Someone recently asked me for nutritional guidance to apply during peak training. Eating well is not a seasonal thing. It’s a lifestyle. Here’s why it’s extra important for distance runners to embrace a lifestyle of healthy eating.
1. You need to get your body used to running on the fuel you are giving it. It’s risky to eat a certain way during your mileage buildup and then change how you eat during peak training. This is what often leads to GI issues during key workouts late in your training cycle. This change in eating habits is also what leads to stomach issues in races. Consistency is key.
2. You don’t want your bodyweight fluctuating as you’re peaking. Ideally, you’d like to be at or very near your ideal race weight throughout your entire training cycle. Dropping weight as you are peaking is not suggested because it can lead to fatigue when you need all of your energy to complete important workouts before a race. If you drop weight fairly quickly while peaking for a race, you may also risk injury. Embrace maintaining optimum body weight throughout the majority of the year.
3. Get your mind right. By holding yourself to a high standard all year round, you prepare your mind to be strong throughout your entire training cycle. There’s no attitude of “I’ll do it later.” It’s a mindset of now. By eating well all year round, you feel better. And we all know how what we eat for good health makes us feel. It makes us feel better. So feel better all year. All 365 days. 366 in a leap year.
With nutrition, it’s more about what to avoid. What not to eat instead of what to eat. Specifically, here are my suggestions about what not to eat:
1. Processed foods
2. Foods with many ingredients
3. Foods with long shelf lives
4. Refined sugars
Nutrition is a lot more simple than many make it out to be.
The tricky part is nutrient timing. Eating the right foods at the right time.
Tips on pre-run fueling:
Eat a fast absorbing carb like a banana when you plan to run shortly after eating.
Have a slow-digesting carb like a cup of oatmeal when you start a run more than two hours after eating.
Tips on post-run fueling:
Aim for a 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio in your post-run nutrition. Ideally, have a smoothie because liquid absorbs fast and starts the recovery process.
General tips on the essential staples of your nutrition:
Eat more dark green, leafy vegetables and more dark berries. Eat more of such healthy fats as avocados and chia seeds.
These suggestions will help you optimize fuel intake and consumption during the peak training period and help you maintain a healthy and balanced diet year round.
Yours in training,