Eat like an Olympian: Diet Tips from Marathoner Kara Goucher

Kara GoucherKara GoucherBy Sara Wells

Elite runner Kara Goucher has worked with a number of sports nutritionists, but these days she's more of DIY-type when it comes to making sure she's fueling properly for her intense twice-daily runs and workouts. "Everybody is different, so the key is discovering what works best for you," she explained. "For me, that took some trial and error, but I think I finally figured it out." Here, her top strategies for eating right -- whether you're running, racing, or hitting the gym after work.

Related: The Top 7 Foods for Runners

1. Change your view: "After I finished the Boston Marathon [in 2009], a reporter asked if I was going to eat whatever I wanted for the rest of the week. The truth is, I eat what I want every day, so this week won't really be any different. I love food, but I don't look at it as a reward for a hard workout; it's fuel to help me run harder and recover faster."

2. Find what works: "When I worked with the nutritionist before the New York Marathon she had me trying out all these fancy products and special sports drinks. But during the race, that stuff really upset my stomach. So now I do what works for me: I focus on eating lean protein, vegetables, and whole-grain carbs to power me through my workouts. In races I keep it simple with a regular sports drink and gels."

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3. Be flexible: "The night before races, I used to get really upset if I couldn't have spaghetti. I worried I wouldn't run as well if I ate something else. Once I started traveling more, I realized that eating spaghetti before every race wasn't going to be possible. Now, I don't stress about it; I get what I can get. The night before New York I had seared ahi tuna, which looking back might not have been the best choice, but it was delicious!"

Related: Pre-Race Power Meals for Runners

4. Don't obsess:
"I used to be super restrictive about what I ate and watched everything I put into my mouth. Then I went the other way, and ate a little bit too much of everything. Now, I'm in a healthier place. No food is off limits -- if I tell myself I can't have something, I'm way more likely to eat the entire container than if I allow myself to just have some. So I eat healthy most of the time, but if I want dessert, or a glass of wine, I have it!"

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Fast Facts

What she likes to eat the night before a race: Bread with butter followed by pasta with meatballs in a wine sauce topped with Parmesan cheese.

What she sips during a race: Water and watered-down Powerade

What she eats after finishing: A protein shake -- to help settle her stomach and get her body into recovery mode faster.

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