I just ran the RUN 10 Feed 10 race in New York City, and for those participating in the RUN 10 FEED 10 events (and other races this fall), you could use some helpful nutrition tips for runners. Running nutrition is personal, and figuring out what works for you, will take some trial and error. Over the years, I've counseled sprinters and marathoners of all levels. Here, I've compiled my top 10 tips for success:
- Do the food work every day. Eat well every day, not just before the race. Do this for energy, injury prevention, recovery and health. You need a balance of carbohydrates, good fats, and lean proteins from real foods to run and live your best. Good nutrition doesn't come in one pre-race meal and there is no magic pellet you can take to fuel yourself well. You gotta do the work all the time, not just right before and during a race. Try oatmeal with a scoop of frozen berries and hard-boiled egg for breakfast. An apple with almond butter and cinnamon is a perfect morning snack. At lunch, load your salad with leafy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, a hard-boiled egg and vinegar. Have a 2-percent Greek yogurt in the afternoon with a sprinkle of flax meal, and for dinner, go for grilled salmon, a sweet potato and broccoli. Add an ounce of dark chocolate with your peppermint tea to end your day.
- Hydrate. Drink water before you run. If you fear the porta-potties, stop gulping two hours before the race so you won't have to tinkle while running. For a 10K or less, you may not need to drink during the race. For longer races, sip a few ounces as you go, rather than drinking a cup, which may slosh around in your belly and slow you down. The drinking while running thing is personal, but starting the race hydrated is a must!
- Be boring. Race days are not the time to "try something new" with your diet. When you're training, practice eating and drinking what you plan to eat on race day. Keep a journal so you can record what you've tried and made you feel the best. My favorite is avocado toast with a cup of black coffee and a big glass of water. Know what works for you.
- Dump the junk. It would be nice if you could indulge more just because you ran 5 miles this morning, but that's not the way to think. Running (or any exercise for that matter) does not give you license to eat extra calories from cookies and pizza. You can't cheat your training mileage, and you can't cheat your fuel. Eating real, high quality, nutrient dense fuel will unleash your masterfully fit bod. Training on junk food, eating too much, and not eating enough are the three reasons why people gain when they train. Don't fall into these traps!
- Get real. I'm a believer that food should come from nature and not a laboratory. If you're running for less than 1.5 hours, you should be able to use real food before and after you run to meet your needs. Supplements, goos, bars, powders and jelly beans may have a place for distance runners while they're pounding the trail, but not eating while running is usually your best bet. For longer races, I encourage my clients to try training with what will be served on the race day, so they won't have to carry their nutrition on them. My favorite real food recommendations for distance runners are bananas, applesauce pouches, sweet potatoes, dried apricots and unsalted pretzels.
- Carb right. Increased miles may increase your need for carbohydrates as you are training. Does that mean bread, crackers and pasta? I'd rather you choose unprocessed whole grains like spelt, teff, quinoa or triticale. Fuel up on high fiber whole grains, root veggies and minimally processed carbs so that you can reap the benefits of the fiber, B vitamins and high quality calories, which will strengthen your glycogen stores and set you up for starting line ready energy every day. Use a high fiber cereal or whole grain, high quality toast at breakfast, or add that scoop of quinoa salad to your lunch when you are running. A serving of roasted root veggies with dinner is a perfect way to keep your training on track.
- Replete gently. When you're covering ground, all of your blood is concentrated in your muscles. You want it there to propel you forward and keep your muscles active. After you finish, take a few minutes to cool off and let some of that blood find its way back into your stomach before eating. Rule of thumb is to get in 16 oz. water within an hour after a race. Don't force yourself to eat if you aren't ready, but try to get some fuel in within an hour or two to prevent crashing later. Your glycogen storage is best repleted within two hours after your run, and your body prefers carbohydrates to get the job done. I recommend you pack an apple, dried fruit, or carrot sticks in your bag to have on hand. Protein is needed as well, but as long as you get it in over the 24 hours following your race, you will be good to go.
- Fat right. You want to keep a fit and lean body when running like the wind. It's a big mistake to cut fat out of your menu planning. You need good fats from some of my favorite sources, like avocados, coconut, flax meal, chia seeds, nuts and nut butters to repair and protect your insides. I often recommend an afternoon snack of an avocado green smoothie for runners, just to get the good fat in! If you're looking to lose weight as part of your training, cutting overall calories is a best bet, not fat.
- Eek, avoid! You know your stomach. A few days before your big run (not just the night before), can you not eat the fried rice that made you sick last time? Besides what you know doesn't work for you, steer clear from alcohol a few days pre race.
- Eat confidently. A big part of this running thing is mental, so be confident in the foods you use to fuel your feet. Stop thinking "diet" and start thinking "nutrition." You can certainly try someone else's running meal plan that appeals to you, but empower yourself to make it your own.
About RUN 10 FEED 10:
Women's Health and FEED host the 3rd annual RUN 10 FEED 10 national philanthropic race series to help fight domestic hunger. The concept is simple: register to run a 10K and feed 10 people in your local community. RUN10 FEED10 will host timed races at New York City's West Side Highway (9/21), Chicago's Diversey Harbor (10/19), and across the famed Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (10/26). Additionally, runners can participate in "Fun Runs" in cities including Minneapolis, MN, Denver, CO, Houston, TX, Los Angeles, CA, Phoenix, AZ, Atlanta, GA, Boston, MA and Washington D.C. If runners do not live in one of the Women's Health host cities, they can still participate by registering on Run10Feed10.com and using the RUN10 FEED10 training app, created by WalkJogRun, to plot their own course and run their own 10K anytime. To find out more go to RUN10FEED10.com.
For more nutrition and healthy living tips from Keri Glassman go to her website here.