How Runners Can Stuff Their Face At Restaurants But Still Perform At Their Best

We run so we can eat, right? πŸ˜‰ Okay, okay, I do toss that around here quite frequently because, yes, being a runner entitles us to be a little more gluttonous than our slothy counterparts. BUT at the same time it would be a lie if I said that I only eat crap. And despite all of food gorging stories you share with a rightful amount of pride, wolfing down a whole pizza and ice cream by the pints is pretty cool when ‘earned’, I’m pretty sure 90% of you do too.
runner eating pizza
It’s a balance thing but it’s also that as runners I feel we fall into the healthier living category, no? In my most recent article: ‘The Runner’s Guide to Eating Out’ I’ve got the line, “Competitive athletes are wise enough to acknowledge that what goes into their mouths has a direct correlation to what their legs can put out.”

Despite those hamburgers larger than our heads and boxes of Pop-Tarts the majority of our diets are made up of ‘better’ choices or at least making sure we DO get in the necessary nutrients to fuel our body right. To fuel us for performance. We are running ‘machines’ not just pretty, cool bodies to look at. Yea, runner bodies are way cooler to look at too, but that’s beside the point. πŸ˜‰
runner eating donuts
I’ve talked about my little filling the foundation of your house with the ‘good’ stuff and do what you will with the attic before and that applies here. In tying in with the dining out at restaurants article I wanted to share a little more on what Krista Austin, Ph.D had to say.

* Athletes Aim for Intuitive Eating: Austin stresses that the aim is to listen to your body when gauging how much is enough, “Athletes should always remember to gauge their hunger to help control the volume of food that they eat-if you’re hungry eat and as you get full-stop!” In being a runner part of our JOB is being better attuned to reading the signals from our body, right, we do that all the time in training. For many, listening to those hunger/full cues from your brain is tricky because growing up and our environments/society has skewed our perceptions of hunger, satiety, appetite, cravings, boredom eating, and all of that jazz.

* Runner Entitlement: Here’s what I was talking about in filling that attic and being ‘entitled’ to eating more freely than most. “My policy is that at least once a week every athlete should have a “fun meal” where they don’t think too much about what they are eating and just enjoy fun food-the key is to watch the portion sizes,” says Austin. Win goes to the runners here, bring on the food trough. πŸ˜‰ Juuuust kidding.

* Calories CAN Get Sneaky: Okay, here is where I will admit to being downright floored at some of the nutritional stats of restaurants. Krista and I both agree on that one, are they injecting straight lard into some of those dishes to get stats that high?! Sure, now and then eating totally blasΓ© on stats is fine, but if you do make it a habit of going out to eat you might want to school up on the nutritional stats of some of those restaurants. You don’t need to obsess, but just have a little awareness.
runner legs
* Gluten Intolerant Folks: “Gluten intolerance athletes can go to restaurants like PF Changs or Red Robin that highlight their GF options but if you don’t know whether the food is GF or not, first start by asking if the restaurant knows and then if you must really eat without knowledge just try to ask for food items that we know are GF such as fajitas with corn tortillas or salads with meat on top etc.,” explains Austin. Amy Yoder Begley is a big fan of PF Chang’s especially when traveling for races; she also warns that if you don’t know of something is GF you REALLY need to be careful of cross-contamination in the kitchen. [I did a whole post on more GF living advice.]

* Race Travel: Revisit the article I wrote because it addresses this more in detail, but basically DO NOT try something new the day before or the day of a race, People. We know better…nothing worse than a burrito induced port-a-potty disaster mid-race, no??

* What Can Your Plate Do For YOU and you the RUNNER?: It’s the yin and yang of being a PERSON but also a RUNNER. You want both parts to feel fulfilled and satisfied, “Ask yourself when choosing menu items, 1)what will the food do for me? Is it going to refill my glycogen stores, help me recover from training, help me obtain the body composition I desire? and then 2) does it contain foods that will make me fill satisfied so I don’t then go for other foods later when I’m not even hungry just because I didn’t like what I ate,” explains Austin.

Runners and nutrition is an interesting topic to put it bluntly. It shouldn’t be as ridiculous as it is sometimes, but such is the nature of the beast. Keep things from erring on the side of driving yourself insane; the best runners I know are adept at finding the balance of person and runner.

Enjoy the entitlement that being a calorie-furnace runner but still be mindful of the times when you’re eating to perform. πŸ™‚

1) Do you go out to eat very often? If so, what are some of your favorite spots?

2) When you do go out to eat, what kinds of things do you seek out? How do you balance the person and the runner?

3) What is your stance on having nutritional information available on more and more restaurant menus either online or on site?
I think having them available online or if you ask for them at the place is good; I don’t think necessarily on the full menu only because at the same time if you don’t want to feel guilty on something you shouldn’t feel forced into that guilt. Lol.

4) If you’re gluten intolerant, what are some of your favorite restaurants?

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33 thoughts on “How Runners Can Stuff Their Face At Restaurants But Still Perform At Their Best

  1. Great topic! I love to eat, and I like that since I’m quite active I can eat more than most.
    We don’t eat out much. We never did, but especially once my husband went vegan.
    I’m not big on nutritional facts right on menus either. I also don’t want to feel guilty! I like them on websites so I have the option of checking it out though.

    • thanks and power to us entitled runnerchicks! πŸ™‚ u and ur hubby need to visit me in seattle tho, i swear EVERYONE here is vegan and there are tons of vegan places to eat…just had my first vegan BLT actually. πŸ™‚

  2. Sometimes the nutrition facts at restaurants are terrifying. I don’t eat out nearly as much as I used to, but much like having a spouse going vegan, my spouse controls many of my eating habits, many of which are negative. I have made great strides in helping us other change that, but it has resulted in many fights. I rely quite a bit on my lunch choices for my important nutrients and calorie consciousness. I am able to pack my own things, so I am very mindful (turkey sandwich with whole grain bread, salad, rice cakes, yogurt and some fruit).

    Fortunately I am not a rich man, as teachers for woefully underpaid, so I can easily eat like a poor person would eat (simple with very few ingredients).

    • hahaha…ya, the artist/writer wages are prolly about where u guys are and power to us simple taste budded folks! πŸ™‚ aww, i’m sorry u and ur wife have a bit of an issue over the eating habits, eating habits can be super tricky and also a bit of a hot button. but i’m glad u’re making a positive impact and hopefully will less fights. πŸ™‚

  3. I don’t eat out very much, but in the past when I did I always checked for nutrition facts. If they are available I usually decide what I am going to eat before I even get to the restaurant. Lately, though, I have been embracing the “splurges” being a runner allows and just going with what sounds good. But I agree, when I am splurging I do not want to know the nutrition for what I am eating, it just leads to guilt and regret.

    • i’m with u on all accounts!! i tend to check before for the most part, but at the same time when i’ve decided i don’t WANT to care, ignorance is bliss. πŸ˜‰

  4. Great post!

    I ate out a lot during university, but not any more. I think I eat relatively healthy, but I have a very, veeery unhealthy streak with chocolate. πŸ™ It’s quite insane how much I can eat at one time so I’ve been trying to limit that!

  5. Another fun post! OK, all of yours are πŸ˜‰ I think you know how much I love food, and good food, so this is a post I agree with fully. Stocking up on the good stuff means you can have fun sometimes – and running means there is leeway for more fun than average!

    • u kno i think u’re about the QUEEN of food over there…i’m always left in awe, and drooling, at ur food geniuses. i’m glad once i can give u some *ahem* food for thought. wow, sorry for that one. πŸ˜‰

  6. At the same time I took up running, I was also trying to lose weight, and I was studying dietetics so healthy eating and running came hand in hand (or should that be hand and foot?).
    We’ve all read my little saga about how taking that over the top turned out, but I have found the balance now, and the best way for me to perform while I am running is to maintain a balanced and healthy approach to what I put on my plate. I ‘run best on plants’ although others may not, and I have to allow myself a few treats a week or I go a little insane. Deprivation is a don’t!
    When I do eat out, which is rarely, I love, love, love vegetarian sushi! Avocado and asparagus anyday πŸ™‚ I am not really one for massive desserts, even though I love making them, but I have a little (okay, huge) weakness for pistachio gelato in the summer time πŸ™‚

    • i knew this would be right up ur alley and YOU should be the one offering up advice…oh wait, u do that already on ur awesome blog…hehe. πŸ™‚
      i didn’t know u were a big sushi fan…i luuuv me sashimi!! we must go get some sometime, come visit me, mmmk? i’ll make sure we get u some pistachio gelato too. πŸ˜‰

  7. I love veggies so much I frequently eat too much of them. I always look for dishes that are served with vegetables at a restaurant. I prefer Asian style; stir-fries with rice on the side. And chocolate after ;-).

    As for calorie labels – I used to write essays about making them mandatory when I was at school. Now, I stop at a mccafe or subway from time to time and my obsessive brain can’t handle all those numbers. So instead of the splurge I promised myself, I end up with a stupid bag of cut up apple.

  8. I think this is my favourite title to a post ever. If I didn’t already read your blog religiously this one would have totally sucked me in πŸ˜‰

    We don’t eat out much because we don’t GO OUT much anymore but I still enjoy having a night off from cooking each week. Indian and Mexican are what I go for. Unfortunately neither of them are that great for fuelling for a run but they taste sooooooo good!

    I am pretty sure if I ever saw the nutritional information on my indian takeaway I would never ever eat it ever again.

    I love your foundation/attic description. .. such a healthy not number obsessive, non deprivation approach. Save the obsessive for the running I say πŸ™‚

    • “save the obsessive for the running” THAT is the best motto i’ve read in a long while! so true!

      oh and mexican food, oh how the burrito has stolen my heart. actually, if u haven’t seen on Twitter another friend and i have started the #burritoforpresident campaign. sadly he lost this year, but we’re pushing that in another 4 years we’ll have a bigger voting populous. πŸ˜‰

  9. We don’t eat out that much, mostly because I’d rather spend my money on running clothes.

    I do however LOVE to eat. I am still trying to find the perfect balance of calories in vs calories out. Maybe I should take some nutrition classes. πŸ™‚

    • if u love to eat, u’re surely a runner! well, we knew that anyways but….hehe. πŸ™‚

      it can be tricky to find the exact input/output but also because it varies on the individual a lot too. the best thing to do is just trial and error and just like getting to kno ur body in training u get to know ur body in the eating. πŸ™‚

  10. I agree you have to have a balance between the junk and the good stuff…I eat more good than bad…like I rarely if iever eat fast food…yet I will eat two baskets of chips when we go out to eat mexican food πŸ™‚

  11. OMG, the entitlement to pigging out… I think I’ve been guilty of that SO MUCH while training for my marathon. Unfortunately, I’ve been pigging out on not-so-healthy foods so often instead of once a week (like one of the tips). This is an informative post and couldn’t have come at a better time for me!

  12. I’m new to running, so still trying to figure out what I should be eating. Experienced runners tell me that it really doesn’t matter what I eat before a 5k, as long as I don’t overindulge, but it’d be nice to have a guide.

    Thanks for the info!

    • glad i could help! yea, for the shorter races a lot of runners can fall into the misconception that they have to carbo-load when really that’s not necessary.

  13. Interesting topic! For the most part, I do a pretty good job of eating a healthy diet. We go out to eat sometimes on the weekend as a special treat. If we have a long run or race planned, we aim for a going out night afterward so we can reward ourselves with something extra tasty, and not having to cook! πŸ™‚

  14. Love love love this post! Any time that I don’t fuel my body correctly I can always tell in my runs. πŸ™‚
    I hardly EVER go out to eat, but when I do I try really hard to make good choices. Lean meats and veggies. I don’t mind knowing the nutritional values, but you’re right, I don’t want to feel guilty if I am enjoying myself. πŸ™‚
    Great post Cait!

    • thank girl! glad this was of help. u’re righ ton track with the lean meats and veggies, and u’re also becoming a champ and learning to time ur fuel better too. πŸ™‚

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