12 Foods That Runners Should Avoid (Especially Before a Race)

foods for runners to avoid

Runners! Don't bog yourselves down with these foods

Whether you are trying to lose weight or aiming to become an athlete, start by controlling your food choices.

By avoiding the following meals and snacks below, you will maximize your chances of staying fit and healthy for as long as possible.

What exactly are the foods to avoid for runners?

1. Soy Protein Isolate

Soy is a pretty good source of protein. It is often added to packaged and processed products.

However, soy that has been processed at high temperatures can flood your body with phytoestrogens, which increase the chances of breast cancer.

For runners, it is better to avoid products that contain soy isolate or derivatives and consume soy products like milk or tofu instead.

2. White and Brown Bread

white and brown bread

White bread is highly refined and lacks nutrients. The fiber in white bread has been removed to increase shelf life, but this can cause indigestion.

Although whole grain bread is healthier than white bread, make sure that it is 100 percent whole wheat or 100 percent whole grain before adding it to your shopping cart.

3. Packaged and Fried Snacks

food for runners to avoid

Snacks like French fries, chips, cookies, and crackers are filled with extra sugar, calories, or fat that can contribute to unwanted pounds.

These foods hardly contain any vitamins, nutrients, and minerals but make you feel full, leaving no more room for the healthy stuff.

As a result, your body doesn't get the essential nutrients it needs to stay fit and vigorous.

Moreover, the problem is not just what's been added to your body but what’s been taken away. Processed foods often take away nutrients that protect the heart, such as soluble fiber, antioxidants, and “good” fats.

But if you want a sweet snack, choose something with little or no added sugar. Avoid snacks that contain trans fats as well.

4. Packaged Juices or Energy Drinks

lemon juice

Advertisements say that energy drinks and juices are good for runners and fit into a healthy lifestyle. But this couldn't be farther from the truth.

In reality, these products only taste good but do runners no good.

They often contain artificial sweeteners, colors, preservatives, and emulsifiers.

For a better option, stick to water and add some lemon to make it tastier.

5. Energy or Protein Bars

foods for runners to avoid 8 (FILEminimizer)

photo by E. I. Sanchez

Like energy drinks, energy bars are also advertised as being healthy for runners, but they're not.

These protein bars contain artificial sweeteners as well and do not provide the advertised benefits to runners.

6. Alcohol or Mixed Drinks

alcohol mixing

Alcohol prevents injuries from healing and actually exacerbates the problem. Thus, people who have been injured should avoid drinking alcohol.

Some may think that switching to mixed drinks is a good idea. 

However, because mixed drinks contain soda or juice, they come with a high amount of calories. Moreover, these beverages do not provide any nutritional benefits to the runners.

7. Soft Drinks

soft dirnk

photo by Mary Hutchison

Soft drinks contain lots of added sugar, calories, and artificial colors that are harmful to the body.

Diet versions of soft drinks are also useless. While they are calorie-free, their phosphoric acid content can hinder your weight loss and fitness goals.

8. Butter Substitutes

It is better to ingest natural, healthy oils than hydrogenated oils.

Butter substitutes, which are highly processed and contain trans fats, damage the heart.

Stick to natural fat sources like coconut oil, avocado, and real butter. But do not consume too much as these are high in calories.

9. Heavy Cream-Based Food

foods for runners to avoid

Heavy cream will counter all your hard work if you are running to lose weight.

It sits in the stomach as a solid mass and becomes difficult to move, raising your fat intake and calorie count.

Hence, it is best to avoid cream-based foods like chowder, bisque, ice cream, and cream sauces.

10. Frozen Meals

Frozen meals can have too many calories, sodium, and fat. Remember, do not buy a frozen meal which has more than 500 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 500 grams of sodium per serving.

If you must buy frozen meals, choose those that contain protein and fiber.

11. Processed Nuts

foods for runners to avoid

Loaded with protein, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants, nuts make good snacks for runners.

However, consuming too much nuts that have been roasted in hydrogenated oils or have added sugar are bad for you. 

12. Low-Fat Foods

If a food is "low-fat," it often means that flavorful fat has been removed and that sugar, sodium, or thickeners have been added to make up for the lack of flavor.

However, these ingredients directly threaten a runner's performance and should therefore be avoided.

Final Advice

Running is definitely a great way to get in shape; however, you only get the best results by eating the right food.

Some foods will boost your performance while others will damage your health. Each runner’s body responds differently to different foods.

Hence, we recommend that you find out for yourself which foods make you feel good and which ones do not.

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