From pasta dinners the day before race day to a decadent post race burger, runners enjoy a good meal. But when you’re not fueling your body properly, you likely feel definitely feel it. I know I do, especially when I’m in training mode. With fall race season in full gear, and everyone back to a regular schedule, it’s a good time to quickly refresh your nutritional needs. Here are five ways to ensure your nutrition plan is giving your body what it needs to get you across the next finish line, along with a few recipes to fuel your cooking inspiration.
Make a Big Impact-Carbohydrates, proteins and fats these are all macronutrients that most runners are focused on getting into their regular meal rotation. Depending on the distance you’re training for and your pace, you’ll need to ensure you’re getting enough carbohydrates which means that on a 90 minute long run, your body will need about 500g of carbs. A couple of slices of bread, a banana and a couple tablespoons of nut butter adds up to about 75 grams of carbohydrates. An easy option for boosting your carbohydrates intake before or after your run. Or try this muffin recipe for a quick grab-and-go breakfast.
Power of Protein-Protein helps build muscle mass and overall physical strength. While it may not be typical for runners to consider, muscular strength is important for runners interested in longevity. Whether you’re in race training mode or not, a runner’s protein should log in around 30% of their overall daily diet. Fun fact, poultry including chicken and turkey have the highest protein, making it an easy and affordable option for planning your weekly meals. Give this recipe for chicken shawarma that’s easier than you’d think!
Small but Mighty Focusing your meals around fruits and vegetables is a sure way to get the right micronutrients including vitamins and minerals that will aid in recovery as well as boost your immunity especially during the transition between seasons. For runners, specifically women who may be training for longer distances, getting enough iron is essential to keeping your energy levels on track. Dark leafy greens including spinach are an excellent source of iron and you’ll want to pair a vitamin C rich food such as strawberries with your spinach to help aid in iron absorption. Here’s a fun (and easy) sushi recipe that also gives you a micro boost!
Fats Runners need added energy and incorporating healthy fats into your daily diet is the way to go. Olive oil in your salad dressing is a tried-and-true option and you should also think about using avocados and nuts to your advantage. Whether you grab a handful of almonds or pistachios as a snack or use mashed avocados instead of mayo with hard boiled eggs for a heartier egg salad, the monounsaturated fat sources are instantly giving you a rich source of energy. An added bonus of healthy fats including omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as lake trout and salmon? You’re giving your heart a boost and contributing to stronger bones, both of which are a major benefit for runners at all stages of training.
About Time Depending on when you’re eating, and when you’re training you can still find yourself feeling in a bit sluggish. It’s true, you could still be getting all the right nutrients and still be feeling less than energetic on you run if you’re not timing your meals accordingly. Consistency is key when it comes to nutrition and training, and if you’re consistently fueling your body well, you’ll find your performance will equally improve. All that to say, eat about an hour or two before your run and you’ll benefit from a carbohydrate and protein like that lean turkey on a multigrain bagel. On your long run that goes beyond an hour, you’ll need about 30 grams for every hour extra which makes gels, block and bars easy energy picks. And don’t discount the benefits of post run fueling, this is when you’re replenishing your energy stores for next time, even something as simple as that lake trout and sweet potatoes or sliced avocado and grilled chicken can make all the difference.
When it comes to hydration, there’s no question most runners will benefit from a combination of water and electrolytes. Beverage options are endless, but look for ones that include potassium, and sodium the combination which helps reduce muscle soreness and promotes recovery. Runners looking for lower sugar content may want to think about trying coconut water as a natural post-run hydration option.
Anna Lee Boschetto is a runner, mom and regular contributor to iRun.