really need the electrolyte drink mixes or the high-carb sports drinks, but you can add some flavor by infusing some fruits 🍋, veggies 🥒, and/or herbs to make your water more exciting.

🥪 It's normal to feel hungry

Hungry? Hangry? Rungry? If you're feeling rumblings in your tummy, that is completely normal.

Hunger is the body's way of asking for the food and nutrients that it needs to help you recover, feel better, and get prepared for your next workout. In order to recover properly, you need to give it food. Remember the first tip - don't restrict your intake!!

Some people aren't that hungry after long and/or hard runs and workouts. Their hunger might come much later -- like the next day when you have a rest!! Try to relax, trust your body, and eat a meal or a snack.

If the hunger just won't stop, make sure that a) you're hydrated and b) you're eating adequate protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs. If you're eating only fruit, for example, you won't get the fullness factor that protein and fats provide.

🥪 Skip the gels and sports foods

If you're not running all the miles (or biking, or swimming all the laps, or lifting all the weights), then you really don't need the gels, chews, bars, or powders. They're designed to help you get through (or recover from, or prepare for) a workout, and you're resting today -- not working out.

If you need some guidance on how to fuel your body - whether you struggle with rest days, recovery days, or hard run/longrun days - you've come to the right place. What should you eat? When? How much? Why??

To be a better runner, you have to eat like one, and that includes figuring out how to eat on your rest day. Interested in how I can help? Schedule your runner's nutrition strategy session to find out how!

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