I saw this picture on Pinterest the other day and it cracked me up. This is totally me. Generally, I eat what I want. In fact, I often use food as a mental strategy to help get me through long training runs. To help pass the kilometres, I like to fantasize about what I’ll eat when I get home. Maybe I’ll make grilled cheese… or pasta… or I’ll order something…mmm…..
Anyway, it’s not like I stuff my face with cookies and fast food. Generally, I try to eat pretty healthy. I choose whole grains. I eat a balanced diet. I drink lots of water. That’s not to say I don’t occasionally indulge in that giant slice of pie, but on a day-to-day basis, I’d put myself in the “healthy diet” category.
Earlier this year, I was chatting with my friend Kennedy, a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, about food for runners. She’s a runner and blogger too so I was asking her about nutrition tips and running. And guess what? Eating pie and cookies and poutine could have a dramatic impact on your running performance. Who knew?
It got me thinking: could eating differently actually make me a better runner? Turns out, the answer is a big giant YES. After experimenting with different food both pre and post run for the last couple months, I’ve noticed a serious impact on my running performance when I’m eating well. This doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally indulge in that slice of pie. I’m burning lots of calories with all this running. I need to refuel, right? But a few simple changes can make a big difference. Here’s the three tips Kennedy gave me back in January that I’ve been trying to put into practice ever since:
Avoid processed foods
Runners are generally health conscious people so if you’re uneasy about chugging sports drinks with a long list of laboratory-sounding ingredients, you might want to consider a natural alternative. Kennedy suggests thinking of whole food alternatives to things like sports drinks or energy bars. For example, rather than eating an energy gel or supplement, she suggests eating medjool dates instead. These dates are an excellent alternative. They provide a concentrated source of energy that helps keep the body running. They’re also packed with fiber and several vitamins and minerals. I have grown to quite like dates in the last couple months – both as a snack and as an energy gel replacement. In fact, fellow blogger Shameen has a great recipe on her new blog using dates that you should try out.
When you run, you need to replenish. Endurance runners need more antioxidants than the average person because we take in more oxygen and nutrients. As a result, free radicals are produced naturally in our bodies as a result of processing these things. I’m not a scientific-type so this is where the details get fuzzy for me, but basically, antioxidants attach themselves to free radicals “quenching them” which helps control things like inflammation, oxidation and cell damage. Getting lots of foods high in antioxidants can help this process. Kennedy suggests foods that are high in vitamin C like bell peppers, strawberries or lemon juice and lots of green things like spinach or broccoli.
Hydration is a big factor. According to Kennedy, lots of people are dehydrated when they run. People may think they only need water on long runs, or when it’s hot out but you really need to drink water before, during and after. You probably keep fluids handy. Maybe you even run with a fuel belt of some kind. But to really improve performance, you need to be more than a casual sipper.
These are just some tips I’ve been putting into practice. Every runner has their own fuelling techniques and what’s right for one person could be totally wrong for another.
What are your fave post run treats? Do you have any go-to foods for a great run?