A little less than two weeks ago, after I ran my races on Saturday at the Runner’s World Heartbreak Hill Festival, I attended a handful of free seminars open to any runner who participated in a race that weekend. I attended several informational sessions, but one that really stuck out to me that I thought might interest a bunch of you was a seminar about sports nutrition with Nancy Clark, a registered dietitian, board certified specialist in sports dietetics and the best selling author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.
Nancy began her session by reading through a few of her personal food mantras.
Food is, and should be, one of life’s pleasures.
You don’t have to have a perfect diet to have a good diet.
I loved them and could immediately tell that the knowledge Nancy was about to share would be beneficial, practical and applicable.
Below you will find highlights from her informative discussion at the Heartbreak Hill Festival:
- Never Let Yourself Get Too Hungry
I LOVED the time Nancy spent addressing hunger. She opened up a discussion about hunger by stating, “Constant hunger isn’t a personality quirk. It’s a physiological response.” When you’re hungry, your body is telling you that it needs food. Waiting until you feel extremely hungry is unwise because then “all hell breaks loose” and you’re more likely to eat anything you can get your hands on at the moment.
Think about the way your body would react if someone held your head under water. When they finally let you up for air, would you breathe normally? Heck no! You’d gasp for air and desperately inhale and exhale. Same thing does with eating when you’re absolutely starving. You’ll grab anything and stuff yourself, often with less-than-healthy foods.
- When It Comes To Your Daily Activity, Look At The Overall Picture
Even if you work out first thing in the morning, if you sit at a desk the rest of the day, you may not be moving enough. Concentrate on maintaining an active lifestyle rather than just checking a work out off the list.
- Race Day Nutrition: Eat What Works For YOU
Use your training to figure out the best fuel for your body. On race day morning, eat your go-to pre-long run food that sits well in your stomach and makes you feel satisfied. Choose something that will last 60 – 90 minutes and consume 200 to 300 calories per hour if you’re running for 2.5 hours or more. For more information about proper fueling through long workouts, check out Nancy’s blog post How To Enjoy Long Workouts. When it comes to gus and gels, candy like Swedish Fish or jellybeans often has the same effect and is typically much cheaper.
- You May Need To Eat Something After A Race Even If You Don’t Feel Like It
Even if your appetite isn’t raging after a race, you may want to pay attention to other cues from your body that may signal a need for food. Your body typically needs something. Try eating half of a banana. This may be enough to get your appetite back in gear and make you feel much better. Chocolate milk is a great choice after a race due to the combination of protein and carbohydrates.
- How Much To Eat Before An Early Morning Workout Is Individualized
Whether or not you need to eat before an early morning workout is very individualized and may change day to day. If you wake up at 5 a.m. with no appetite and had a large dinner the night before, you may feel okay enough to work out on an empty stomach. If you’re used to working out on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, try eating something small to see if you feel even better. Grabbing something as small as half of a banana or a piece of toast before a 5 a.m. workout can make a big difference.
- Weight Loss Comes From Little Changes Over A Longer Period Of Time
Healthy weight loss comes from little changes over a longer period of time, not a quick diet. When questioned about the number of calories someone should consume for healthy weight loss, Nancy provided this formula: Your weight (or a healthy weight for your body) x 10 = The amount of calories your body needs to do nothing other than sit around all day. Add another 30 – 50 percent for everyday activity and then add in the amount of calories burned during exercise before subtracting 10 to 20 percent from the total. This is a good calorie goal for healthy weight loss. Nancy emphasized paying more attention to what’s on your plate than macros and calories consumed. She said focusing on incorporating protein, fruits, veggies and grains is a good idea and stressed the importance of starchy vegetables/grains in an athlete’s diet.
- Drink Enough Water
Drink enough water so that you have to use the bathroom every two to four hours. Urine should be light in color.
- Coffee/Caffeine = Fine
If drinking a cup of coffee or tea before a race makes running seem easier for you, it’s totally fine, but don’t abuse caffeine or make sugary coffee drinks part of your daily routine.
Big thanks to Nancy Clark for such an interesting discussion!
Questions of the Morning
- For the distance athletes out there: How do you fuel yourself through a long race/training session?
- What is your favorite pre- and post-workout snack?
- Do you consume caffeine before a workout or a race?