I have gotten this question from many people and am finally spilling the beans. Some people can train for a marathon on McDonalds, but no, that is not me. No way jose. Other people who train for a marathon also use that a license to eat anything and everything they want…again, not me.
On most days.
Truth be told, I have learned that my running and my eating are directly correlated. If I maintain a healthy diet and am eating well, my runs reflect that and are less likely to suck. If I eat junk and crap, my runs are like junk and crap, if I even run. If I don’t eat healthy it honestly decreases my motivation to run because I know it will most likely feel awful because of the food choices I made.
The common belief is that runners are carb-crazy. This is true to an extent, but I have developed my own opinions on the subject. Let’s cover some (mis)conceptions:
So even most non-runners are familiar with this. After scouring articles and running books, I learned to believe that the science behind the large pre-race carb meal is faulty. In this manner of carb loading, one can only successfully retain about 300 extra calories in their glycogen stores. Glycogen= what the body uses to run off of. This typically is mostly depleted by mile 18-20 of a long run. Of the articles I read, most of them explained how elite athletes begin to increase carbohydrate and fat intake the 3-4 days before a race (increasing carbs, not overall calories consumes), and eating lightly the day before the run to help get rid of excess bloat/water weight.
I don’t know about you, but this makes perfect sense to me. This gives the body adequate amounts of time to store those extra calories and ensures maximum glycogen stores with minimum bloat on race morning. The only times I carb load are for runs longer than 16 miles; anything less I don’t feel is necessary just because of how trained my body is now for those long distances.
Ravenous Post-Run Hunger
People tend to believe that after a long run, you simply can’t eat enough. To be honest, the days that I do long runs are usually the days that I eat the least amount of food. Physical activity suppresses one’s appetite, and immediately after a long run the last thing I ever want to do is eat. Give me an iced coffee, shower, and clean clothes and then I’m a happy camper. The hunger doesn’t set in until the next day, and one thing I have found is that I am hungrier on my rest days than I am on days that I run. Go. Figure.
Fueling on the Run
This was something I was really nervous about upon beginning training; I had no idea as to what I would eat/like/not throw up when it came time to experiment with energy gels. I tried a variety of things but found Accel Gels to be my favorite. They go down the easiest, taste the best and have protein which helps repair muscle damage sustained from distance running.
What do my meals typically look like? Boring. That’s what. I like what I like and I like simple. I have also found myself favoring certain foods based on what is in season. Here is a what a normal day looks like:
Breakfast: 2 slices of toast with sugar free strawberry jam topped with two eggs scrambled with Chia Seed
Lunch: One roasted acorn squash (a current favorite) with a few slices of turkey on the side or a couple of deviled eggs made with hummus instead of mayo
Snack: Fruit, lately a pear or apple, plus a hardboiled egg or handful of Kashi Go Lean depending on how hungry I am.
Dinner: Everything but the kitchen sink salad or roasted vegetables and grilled chicken.
Snack: Fruit and/or air popped popcorn
Is this the key to good running? Not necessarily. But it’s my key to running and feeling well. I also read in a recent study that people who are the healthiest and maintain weight the best have a list of about 5 ‘staples’ from each food group. I relate to this 100% and these staples change from season to season; I don’t eat strawberries in the winter because they’re not in season, just like I don’t eat squash in the summer because it’s not in season.
My (current) staples:
Veggies: romaine lettuce, acorn squash, mushrooms, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, tomatoes
Protein: chicken breast, eggs, turkey
Fruit: pears and apples (all I have been craving lately)
Dairy: skim milk, cottage cheese, greek yogurt
Other: hummus, Kashi Go Lean Crunch, air popped popcorn, iced coffee, herbal tea
I can eat the same stuff every day because when I find something I like, that’s all I will want to eat. And I will put anything on a bed of lettuce and call it a salad.
You asked, I confessed.
Don’t ask me what I’m eating next week. I have a feeling it will include a lot of stuffing and dessert and I’m okay with that.