When it comes to nutrition and fueling your body with the proper foods, it’s important to focus on healthier food options that are nutrient-dense. Not much beats feeling confident and strong during your marathon build-up, right?! RIGHT!
It’s essential to get enough healthy fats, carbs and proteins our bodies need to have a regular menstrual cycle, keep our iron levels up, and our hormones out of the wack!
It’s important to eliminate foods that cause muscle inflammation, such as sugars, candy, cake, and sweets. Turmeric helps me remediate this. I take it daily after my runs. I recommend avoiding foods at the grocery store with a lengthy, chemical-laden nutrition labels. It’s the most uncomplicated yet effective way to properly fuel for performance and fuel to stay healthy. Less is more.
I also find it essential to include the entire food pyramid (diet permitting) to avoid yo-yo dieting and create healthy, sustainable habits to keep you running faster and further injury-free for life.
You’ve heard the “eight glasses of water per day” rule for years. Still, for optimal results—especially for an active athlete like yourself—you need to be consuming 2.7 liters (11 cups), as recommended by the American Council on Exercise.
That sounds like a lot, BUT the benefits outweigh your soon-to-be bathroom visits! Being adequately hydrated is not only best for your performance but boosts overall fat loss, too.
Water helps flush out excess water weight while playing an essential role in building metabolic-revving muscle. The caloric burn boost stems from “diet-induced thermogenesis,” which means your body must work double-time to process whatever is entering your digestive system.
Fun fact: When hunger strikes, you’re often really just thirsty! Your body sends very similar signals for both.
Are you tired of plain H20? Jazz it up by adding mint leaves, cucumber, pineapple, or strawberries—another satisfying “alternative”: plain seltzer. For a bonus, add a handful of ice.
The Most Important Meal: Breakfast
Waking up your body with a meal within 30 minutes of rising is pivotal to putting your best foot forward. Studies have found that 78 percent of successful dieters are breakfast eaters, and you will be among that success group! Before my runs, I ensure I eat 2 hours before my run. Usually, this consists of a bagel or English muffin with some peanut butter!
Remember: Your first meal of the day boosts performance both mentally and physically as it breaks overnight fasting.
Breakfast boosts your glycogen stores and energy levels, restores normalcy in your blood glucose levels, and lowers the stress hormone cortisol, which is at its highest point in the early morning.
MYTH: ” But if I skip breakfast, I can cut back on calories!” WRONG. Long-term elevated blood cortisol levels promote fat storage, especially along your waistline. Your body will store more and more fat the longer you deprive it of food. Translation: The sooner you dig into that oatmeal, the sooner you will jumpstart your metabolism.
Gut hormones that control your appetite are secreted in the morning and playoff elevated cortisol levels. Research has shown that kicking your day right with a healthy meal reduces both levels, keeping your appetite in check in the A.M. while setting you up for success and less anxious! WIth someone who battles anxiety, this has been a game-changer for me in every aspect of life, not just running.
To avoid low blood sugar-driven “hangriness,” which puts your body under a lot of stress and can also spur late-night overeating, eat every three hours, six times a day. Or, eat three bigger meals a day, and have a piece of fruit in between. There’s something for everyone and everything for you!
Here is a daily sample of what macronutrients (and micronutrients, which are baked into the foods I eat for each macronutrient) looks like. This is based on a ~2,400 calorie day. What works for me doesn’t work for you necessarily. Disclaimer: I am NOT a dietician! I am a nutrition coach. They’re quite different. I cannot prescribe meal plans and foods by the gram. I have a great referral for that, though!
2,400 calories x 30% protein = 720
720 calories / 4 calories per gram of protein = 180 grams of protein
2,400 calories x 30% fat = 720 calories of fat
720 calories / 9 calories per gram of fat = 80 grams of fat
2,400 calories x 40% carbohydrates = 960 calories of carbohydrates
960 calories / 4 calories per gram of carbs = 240 grams of carbohydrates
TOTAL: 180g. protein (30%), 80g. fat (30%), 240g. carbohydrates (40%) = 2,400 calories
“Sedentary” individuals who burn roughly 1,800-2,000 calories per day as defined by the USDA. Endurance athletes need more than sedentary individuals, who burn double that amount around burning. You can go to your doctor/specialist to get your metabolic rate tested for this.
DISCLAIMER: The above total calories of 2400 are just an example. What I use does not work for you. Please do not copy this intake plan. Consult your doctor or physician before changing up your diet. Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor or a Nutritionist! I am a Nutrition Coach! Big difference! I cannot prescribe meal plans by the gram. I can guide you towards healthier eating habits to set you up to successfully attain your running and fitness goals!
Fuel While Running
I make sure to have a gel every 20 minutes, even at the start of a run or a race. In October, I had a UCAN at the starting line of the Rock ’n’ Roll San Diego Marathon and never hit the wall at mile 20. I know I’m not the only one! I find 24oz of water 3 hours before the race and the entire week before is crucial to your success as a runner. If you know what I mean, this strategy could eliminate cramping and anything surprising on race day.
Post Race Go-To Fueling Strategy
- Right After – Protein Shake, Banana
- Snack – Chips (Salty!)
- Dinner – Cheeseburger
Consuming nutrients right after a long run or a marathon will make your recovery speedier and help you avoid potential injuries. These are just a couple of the reasons to practice your fueling, runners.
Four Fueling Tips To Run Farther and Faster
- Sweet potato, nature’s hormone builder, and insulin-neutralizer are highly versatile for your plate. The colorful, yummy veggie is a low glycemic index food, meaning that it absorbs slowly when digested (which helps to control your appetite) without spiking your blood sugar. Studies have shown that sweet potatoes help reduce certain cancer risks and inflammation in nerve tissue throughout the body—your brain included! Sweet potatoes are also a great source of vitamins A, B, C, iron, and magnesium, which support healthy skin, bones, immunity, and your body’s ability to ward off stress.
- Fiber and healthy fat-filled avocados are a must-have omelet—okay, or anything—topper. Packed with easy-to-absorb nutrients like folic acid, magnesium, and B-vitamins, buttery avocados are just as good for you (and your hormones!) as they taste. Avocados have a ton of beta-sitosterol, known to decrease inflammation, lower blood cholesterol levels, and balance cortisol.
- Mom was right. It would help if you ate all of your broccoli before clearing your plate. Veggies like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale are your Runwithalli meal M.V.P.s.
- Get salty. Himalayan sea salt has adrenal-supportive minerals. Add a pinch to every meal.
11 Stick-To-It Tips & Tricks
- Nix temptation. Clean out your cupboards of any craving sparkers because out of sight, out of mind!
- Prep for success! Choose two nights per week to plan, cook and portion out your meals. Fueling for success will be a cinch with your grab-and-go dishes.
- Two are better than one. Double up on recipes to cut down on prep stress and time. Pop pre-portioned leftovers into marked containers and store them in the freezer for last-minute meals.
- Shop right. Overlapping ingredients simplify lengthy grocery lists.
- Seal the deal. Use suitable storage containers. In other words, stick with stainless steel or glass containers (Mason jars rock!) to avoid unwanted chemicals…and make sure those lids are secure to avoid mess.
- Fun in the oven. Roast your veggies!
- Flavor and bulk to your meals.
- Get amped. Know your motivation and constantly ask yourself, “Why are you making this commitment?” Committing to taking care of your body, fueling for performance, feeling confident in your training, etc., will keep you on track. Tip: Repeat your goal as a mantra when you get out of bed in the morning and at night as you snuggle back in. Eye on the prize!
- Pencil it in. The time is now for a total transformation! Sticking to your scheduled meals is vital, so no skipping meals or saying “maybe later” to your meal prep.
- Own it. You and only you can make this monumental lifestyle change so take it on with stride. Set a clear, concise goal and hold yourself accountable by logging your meals. I love MyFitnessPal for an easy meal tracker!
- Reward yourself. Work hard, play hard…the right way. Celebrate your clean eating and new training regimen with a spa day, a fun night out with friends, or a cozy Netflix night. Little “high fives” along the way will keep you going… be mindful of your reward of choice! You can have your vice and ice cream on some “Cheat” days, but not every day. For example, more often, choose fruits over ice cream. Remember your performance and health goal!
When in doubt, rely on the single-ingredient mentality. See you never, mile-long ingredient lists!
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