By: Angela Joy

As a runner, or exercise enthusiast, the foods that you eat should be taken just as seriously as the shoes you wear and the time you finish in.

Unfortunately, proper diet is not always top priority.

According to Erin Strout of Running Times Magazine, runners continue to follow the age-old beliefs that eating large amounts of pasta the night before, chugging bottles of sports drinks or following fad diets, will improve performance.

However, what runners are beginning to recognize more commonly is that high quality protein, fats, carbohydrates, electrolytes and superfoods, each play an intrical role in fueling a succesful athlete.

Healthy Foods

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Ms. Stout writes in the Running Times magazine, proper nutrition and hydration are critical components for improved running capabilities.

Upon first beginning my running career I was not aware of the importance of a healthy diet.

I maintained a seemingly healthy diet, although had not true idea of what health really was.

I followed the all of the age-old runner beliefs, leading me to suffer during my first half marathon race.

It wasn’t long after when I recognized the importance of nutrition and consuming healthy organic whole foods as a runner.

During my second half marathon I cut my time by 15 minutes, finished strong, and recovered almost immediately after.

A year or so later, I took on the next challenge – running a full marathon.

I began my training unaware of how often or what types of foods I would need while running a distance longer than 90 minutes.

I can still remember coming home from my first 15 mile run. I was ecstatic, but once I met my living room I was done for the day.

I went to bed that night with an incredible headache and woke up the next day feeling worse than ever.

It was at this point that I looked to ultramarathon champion, and author of the book, “Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness,” Scott Jurek.

SCott Jurek

Photo taken from Twitter.com

Jurek is known for his victories in nearly every elite ultra trail and road event. He is most commonly recognized for his seven straight victories at the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, his record-breaking Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon win, and his historic 153-mile Spartathalon win.

Jurek explains the importance of eating carbohydrates prior to a run, eating carbohydrates during a run that is longer than 90 minutes, and eating protein 30 minutes after a run to restore your energy levels and avoid fatigue.

Jurek follows a whole foods plant-based diet, and suggests that runners eat a variety of organic whole foods such as grains, legumes, green vegetables and fruits.

Running

In reaction to reading Mr. Jurek’s book, and seeking guidance from other professional runners, I created this training guide to prepare for long runs:

Day before:
Avoid carbo-loading the night before.
Instead, focus on fueling your body on quality protein, unsaturated fats and carbohydrates throughout the day.
Your body will store the protein, fats and carbohyrates and utilize them the following day.
Also make sure to allow the body proper time to digest all of the food you eat, prior to race morning. In other words, try not to eat too late at night.

A sample pre-race day, or pre-long run, meal for me would include:
Organic brown rice
Black beans
Avocado
Tomato
The day before I also snack on different fruits and nuts between meals.

Morning before: Before embarking on a long run it is best to wake up at least 30 minutes to one hour before running to allow yourself to eat and digest the food.

Each runner’s stomach will handle foods and digestion differently, therefore trial and error is key – the same goes with foods eaten during the run.

Carbohydrates are key the day of a run.

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My pre-run meal often consists of a piece of cinnamon raisin Ezekiel toast with peanut butter and a banana or orange. If I wake up early, I will eat a small bowl of oatmeal with organic blueberries.

During the run: A runner only needs to consume food if they are partaking in exercise longer than 90 minutes.

If running for longer than 90 minutes it is best to eat every 30 minutes, or so, to fully restore the body’s glycogen levels.

Most professional athletes suggest eating at least 30 grams of carbohydrates every 30 minutes.

Jurek created a conversion that meets each runner’s specific needs through relying on the runner’s weight.

The runner’s body weight, divided by 2.2, multiplied by .7, equates to the amount of carbohydrates consumed while running.

Jurek’s conversion: (Body weight/2.2) x .7 = grams of carbohydrates

I weigh 130 pounds, therefore my conversion would appear as; (130/2.2) x .7 = 41.4.

What to eat on the run:

Many runners reach for sports gels to meet their carbohydrate needs while exercising.

I opted for the natural whole foods remedies.

A few examples of foods I consume while running include;
Bananas
Figs
Organic fruit baby foods
Dates

While running I eat one item every 30 to 40 minutes and drink water after every mile.

sproutbabyfood

Photo take from: livingrichwithcoupons.com

Angela’s Tip:
Bananas are a common go-to food for me while running. I often peel the banana right before the run and place it in a plastic bag untouched. I will mush it up right before I eat it to allow easier digestion and carbohydrate absorption.

Post-Run: After completing a run it is time for the body to refuel, recover and prepare for the next run.

Physiologist Deborah Shulman concluded in an article on Active.com titled, “Get enough protein post-workout,” that it is important to consume carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes of completing endurance exercise.

She explained that the nutrients consumed after exercise will fend off fatigue and promote recovery.

Ms. Schulman suggests that 20 grams of protein is optimal after completing an endurance exercise activity.

She said 20 grams can often be found in one scoop of protein powder.

What to eat after a run: Eating can be difficult after undergoing a sustained, difficult workout. My solution is to reach for a protein-packed smoothie.

I often consume one full cup of a protein smoothie after each run.

Angela 3

Photo courtesy of Angela Joy

My favorite post-run smoothie; Blueberry, banana and flax seed smoothie

  • Banana
  • Rice milk – you can use any kind of milk
  • Frozen blueberries
  • Hemp protein
  • One tablespoon of crushed flax seeds
  • One teaspoon of cinnamon

If you prefer a sweet smoothie, include one teaspoon of honey or maple syrup to the mix.

Finding Inspiration

A quote that gets me through long, strenuous runs is one of Jurek’s common phrases, “Sometimes, you just do things.”

The quote resonates with me to the fact that I don’t have a specific explanation of why I run other than the fact that I simply enjoy it.

Truly, we don’t need an explanation for why we do things that make us happy – it is just important that we go out there and do them.

Don’t worry about what people think or say – just do it.

I challenge you to go out and do something that you love for the simple reason that, “Sometimes we just do things.”

Blog Post Takeaway:

Healthy Food

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Have you ever heard of the expression, “You are what you eat,” well, my motto is, “Your performance is only as good as the food that you eat.”

Therefore, make sure that you are eating well!

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope it was helpful! Please share your feedback, comments, questions.

❤ Wishing you lots of love, joy and blessings

-Angela Joy

Information obtained from:

  1. http://running.competitor.com/2014/04/inside-the-magazine/the-long-run/the-long-run-eating-on-the-run_28754
  2. http://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-for-runners/fueling-facts
  3. http://www.active.com/nutrition/articles/get-enough-protein-post-workout
  4. Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman
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