When hunger strikes, no cookie in my house is safe, and that’s okay! Runners will feel cravings, which could mean a late-night dive into the pantry, or feelings of guilt or resistance. What are cravings, and should we ignore them?
You aren’t eating enough food to support your training
It can be hard to eat enough when you are training hard. Runners doing a very high volume training might feel like they’re eating constantly.
Solution: Make a plan for your meals and snacks for the week. This is a great way to ensure that you have enough food available to eat. Focusing on stocking your pantry with energy-dense foods like nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocadoes and healthy oils can be a good way to easily up intake.
Not hungry? Take advantage of the quick fixing and portability of smoothies and milkshakes to help maximize nutrition. Some people find it easier to sip than to snack.
You aren’t eating enough protein
Runners can need up to twice the amount of protein as the average person. Protein helps to prevent injury and illness and keeps our energy levels and mood more stable.
Solution: Break up protein intake throughout the day to maximize the rate of muscle protein synthesis (rate of muscle rebuilding) and keep cravings at bay by maintaining level blood sugar. Make sure each meal and most snacks incorporate protein and pay attention to how much you’re getting. For instance, one egg is about eight grams of protein but you’ll have to eat 20 almonds to get a similar amount.
Vitamin or mineral deficiency
Deficiencies can be one of the trickiest causes of cravings if you aren’t sure what you are looking for. Iron deficiency might make you crave ice or even dirt, while chocolate cravings can indicate a magnesium deficiency.
Solution: Listen to your body! Pay attention to what you are craving, you may be able to suss out some clues as to what you might be deficient in. These specific cravings may not always indicate a deficiency but most often are associated with something your body needs.
Just being a person is stressful, and training can contribute even more to stress. The problem is, when we have chronic stress, this increases our cortisol levels, which can perpetuate cravings.
Solution: Focus on controlling your stress levels through daily practices like meditation and deep breathing, pet your dog or cat and focus on getting more sleep!
Do you have a question for our RDN? Send your trail-running-nutrition quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kylee Van Horn is a licensed Sports Registered Dietitian and competitive trail runner.