Four Ways to Squash Half- or Full-Marathon Training Hunger

Let's be honest: I named my business "rungry" for a reason.

I'll never forget the hunger associated with half Ironman training (or really training for any endurance race). I felt like an insatiable beast. I was downing yogurt bowls, protein muffins, hard boiled eggs...anything to stave off the constant hunger. I was pounding water to stay hydrated. Because I was typically doing two workouts per day, I was eating two breakfasts and often eating huge night time snacks. (Then waking up at 4:30 am the next day to do it all over again.)

70.3 Chuck Norris

I was "eating clean" and foods that served my body. I was expecting to become a lean racing machine, and maybe lose a few pounds. Then...I gained about 10 pounds. While this may not seem like a huge weight gain, racing with an extra 10 pounds is tough. I felt foreign in my body and constantly bloated. 

What I hadn't realized is that I wasn't fueling properly. When my first marathon rolled around about a year later, I vowed to not make the same mistakes. I really paid attention to my hunger cues and listened to exactly what my body wanted. It was a fine balance between being satiated and satisfied with my meals, and fueling for performance. (Yes, there were a lot of extra protein bars and yogurt bowls, but I was smart.)

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When I ran that marathon, I felt more "me" and confident in my fueling. (I also wasn't carrying around an extra 10 pounds.)

What changed during that training cycle? I smartened up with my mindset on food. I looked to food more as fuel than as a reward. Yes, it's tempting to reward a long run with a hamburger and fries, but that reward system gets us into trouble in the first place. (Food shouldn't be used as a reward...but more on that later.)

The post-run hunger beast is a real thing, but here are four tips to help you tame the beast that may pop up during endurance training. 
  1. Really, really listen to your hunger. I know I've preached this a bazillion times before, but when you start feeling hungry, listen to where that hunger is coming from. Is it emotional hunger? Are you thirsty? Are you bored, happy, sad or just emotional? Did you eat enough protein and fat at your last meal? If you are truly hungry, grab a snack rich in protein and fat.
  2. When in doubt, reach for protein and fat. Protein is needed to help our muscles recover. Fat keeps us satisfied. Together they are a nutrition super duo. Hard-boiled eggs, hummus and veggies, nuts and an apple--are all great power snacks for runners. And make sure you eat something within 30 to 60 minutes after your workout. (And keep this in mind when you're building meals. About a quarter of your plate should be protein, a quarter should be dedicated to a starch/whole grain, and about half should be loaded with veggies. Finish it with a dollop of fat--nut butter, avocado, olive oil, nuts/seeds, etc.)
  3. Reframe your idea of eating and hunger. The customary craving after a long run is typically burgers, French fries, fluffy pancakes or piles of bacon. While all these "fun foods" are just fine, reach for the real food first. Load up your plate (or bowl) with fruits + veggies, whole grains, healthy fats and protein first. That first post-run meal should be rich in complex carbs and protein to help replenish energy stores and repair muscles. (Remember, not all calories are created equal. 1,000 calories in cheeseburger looks a lot different than 1,000 calories of eggs or 1,000 calories of apples.)
  4. Ensure you're hydrating. Our body sends the same cue when it's both hungry and thirsty. That gets confusing really quickly. If you're hungry at a time when you're typically not hungry, have a little water first. See how your body is feeling. Because you exhausted a lot of energy during your last workout, it may not be a bad idea to enhance your water with a little high-quality salt to help replenish missing minerals. 
Need some runner-approved recipe ideas? Make sure to check out my recipe page that has hundreds of FREE recipes all geared with an athlete's needs in mind. Have more questions on fueling? Shoot me a note!

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