When you are training for an event, eating becomes less about trying to count calories and more about fueling your body efficiently to make sure that you are getting the most out of your long training sessions. If you are dragging yourself out of bed, early on a Sunday morning to pound the pavement, you want to make sure you have fueled it properly or you might as well press snooze and catch a few more Zs. Training for races is not cheap, and not only does it require a huge monetary commitment but also a massive time commitment, forcing you to make sacrifices in all areas of your life. Why waste all that with bad nutrition? I recently met with holistic nutritionist Carly Mendes, and she had some great tips on how to fuel your body for energy.
The timing of your meals is key, especially if you have a long and intense workout scheduled (which is anything over an hour in length). Your first meal needs to be balanced and nutrient-rich which means it is time to say goodbye to your classic bagel and peanut butter that so many of us have become accustomed too. This meal needs to be consumed a minimum of two hours prior to your workout so if you are running at 9am, you do not get to shove something quickly into your mouth at 8:45. You’re going to have to get up early!
Just before your workout, about 30 minutes or so, have something that is higher in carbohydrates but with little or no fat, protein or fibre. This is going to ensure that your glycogen stores are ready to go. And as you are working out make sure you are drinking ½ a cup of water every 15 minutes and taking in some form of carbohydrate every 45. In other words, drink a little water and eat a little bit of food during those long runs and training sessions.
It is also important to make sure you replenish yourself after your workout so you are ready to go for your next one. Within 20 minutes you should consume a small snack that includes some protein, carbohydrates, electrolytes and antioxidants. Remember, these pre and post workout meals are NOT extra meals, but rather calories and nutrients that you would normally consume in your day. If you start adding in meals, you may notice weight gain and it is not the volume of training – something I hear people blaming their weight gain on all too often.
You should have your post workout meal, which will be lunch or dinner, about two hours after you finish your workout, and fill your plate with as many leafy greens as you can!
So what can you eat? When I am training heavy I like a veggie sushi roll, or a little bit of left over dinner from the night before. This meal should be balanced and contain some carbohydrates and a little bit of protein.
For your 30 minute pre-run load, I am a fan of grabbing a banana (which I save half of for my post workout meal) and an energy drink. I go for the store bought option because it is easy and Nuun is my favourite as they contain Vitamin C and Magnesium (which is great to help with muscle tension and cramping).
During your run you can bring with you some homemade energy gels, but if you are like me I opt for the store bought ones. You can find energy gels at most supermarkets and sporting goods stores. Your two hour post workout meal, which most likely will be your lunch or dinner, should be complete with carbohydrates, proteins and fat. Avocados, lentils, hummus, lean proteins, nuts, and leafy greens are all key ingredients for this meal.
Carly also stresses the importance of staying away from inflammatory foods, such as alcohol, refined sugar, processed foods and artificial fats while you are in your last month of training and instead combat inflammation by adding anti-inflammatory foods into your diet, such as turmeric, tart cherry juice, matcha tea and hemp hearts.
Make sure to practice your nutrition too leading up to the big day as the last thing you want to do is try something you have never had before. I made this mistake once, the night before a half Ironman, and discovered on race day that rhubarb will cause many more bathroom pit stops than I would have liked.
You are already working so hard training your body to get it to the start line, so make sure you are rewarding it with the healthy and nutritious foods it deserves. But after your race, you have every right to indulge in whatever you like! I can’t tell you how many races I spend the entire last few miles thinking about all the delicious foods I will eat once I cross the finish line!
Attached - Geri Halliwell heading to a workout in London today.