Running is a great way to get healthy and keep in shape. It requires loads of physical training and effort, but it also requires a lot of intention outside of training. Training for long runs can be a great time to address your overall nutrition. Applying proper nutrition can help fuel your body for training and build your confidence. Here are a few tips for the creation of a healthy meal plan.

The biggest factor in fueling for endurance training is getting the correct amount of input. Running exhausts the body and burns a lot of calories. It is key to match your caloric intake to your training schedule. Depending on what you have planned as your workout for that day your diet should vary. Getting the correct amount of calories on each training day can lead to a more fulfilling and energized workout.

Lighter training days don’t require as many carbohydrates because they require less energy. On days where you’re burning fewer calories, it’s important to focus on eating an increased number of proteins and fats. This is the necessary fuel to repair damaged muscles and tissues. You want to eat nutrient dense foods. These foods have a lot of nutrients, specifically vitamins and minerals, that benefit your body, especially while training. A lot of these nutrient rich foods are fat soluble. Eating foods that are considered high fats, like avocados, nuts and fish, are important to everyone’s diet. They allow your body to absorb and use the nutrients that you consume.

On moderate to heavy training days you’ll want to increase your carbohydrate intake. Carbs are the main source of energy for endurance training. High-intensity training will require an uptick in the caloric intake in general. You want to consume a large number of the right carbohydrates, such as oats and whole grains. The more picky you are with your carbohydrates, the better. Stay away from processed and refined foods.

The timing of your meals is also important. Try to eat something before your run. Something light and easy to digest can help fuel you through a workout without depleting all of your stored energy. Keep some quick, healthy snacks in your house to fuel your workouts and curb your cravings. Things like fibrous fruits and vegetables, string cheese and granola bars can help get you through the day.

You should replenish your body 30 to 45 minutes following a run or workout. A small amount of food right after a workout can replenish your blood sugars and jumpstart the healing process. A good post-run snack is a glass of chocolate milk. It has high levels of glycogen; the glycogen stores are used to power runs and recovery.

While you are focusing on your training and your diet, don’t forget that food can be a source of joy. You are allowed to indulge yourself on occasion! You’re working very hard and one burger or slice of pizza is not going to ruin that. Pat yourself on the back for getting up and doing the work each day and reward yourself sometime. If you give yourself some grace you’re more likely to stick to your healthy meal regimen. All of the work outside your training is worth it for the feeling of that runner’s high.

Do you know what kind of runner you are? Find out with this fun quiz!