Whether we are mothers chasing small children or type A executives climbing the corporate ladder, artists or athletes, ditch diggers or pencil pushers, all of us make demands on our bodies. Yet, irrationally, not all of us give our bodies what they need to perform at their peak. Adequate sleep (my own personal challenge), exercise, healthy relationships, and good nutrition are all part of caring for these incredible machines that house our souls.
Participating in endurance sports has made me very aware of the impact on my body when any of these things is out of kilter. I work very hard to keep all in balance.
One of the easiest pieces of the equation for me is nutrition. Here are a few of the choices I am making about food as I train for the Grand Teton Ultra.
There are two distinct categories that must be addressed when fueling for training:
1. Lifestyle nutrition.
2. Fueling before/during/after events (including intense training sessions)
My number one goal here is to make every calorie count by eating foods that are nutrient dense. When I refuse to pile on a second dessert, friends sometimes say, “You are a runner. You can eat what you want.”. True enough if the scale were the only criterion. But I figure I owe my body a little TLC for all it’s giving me. My personal guidelines:
Fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, fish, red wine (for my heart), and dark chocolate (for SO many reasons) form the base of my diet. It doesn’t hurt that I love all these things, but that is partly due to being a culinary explorer. I also find myself craving these things when I am training hard. My body knows what it needs.
Meat and cheese are most often occasional splurges or adornments, not the foundation of meals. Though valuable sources of protein and calcium, these tend to be high in artery clogging fats. When you don’t eat them often, you feel how heavy they lay in your stomach after eating them. Observing the Orthodox fasting seasons, in addition to weekly Wednesday and Friday fasts, that require abstinence from animal products has provoked me find vegetative sources of protein (important for cell repair). Two of my favorites are Quinoa and Lentils, both of which offer unlimited culinary options. Click on either to find two of our favorite recipes.
Hydration counts. In addition to water…. Green tea is an anti-inflammatory, important for muscle repair. Rooibos is full of antioxidants and has no caffeine. Fruit and tomato juices replace electrolytes naturally and deliciously. (I ALWAYS dilute fruit juices. Too much sugar.)
Life is too short to live without bacon. I am a southern girl. Biscuits and gravy, bacon, and eggs are my heritage. They feed a place in me that has nothing to do with food. But I have them only VERY occasionally. Once a month or so. Whatever fills that place for you…gooey caramel, cheesecake, ice cream…can be part of a healthy life-style if seen for what they are: splurges. OCCASIONAL.
What does this look like for me?
Usually Kashi GoLean cereal with walnuts, light vanilla soy milk, and the fruit du jour: berries, peaches, nectarines, etc. Fresh when possible, frozen or dried when not.
A smoothy made with frozen fruit, vanilla soy milk, and sprouted chia seeds.
Left-overs from the night before, or…fresh veggies with hummus, a salad, black beans with sour cream and salsa, a baked sweet potato, etc….
We average five dinners/week cooked at home. Always vegetables, grilled, roasted or raw. Fish at least once a week (non-fasting). Lean meat probably twice/week. Leftovers or carefully chosen take-out fill the gaps.
When fueling for an event you will mostly focus on carbs and electrolytes. If you are doing an endurance event, add in fats and protein for sustainable energy. You want foods that digest quickly and easily without stress to the digestive system.
Contrary to popular belief, carb-loading begins a couple of days ahead, and you do NOT need to eat extraordinary amounts of food. Avoid foods you know cause discomfort. Also, conventional wisdom says avoid high fiber foods the morning of, but I disregard this. My body is accustomed to lots of fiber and I want to begin an event…clean. If you know what I mean. 🙂 Fiber and a nice hot cup of coffee or tea make this possible.
The most important thing here is to test foods in training before using them in an event. I’m a big fan of eating real food as much as possible, both during intense training and during events. Favorites include: Bananas, Cliff bars, Raw Unsalted Almonds, Hammer Head electrolyte replacement (all natural ingredients, less sweet, delicious), and Gardetto buffalo pretzels (hard, salty, yummy).
Protein and carbs are your friends for cell repair and recovery. I always have almonds in my car (even when not training). I put iced green tea (unsweetened), Orange juice, and/or water in a cooler for during AND after. The cold is a huge gift. Sushi is a personal fav, as is the occasional hamburger. And…every now and then…a Guinness 🙂
Runner’s World is the one magazine I read cover to cover every month. In addition to articles on training, events, and gear, there is invaluable information on nutrition, recipes, what’s in season, etc….
Kashi makes products that are nutritionally dense, natural, responsible, and sustainable.
Being healthy is a lifestyle. A series of choices you make day after day. It’s not that hard. But, it does require intentionality. I hope this will provoke you to think about choices you are making. Give me a shout out with discoveries you have made. How do you fuel your body to do the things you ask of it?