I am almost two weeks into training for the Bayshore Marathon. So far, so good. It feels great to be training again!
Whenever I tell people that I am training for a marathon they ALWAYS say that it must be great to be able to eat whatever I want. Sorry to tell you, but no.
First of all, anyone can eat whatever they want. What you put in your body is your choice. Secondly, not only does preparing for a race require physical training, it requires adequate nutrition too. Nancy Clark is an RD from Boston who specializes in sports nutrition. The “See Food Diet” (you see food, you eat it) is not the best approach when it comes to athletes.
Clark’s series of books and seminars focus on teaching athletes how to eat “fewer wrappers”. Focusing on real, whole foods is the best route for runners. This may seem like such a simple recommendation, but it is too easily lost in the sea of products coming from the weight-loss and sports-food industries. It is best to keep food simple and offer your body fuel in the purest form.
There are plenty of other myths out there regarding extreme athletes in addition to the one about eating whatever they want. Here are a few more very common ones.
1. I need to eat as much protein as I possibly can
It is better, for runners especially, to focus on carbohydrates. Many people reach the daily recommendation for protein without much effort. Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel for workouts. Limiting carbohydrates and only increasing protein can be harmful for sports performance.
2. Water is always the best options to keep me hydrated
This one is not always true. Sometimes, water is the best choice, especially for exercise that lasts less than an hour. When training for a marathon, sometimes runs can get up to 2 hours or more. In this case it is necessary to have a beverage that includes water, electrolytes and energy (carbohydrates) to keep you going when your muscle energy stores being to drop.
3. Breakfast is the most important meal
How many times have you heard this phrase? For starters EVERY meal is important! However, athletes must pay particular attention to their recovery meal (this is the meal following the completion of the workout) After exercising muscle glycogen must be restored within about an hour or two to make sure you have enough energy to complete your next workout. If you wait too long to eat, say you don’t get to the kitchen until 3 hours later, your muscle glycogen will still be restored, it will just happen much slower than if you would have eaten sooner. Try to eat a snack within 30 minutes of finishing a workout and a meal within an hour. The meal should be a mix of carbohydrates, protein and fat .
Here are some ideas from Dietitian Andrea Holwenger for post-workout snacks and meals
- Snack mix: Dried apricots/blueberries, nuts/seeds and dried cereal.
- Greek yogurt parfait with fruit and granola.
- Glass of milk/soy milk and fresh fruit.
- Unsweetened juice and homemade granola bar.
- Whole grain crackers with hummus and veggies.
- Whole grain toast, eggs and fruit.
- Oatmeal with added nut butter, apples and raisins and tall glass of milk.
- Stir-fry with rice, chicken and veggies.
- Bran muffin and smoothie made with banana, berries and protein powder or powdered milk.
- Wrap with black beans, grated cheese, peppers, corn, salsa and avocado.