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The New Lunch Rules

By Kyla Jones, 02/18/17, 5:45PM EST


The best lunches to pack for runners are right here.

Runners who are training have appetites rivaling teenage boys, pregnant women, and black bears gearing up for hibernation. We can hardly last two hours without eating, never mind the typical hours of 9-5. Planning lunch should be a priority for every runner because a poorly timed or unhealthy lunch can wreck training.

While many workers go out to lunch every day, it can get expensive if you’re on a budget, and it’s difficult to know exactly how much food you’re eating. However, brown-bagging it and packing your lunch for work, can deteriorate to a dry turkey sandwich, or peanut butter and jelly and a bag of chips. To prevent this, many people assemble their lunch the night beforehand and use leftovers from previous dinners.

Here are the rules for lunch during training, and some ideas for healthy and interesting lunches brought from home.

If you run before work, the first few hours of work should be laden with snacks. To properly replenish glycogen stores, build muscle, and recover quickly, you should consume a steady intake of carbs and protein for two hours after your run. The rest of the day should include fully balanced meals.

Running before work

Morning snack options:

  • Granola bar (like Nature Valley Crunchy)
  • Banana and peanut butter
  • Yogurt

Lunch meal options:

  • Chicken noodle soup (with lots of noodles!)
  • Almond butter and apple slice sandwich on whole-wheat bread
  • Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk, or oatmeal

Afternoon snack options:

At this point after your run, you don’t need to eat if you aren’t hungry.

Running after work

If you run after work, your afternoon snack is most important. 1-2 hours before you plan to run, consume carb-rich foods to maximize glycogen stores. You’ll need them, especially if your work day exhausts you!

Morning snack options:

  • It isn’t necessary to eat so early before a run, unless you’re competing or aiming for a PR. If so, choose complex starchy carbs like oatmeal or granola bars.

Lunch meal options:

  • Spaghetti with marinara sauce, or other low-fat pasta dish
  • Rice and veggie dish, like leftover Turtle Bean Stew over Rice
  • Rice and bean burrito

Afternoon snack options:

Be sure to carbo-load here! Consider eating your lunch meal later in the day, so the carbs are recently digested for your run. Otherwise, choose starchy snacks like a baked potato, half of a peanut butter sandwich, or baked pita chips with hummus.

Rest day

If it’s a rest day, your hunger should guide eating habits. You burn far fewer calories on days you don’t run (obviously), but if you still eat like a Viking it can lead to weight gain. Eat balanced meals, and try to keep junk food to a minimum. Don’t ruin your days of hard work by eating 12 pizzas in a row!

Morning snack options:

  • Apple, orange, or banana
  • Cup of yogurt
  • Whole-wheat crackers with almond butter

Lunch options:

  • A salad full of leafy greens and lean protein. If brought from home, keep dressing separate so it doesn’t wilt the greens into the texture of baby food.
  • A healthy BLT
  • Whatever is leftover from dinner last night!

Afternoon snack options:

Get some extra fiber and vitamins in the mix with chopped fresh veggies and Ranch dip made with plain Greek yogurt.

What are your favorite brown-bag lunches?

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