To reap the benefits of your long distance training, you need to consume healthy foods so you can properly fuel your body, build muscle & recover from hard & long workouts. As you get progress through your training for your race, you will find that what you eat impacts how feel both during and after your workouts and ultimately how long it takes you to complete your race.
Also, to get prepared for your race, you must stay healthy while you train. This means you need to build a strong immune system. It’s easy to get tired and even run down during your training if you don’t properly recover. In this post I will speak to the importance of diet during your training. I will also provide some sample meals.
Although, exercise helps build the number of germ fighting cells in your body, eating the right foods also helps. Healthy runners have a diet that includes a balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein, lean fats, vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron and vitamins C & E for a strong immune system.
Timing of your food consumption is critical
It’s important to eat nutrient-dense calories & drink plenty of water prior to your main workout of the day. Also, to limit post exercise muscle damage and speed the recovery process you need to consume both protein & carbohydrates soon after your runs. This is especially important in the 30 – 45 minutes following a hard run and then a few hours later to have a bigger meal. This helps to ensure optimal recovery.
Just like each person’s training is different because of their goals, mileage and athletic abilities, the same is for nutrition. Each runner’s body can responds differently to foods. It’s important that you try different healthy foods and time consumption so you can optimize your performance and avoid any GI issues.
Here’s some proven strategies that I follow & share with runners I coach.
Avoid empty calories and focus on eating foods that give me the most nutrients per calorie. These include good sources of whole grains and starches (like brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, whole wheat bread and pasta), lean proteins (lean meat, fish, Greek yogurt, eggs and beans), healthy fats (salmon, avocados, nuts, and olive oil), and of course, colorful fruits and veggies which provide antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
For pre- and post-workout snacks, I recommend fruits, fresh cut vegetables, healthy (meaning not a ton of sugar and full of natural ingredients) granola or energy bars, fruit, nuts, and Greek yogurt. My focus is to time the healthiest eating around my runs so I’m fueling when I need it and not just grazing or snacking at odd hours with “bad food.”
Here’s some examples of healthy meals:
Whole wheat toast with peanut or almond butter
4-6 ozs.of low fat Greek Yogurt + Banana
8-10 ozs of Orange juice + 12 ozs of Water
*I like to make myself a breakfast sandwich that includes a toasted whole grain English muffin, cheddar cheese, scrambled or easy over egg and turkey bacon or sausage. Include some hot sauce for a little “kick.”
Turkey or chicken sandwich with spinach, tomato and mustard on whole grain bread
Orange, Apple or cup of mixed fruit (not sweetened fruit salad from a can)
4-6 ozs of mixed raw vegetables (carrot sticks, broccoli, sliced red/yellow peppers, pea pods, etc)
8-10 ozs of unsweetened plain soy milk or almond milk
12 ozs of Water
Avoid processed foods. A good place to start is to cut back on food that comes from a plastic wrapper. If you must purchase packaged food, then choose those with the fewest and most familiar ingredients.
Whole grain pasta with tomato sauce & meatballs (turkey or meatless) or grilled chicken
Or Baked Salmon + baked sweet or russet potato with nonfat Greek Yogurt & Brummel & Brown Yogurt butter.
Garden salad with spinach, kale, yellow/red/orange peppers, sliced carrots, sliced avocado, cranberries and/or blueberries, sunflower seeds and oil/vinegar dressing
Steamed broccoli or mixed vegetables + Whole wheat dinner role
12 ozs of Water
The bottomline for your diet is that just like with your training, there are no shortcuts or 3-4 foods you can consume that will make-up for not eating a well balanced diet. You don’t have to be too strict, just be aware of what & when you eat and listen to how your body reacts.
On the day of the race, never eat anything that you haven’t previously tested during your training.
Following are my workouts for the week of June 11th.
Monday June 11th – short run @ easy pace
The purpose of this run was to recover from the previous days’ long run. It’s very important to go easy throughout this run, especially considering the next days’ workout is going to be tough.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 6.7 miles, 53:28 minutes, ave pace 7:56
Tuesday June 12th – Strength run 10 x 800s
This was a tough workout. I couldn’t run on the High School track, so I just ran on neighborhood surface streets near the track (not optimal). I was tired the last 3-4, but I pushed through. My times weren’t near target (3:05-3:16), but the stimulus of the workout achieved it’s goal.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 9.9 miles, 1:21:53 minutes, ave pace 8:14
Wednesday June 13th – short run @ easy pace + strides
5 mile easy run + strides. The purpose of this run was to recover from the previous days’ very demanding run.
Run Distance, Time & Average Pace: 5 miles, 43:09 minutes, ave pace 8:33
Thursday June 14th – Off Day
Rest & Recovery Day
Friday June 15th – Long Tempo Run
The purpose of today’s workout was to build strength. I increased the distance by a mile from my last tempo. Paces are the same, as shown in the image below. After a 1 mile warm-up, I complete 9 miles at marathon pace. As you can see, I was right on pace for the duration of the tempo. The extra day of rest (completing this workout on Friday instead of Thursday as my scheduled called out) really helped. I’m happy with this run, especially after struggling through the Yasso 800s on Tuesday.
Run Distance, Time, & Average Pace: 11.6 miles, 1:22:12 minutes, ave pace 7:04
Saturday June 16th – short run @ easy pace + 15 minutes of conditioning exercises at gym
The purpose of this run was to recover from the previous days’ intense workout. The conditioning exercises weren’t too intense, but they help to build strength & improve flexibility.
Run Distance, Time, & Average Pace: 5.4 miles, 43:34 minutes, ave pace 7:58
Sunday June 17th– Medium Run @ easy pace
A slightly longer run than typical easy days, but at an easy pace. As we get closer to the race, I am shortening some of my runs.
Run Distance, Time, Pace: 8.5 miles, 1:07:13 minutes, ave pace 7:50
Weekly total = 47.4 Miles