Ok runners you now have about 2.5-3 months left in your training for the Steamboat Marathon, Half Marathon or 10k and this is a great time to start dialing in your nutrition. You want to think about how you are eating every day and not just on race days. Everyone will have a little bit of a different needs but the following is a good place to start. In this blog post we will talk about everyday healthy eating for the runner and in the next post we will start on race day and training sports nutrition.
Start looking at your everyday meals in a different way; are they nutritious and do they contain everything you need to keep you going? Having nutrient dense meals instead of just calorically dense meals is where your plan needs to start going if you’re not already there. These strategies are going to help you in your training and improve your health overall. Begin to try and include a good protein source and good fat source as well as adequate carbohydrates into every meal, this can be applied to everything from smoothies to dinner. Take a few examples below for everyday eating, keeping in mind race day meals will be different. Whether you are a vegetarian or omnivore the focus should be on adding in beneficial whole foods to keep you going, and most people can benefit from more plants in their diet!
If you told me that you had a cup of oatmeal, a banana and 8oz orange juice for breakfast, I might comment that it’s not a terrible start, but how can we make it more nutrient dense? Let’s change that meal to oatmeal with ½ c berries, 1 Tbsp. almond meal and some flax or walnuts. By making those small changes you have changed what was a meal filled with only carbohydrates to one that also has protein and beneficial fats. We can apply the same principals to a smoothie. I often see people drinking smoothies that are just 2-3 cups of fruit and yogurt, I can tell you that will probably not keep you full and it could be more nutrient dense. Instead use your choice of milk or nut milk, some fruit, protein powder or nuts and some seeds. Maybe adding dark leafy greens and an avocado for some added nutrition. How about dinner? Let’s change a big plate of 2 cups of pasta with marinara sauce (mostly carbohydrates only) to 1 cup quinoa with some turkey or bison meatballs, sautéed spinach, Kalamata olives and tomato sauce. You have just now added protein, good fat and extra fiber into the dish. We need carbohydrates for fuel, protein for functions such as immunity and muscle building, and beneficial fats to help with many things such as energy, inflammation and brain health.
By focusing on your nutrition you should be able to recover better from workouts and perform up to your potential when needed. One thing you will find in common with most successful runners and maybe some of your running idols is that they focus on eating well. Food is the fuel that keeps our engines running. You will get out of your body what you put in. Focus on nutritious whole real food. Good sources of carbohydrates can come from fruits, starchy vegetables such as winter squashes and sweet potatoes and whole grains like quinoa, basmati rice, and whole wheat, if that works for you. Protein sources can come from both plants and animals such as nuts, seeds, beans and/or lean meats like bison, turkey and salmon. Healthy and beneficial fats also have their place in the diet and should not be over looked; avocado, olives, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and healthy unrefined plant oils like toasted sesame oil can all be added.
Nutrition is a key to success and I hope you are adding it in to your training plan as we speak! Next up, sports nutrition for before, during, after and race day.
Cara A Marrs, RDN
Cara is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, race director, and an avid runner and skier