The Right Nutrition for Runners
Nutritional tips for joggers from coach and running expert Andreas Butz
Protein shakes, energy gel, vitamins, oh my! In an interview, triathlete and running expert Andreas Butz explains what nutrition runners really need. Read up on what constitutes a healthy diet when jogging and which nutritional mistakes you should avoid.
Being interviewed: Running expert Andreas Butz
Andreas Butz has competed in over 150 marathons, ultra runs and triathlons. Andreas knows how important the right nutrition is for runners and isn't shy about giving insights from his Runners Guide (in German). Together with his wife Mrs. Gisela Butz, the running expert published his book „Vitale Läuferküche“.
How did you and your wife get involved in nutrition?
Andreas Butz explains: „When my wife and I became parents 25 years ago, healthy nutrition for our child was our goal. We then started paying more attention. We were and still are athletes and thus wanted a diet that helped us reach our goals. This led to our 'Vital Läuferküche', a guide to a complete plant-based diet with numerous delicious recipes.“
You can find more about Andreas Butz on his website andreasbutz.com.
The importance of nutrition in running
To improve performance, runners use a variety of tactics: Some follow exercise schedules, others use energy gels and protein shakes. But what role does nutrition actually play for runners?
What runners should know about nutrition
We wanted to know from Andreas Butz what significance the topic of nutrition should have for runners. For experienced runners and running coaches, metabolism is the key to a better diet:
"Runners should think about the topic of metabolism (three to five times a day). Metabolism means turning nutrients into energy. A healthy diet means a healthy person. If the diet is poor, performance decreases. The human body consists of about 100 trillion body cells, and with every second around 50 million cells die. As our food is broken down to create energy, cells are created to replace the dead ones. Therefore, every meal offers a great opportunity to become healthier and more efficient".
That sounds plausible. Nevertheless, it is often difficult, not only for runners, to find the right path.
Common mistakes with nutrition
According to Andreas Butz, the biggest mistake „is not thinking about the importance of proper nutrition“:
„As mentioned, we have the tendancy of reaching for that which is easiest and tastes the best. But with increasing nutritional awareness, this is changing. The second biggest mistake is believing that dietary supplements can compensate for poor nutrition. It doesn't work that way. Dietary supplements should only be taken with a medical prescription."
- Runners should continue learning about nutrition. It's a life-long process.
- Supplements are not a substitute for a balanced and healthy diet. You can do without them if you eat a balanced diet and do not suffer from deficiency issues.
The ideal nutrition for runners
To stay fit as a runner and increase your performance, you should think about nutrition. Which foods are nutritious and which foods are taboo?
Wholefoods instead of Supplements
Andreas Butz explains that "nutrients and vitamins and avoiding junk food" is the most important for a successful runner's diet:
"Metabolic disturbers are, for example, corn syrup, or any non-whole grain. Alcohol is also terrible. Too much meat and dairy tend to hinder a healthy diet. You should avoid sausage altogether," the expert explains which foods are (not only) much better suited for runners: "You can only do right with a plant-based diet: plenty of fruit, salad, vegetables, nuts and whole grain products. The less the food is processed, according to the rule of thump, the healthier the food. I also recommend choosing organic foods, as organic foods are not treated with fungicides, pesticides nor insecticides."
- Avoid training disturbers: Corn syrup, excess salt, alcohol, too much meat and milk products
Even if you are preparing for a race, or a marathon, no special diet is necessary.
"Those who already eat a balanced diet don't need to change anything to prepare for a marathon", according to Andreas Butz. "Be sure to eat plenty of vegetables and drink plenty of fluids the day before. For long runs that train edurance and speed, we recommend only drinking water and not sports drinks. Drinking only water will make sure your body continues to burn fat instead of sugars."
- Drink water instead of sports drinks.
Running on an empty stomach - What do you need to consider?
The topic of running on an empty stomach is widely debated. Is it a good idea to jog on an empty stomach? When should you avoid running on an empty stomach?
Andreas Butz isn't against it, per se: "Running on an empty stomach is okay. Just avoid over-doing it. What you are capable of depends on your athletic ability. It's best to avoid long runs and HIT sessions as your body will then use protein in your muscles for energy. That's not what an athlete wants."
- Running on an empty stomch is not dangerous.
- Avoid, however, long runs or high intensitiy training on an empty stomach.
Eating right, before and after running
No matter whether hobby or marathon runner: Finding the right meal before and after a run is confusing for many runners.
Andreas Butz advises against carb counting – that's how you lose sight of the big picture: "The focus should be on a healthy diet and not on counting carbs. This is distracting and suggests that there are special nutrients that you should pay attention to. The overall diet is key".
What should runners eat after running?
"The more you exert yourself, the more important it is to provide your body with what it needs to repair itself.", explains Andreas Butz. "Whole wheat products along with organic fruits and vegetables help the body repair itself much faster".
Andreas Butz shows us what he eats everyday:
"I start the day with a colorful fruit salad, made from apple, banana and berries. I add 3 spoon-fulls of fresh dried oats, which I make daily with a flake squeezer, and a handful of nuts, either walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews or almonds. With this breakfast I have now run over 150 marathons, and my red blood cell count is top notch!"
Want more recipes or diet suggestions?
„You can find a collection of recipes in our book Vitale Läuferküche. You can find more recipes on our Running blog @ Laufampus.com.“
In addition, Gisela and Andreas Butz organise cooking classes for runners in their Vitality cooking school.
Putting healthy nutrition into practice
A healthy and nutritious diet is essential for runners and endurance athletes. But the theoretical knowledge about the right nutrition is only one side of the coin. The diet, however, needs to be practical, as Andreas Butz emphasizes:
"Reading and knowledge is not enough. The difference is the 'implementation competence'. Never before has the collective knowledge of mankind about health and nutrition been greater and the nutrition worse. Therefore, dear readers, start today with a change. Clean up the fridge and pantry. Throw away unhealthy, fatty, sugary, frozen foods and start over and visit a local farmer's market weekly."
You'll notice changes from your diet switch soon enough: „After just four weeks of a wholefood, sugar-free, vegetable-heavy diet, you should notice the improvement in well-being and quality of life.“
We thank Andreas Butz very much for the informative interview!
For more information about running, take a look at the following articles in the owayo magazine:
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Image credits: Image 1: Ridofranz/iStock; Image 2 (Portray A. Butz): Marco Dahmen; Image 3: Eva-Katalin/E+; Image 4: Eoneren/iStock; Image 5: Santje09/ iStock; Image 6: Golero/E+; Image 7: Erdikocak/E+.