Cookies, and sweets, and cocktails, oh my! We don’t want to completely fall off the running reindeer & sleigh during the holidays, but the temptations are great this time of year. Overindulgence can leave us feeling less than nimble, but all of those things are soooo good. What’s a runner to do?
Since we’ve been known to say, “Cheers!” with the best of them, and then still want to get up and log some miles, we decided to ask the pros how to enjoy the holidays while still sticking to a running plan.
Laura Horvat from Eat, Run, Thrive is a certified running coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Nutrition. She suggests following an 80/20 rule during this time of year.
“Eating well doesn’t need to be all or nothing! Eighty percent of the time, aim to eat nutrient-dense foods that will fuel your health and running goals. The other 20 percent? Enjoy your favorite holiday treats and the celebrations that come with the season,” adds Horvat.
For treats, we suggest picking “Santa Claus” foods – ones that only come around once a year. That means grandma’s casserole grandma doesn’t need to be off-limits.
Carbohydrates have also gotten a bad rap in the past. Chalk it up to those fad diets – runners know that carbs are life!
“Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred fuel source,” says Horvat. “Your running performance, hormones, mood, and cognitive function can all be negatively impacted by inadequate carb intake.” However, this doesn’t mean surviving on Christmas cookies alone. The type and quality of carbohydrates you eat DO matter. “Day-to-day, focus on filling your plate with mostly whole and minimally-processed foods, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans, rather than loading up on refined carbohydrates and added sugars.”
And how about alcohol? Studies have shown that moderate alcohol intake doesn’t really impede performance. “Moderate” is defined as one to two drinks for guys and one for gals (per day), so keep that in mind when you’re hitting up the bar after your brewery run.
Speaking of brewery runs and beer, NoDa Run Club hosts runs throughout the year, and they don’t stop during the holidays. A lot of runners love to hang out and have a beer or two after their run on Wednesday evenings at 6:30 or Noon on Sundays. The brewery offers a few lower-alcohol and lower-calorie brews that make great choices when you’re watching what you eat and drink.
“NoDa Brewing carries a few of these at a time, specifically lagers, seltzers, and goses, and even a session IPA,” says Jamaar Valentine, General Manager at NoDa Brewing. “Many of the brews are gluten-reduced as well.”
Whatever you do, don’t try to skip meals to “make up” for overindulging the day or night before a run. Running on an empty fuel tank is not a good idea. It’s best to just get back on track and start out on the right foot the next day. Regular, small meals and hydrating with water will get you back to normal in no time.
We know a lot of gatherings this time of year revolve around food and drink. Answer that challenge with one of your own: Consider starting a new tradition by inviting family and friends out for a run instead!