Nutrition Does Not Start On Race Day!
Food is my ultimate source of fuel, recovery, and medicine
One morning I was plodding along on a training run when I ran into my part time running buddy and full time pizza lover, Barry. Holding a few plastic bags of what looked like fruit, he was walking home from the grocery store. Whatever was in those bags had him very excited and he eagerly and proudly shared with me the following, “My race is this Saturday! Thought I would finally take your advice and start eating better. Look! Bananas!” Barry, who was about to embark on his first marathon, mistakenly thought that running a good race was about training only. Often sluggish ( I would tell him he ran like a girl) and often injured, Barry was one of those who just could not wrap his brain around the fact that 80% of our fitness is about our nutrition. But Barry read an article in some men’s fitness magazine about nutrition (thanks for listening to me, Barry) and finally decided he needed….fruit. We were 4 days from our race. And as I looked forward to blowing his shorts off in that marathon I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “Barry, nutrition does not start on race day. “
Understand this concept now. Burn it into your brain. Write it on post-it notes and slap them on the fridge, bathroom mirror, or in your car: Food is my ultimate source of fuel, recovery, and medicine. What you put in your body is ultimately reflected in how well you train, perform feel and recover on race day. This isn’t rocket science, my fellow asphalt pounders. Solid and consistent nutrition needs to be a foundation implemented well before race day. A banana and oatmeal on the day you have a long run when your body hasn’t even seen said foods prior to this run is not going to suddenly give you the energy and strength you might desire. And for those who are choosing to race a 10k for the first time in order to get in shape, then your first priority needs to be to look at your nutrition.
Lets take those post-it notes and break down the mantra.
Food is my ultimate source of fuel. I’m talking about whole grains, high quality proteins, fruits, vegetables, legumes and beans. REAL FOOD PEOPLE! Let’s call these our Power Foods. There is a reason we talk about “balanced” diets. A meal or snack that has the proper balance of proteins, carbs and fats is a power source like none other. Your day needs to start with a well balanced breakfast, mid morning snack, a lunch that packs in nutrients, an afternoon snack to keep the energy levels steady, and an uber healthy dinner. Did you pop off a training run after work? Great. Now go home and make a meal consisting of a healthy, high quality protein (salmon, chicken; don’t you dare touch the deep fryer), vegetables and a quality carbohydrate (brown or black rice, quinoa, lentils). This after-run meal is important because it is your recovery (we will touch more on this) and it sets you up for success for the next work out. Our Power Foods are chocked full of essential nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and so much more that our bodies absolutely must have in order to function properly and allow us to do things like run 10k races. Just as you ponder what you will wear for your next run so should you equally ponder what you are going to eat. There is a cumulative effect that happens to people who consistently consume uber healthy foods. They are sick less often, they feel good all the time
and they recover quickly from tough workouts.
Food is my ultimate source for recovery. Barry didn’t quite understand this. His best friend was Advil for his aches and pains. Don’t misunderstand me. We all have had to indulge in our fair share of over the counter pain meds, salt baths, massages and ice packs. What he failed to understand was that those Power Foods were his ticket to muscle recovery. Now I could get eye-rolling scientific on you here but then you would stop reading this article and get a calzone so i’ll make it really simple. Proteins such as whey and casein that you find in milk, the amino acids and heart healthy oils found in fish along with the vitamins and nutrients found in all our Power Foods come together in our bodies to help repair the damage done to our muscles. Each time you go out there and show off your Newtons you are breaking down muscle. It is essential that you begin repairing that damage immediately so you become stronger and feel even better when you have to do interval training at 6am. Your source of muscle repair is in your nutrition.
Food is my ultimate source of medicine. Gosh I could bore you for hours on this. Those Power Foods with all those vitamins, nutrients, heart healthy fats, antioxidants are what our bodies need to fight off cancer, disease, illness; even the simple cold. Do this…..Google Cauliflower. You will be blown away by what all cauliflower offers the body. Remember you are breaking down your immune system every time you go out there and exercise. What you are eating before, during and after your exercise is directly related to how your body’s immune system will recover and repair itself after those workouts. Popeye had it going on. Spinach is ridiculously packed with nutrients. Guys, who wants prostate cancer? Eat more spinach then! Ladies, need more iron and want clearer skin? Eat more spinach!
Your body is truly your temple so treat it like it’s laden with gold and load it up with Power Foods. This is your life, runners! I promise you….remove the junk from your diet (this includes those nasty diet beverages) and start to pile on the good stuff and you will find yourselves sleeping better, training better, sick less, recovering better and wondering why you never ate like this before. Eat this way for life. Not just for a race.
Barry ran that marathon and I did indeed blow his American flag shorts off. He had a hard time at the end of the race. His blood sugar had dropped and he was a little zoned. I got him oranges and bananas and explained to him what they were along with some peanut butter on a whole wheat bagel and he started coming back around. Later that night when we all sat at dinner reminiscing about our race experiences Barry turned quietly to me and asked, “do you think you could put me on a diet?” I replied, “Barry, I’m not putting you on a diet. I”m just going to teach you to eat properly for life that way your next marathon will be a walk in the park.”
About the Author
Kristie Browning-Bistline is a sports nutritionist who has been consulting athletes for 10 years. She has a degree in nutrition from Penn State and is a triathlete and former pro long distance runner.