Simple rules for proper nutrition

Summer on the Run is a 12-week blog and video series that follows former Olympic swimmer and avid runner Summe Sanders on her journey to train for Disney's Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 24.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, she will share training tips, and a little inspiration, as she gears up for the main event. Use hashtag #GoRun on Twitter to follow Summer and be part of the ongoing conversation.

We've all gone through bad periods when it comes to nutrition. The "Freshman 20" is real.

Most of us can point to a time, like college, when we weighed more than we wanted to or knew our eating habits were out of control. As runners and athletes, we can't afford to neglect this crucial part of getting fit.

Nutrition doesn't have to be complicated. It goes back to the lessons you learned as a kid. Start with a real breakfast; don't ever skip that. If you're waking up early for a run, make sure you drink at least a glass of water and put something healthy into your stomach before you go out the door.

The same basic rules apply to athletes and busy families. For me, it's all about family time in the morning, so I like to show my kids how to start the day right. They are more likely to try something if I eat it. Peanut butter on toast is a great option, and my go-to breakfast usually includes fruit, so I go for cereal or yogurt.

If you ignore your body's needs in the morning, you'll be behind at the start of the day. Going for a run when you're lacking energy never ends well; you won't feel good during your workout and you'll be miserable by the time you get back.

Your recovery meal should not be the first time you're putting fuel into your body; it needs to include some protein, carbs and electrolytes to replace what you've lost. Make it a priority to eat something within the first 30 minutes after you get back from your run -- that's when it helps you the most.

Also, don't forget to hydrate and replace your electrolytes, like sodium. You can plan what you're going to eat in advance. Get food ready the night before your run, so you don't have to think about it when you're tired and hungry.

(Check out the video below from RunDisney's official nutritionist, Tara Gidus. She offers tips for post-run meals or snacks, including foods that are easy and simple. She also agrees with one of my healthy snacking tips!)

Once you learn the basic rules of good nutrition, you'll realize it's not so complicated. It doesn't matter if you're running errands or 13 miles, you need enough fuel to last all day. Proper nutrition is the difference between feeling exhausted and getting the most out of a workout.

Summer's favorite snacks range from guacamole to veggie sticks, and has her weaknesses just like you. Whether it's a post-run meal or a treat, she loves to make it herself so she knows exactly what's in it.

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