Long Distance Runner Jennifer Kyle Talks Food and Running

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Long Distance Runner Jennifer Kyle Talks Food and Running

My name is Jennifer Kyle and I am usually running. Or eating. Sometimes, I am doing both at once. That’s when I know I am doing life right. I love to train for and run half and full marathons. I live in the epic running mecca that is the Bay Area.


What is it about food and running? They are so linked, yet challenging for so many. When you can use them together to nourish your body, the results are always positive. I think one of the biggest challenges around food is that every body is so different. That ultimately means that you have to be your own experiment. There is no set path for success. It has taken me years to try, fail, re-try and test new foods, what to eat, when to eat, and how much. By no means am I done yet, nor do I want to be. Food is a celebration, food is fuel, and food is a big part of social interaction.


So how do I marry that with my training? The answer is different depending on the day. I like to run first thing in the morning. If I am going out for an easy run, and/or I am not hungry right when I wake up, I might not worry about a snack before I run. If I am hungry when I wake up, or if I have a challenging workout, I like to put something in my stomach. A few examples of this might be: a waffle (I like the Salted Caramel ones from Gu), dates with peanut butter on them, an English muffin, a banana, or oatmeal. I keep foods that I eat prior to running pretty plain, high in carbs, and quick to digest. I also prefer to choose unprocessed foods. Especially if I am training for a race and using carb gels or other sports foods during my workout, I like to keep the processed foods outside of that to a minimum. It just keeps my gut happier.


Photo Credit: Tracey Mammolito

After my workout I am ALWAYS ready for breakfast. Breakfast is the best meal of the day. Fight me on that. I’ll win while I eat a delicious egg sandwich. I try to make that meal a good balance of protein, carbs and fats. It might be oatmeal with fruit & peanut butter or avocado & a veggie scramble with toast.  After a long run or especially hard workout, my appetite is sometimes suppressed for a couple of hours. That doesn’t mean I skip out on my recovery meal or snack, because the hour right after you work out is an important window of time to begin the recovery process. In that situation I go for chocolate milk or a smoothie. Chocolate milk has the 4:1 carb:protein ratio that is good for recovery. It is also delicious and something I will rarely turn down. An hour or two after that I am usually ready for a big meal.


Photo Credit: Tracey Mammolito

Once your workout is over and you have refueled, you are not done nourishing your body. I used to make that mistake and it showed in my training and recovery. The rules of thumb that I have found work for me are:


  1. Eat when you are hungry. Just because it is not lunch “time” doesn’t mean you can’t be hungry. Try not to cling to specific schedule of food if you are finding yourself hungry all the time.
  2. Eat mindfully. SLOW DOWN. Take a breath and enjoy your food. Don’t eat so fast you can’t even register when you are hungry. I still fail at this on a weekly, even daily basis. It’s ok if you do too – just keep trying.  
  3. Eat enough. Don’t be afraid to feel full. Sure, you don’t want to stuff yourself to bursting at every meal. That probably wouldn’t be very productive. However, if you are hungry an hour or two after every meal, you may not be eating enough. Try to make sure you are eating carbs/proteins/fats at every meal.
  4. Eat the rainbow. Vegetables and fruits – your mom was right, you need them. Eat things that have fewer ingredients in them. Don’t be too scientific about it, but fewer ingredients usually mean more nutrients.
  5. Give yourself a break. Have a beer, eat a slice of pizza (or three), share a slice of cake with your significant other. Don’t freak out if you ate so much you feel sick. Don’t freak out if you ate something that isn’t the pinnacle of health. As long as you are making more nutritious choices than not, you are doing great. Besides, that cookie to celebrate your latest PR may not be the picture of nutrition, but it is just as important for your mental health.   


Photo Credit: Tracey Mammolito

I hope that what I have learned through my personal experiences can help you. Below you will find my current playlist of the week. It is ever changing, and there it absolutely no purposeful theme. I save this playlist for races and it helps me drop the hammer when I need to every time. Sometimes I even use my Freedoms to click through to my favorite finish line song – “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys.  



(Please note than I am not a doctor or registered dietician. Please do what is best for you & your needs.)