Contributed by: Dawn Holmes, MS, RD, CSSD, LD
You’ve committed to training and have a race goal. While you pound the pavement, don’t forget your body needs food to fuel those miles. At the beginning of each season, it’s important to figure out your day-to-day eating, then once you’re into longer runs, you can focus on fueling around training. Doing this will boost your energy and speed your recovery, making running more enjoyable, and keeping you fueled through a long training season so you can race well at the end.
First, your body needs consistent fuel throughout each day. Do you every feel crabby or like your brain is fuzzy? Eating every three to four hours helps maintain blood sugar levels (so you can focus), promotes recovery and keeps your metabolism humming along. Folks in endurance sports, like what you do with MIT, need this fuel to include carbohydrates at meals and snacks. These are quick fuel for the body and brain. They can also be stored in the muscle as glycogen; which is fuel for long training runs. Hesitant to add carbs? For endurance athletes, they are an essential fuel source with long-standing, solid research backing their efficacy. Good sources of carbohydrates include: grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, and dairy.
Balance your carbohydrates by combining with protein and fats. Proteins are essential to rebuild and repair the muscle, make hormones and support immune function. Fats help regulate body temperature, absorb vitamins and are energy-rich foods to support high mileage training. Both fats and proteins keep you satisfied and prevent energy swings that are more common with carbohydrates. Think about how you feel after eating peanut butter toast versus plain toast. High quality proteins include: dairy (milk, yogurt, cottage cheese) eggs, lean beef, chicken and turkey, fish, beans, lentils, edamame and tofu. Good sources of fats include: salmon, tuna, anchovies, nuts, seeds, avocados, ground flax seed, olive and canola oil.
Make each mile count by ensuring a solid fueling foundation. If you have gaps in your day, try adding a snack. Pair carbohydrates with proteins and fats. The carbs will give you a needed energy boost and the protein and fat will curb your cravings. Don’t forget to grab a drink to keep yourself hydrated too – water and milk are classic options.
Dawn Holmes (Dawn@RealLifeFuel.com) is the Owner of Real Life Fuel, LLC where she enjoys creating personalized sports nutrition strategies for athletes of all abilities. She is also the Sports Dietitian for Marathoner In Training and OhioHealth’s Runner’s Clinic. She put her fueling into practice and ran 1:53 at the Columbus Half!