Snow and frigid temps have put a damper on many well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions already. But these conditions shouldn’t hinder you! They can actually help you achieve your goals more quickly if you embrace them rather than hide indoors.Read More
By the number of runners I'm seeing on the roads and trails, and on high school tracks after hours, training for fall races is in high gear! If you’re training for a half or full marathon, you’re in great company as your ramp up the miles in preparation for your big race. But this is also the time to finalize a strong game plan for fueling, because all that training won’t serve you if there’s no gas in your tank.
Your training runs serve as your testing lab for nutrition, so now is the time to test (and test and test!) your options and to answer these questions in the final weeks of your training…
WHAT WILL YOU EAT FOR BREAKFAST ON RACE MORNING?
Classic runners’ breakfasts include toast or a bagel with a smear of peanut butter and a banana, or oatmeal and fruit, but what breakfast feels best to you in terms of fueling AND digestion? On race day, you’re looking for a breakfast with easy to digest carbs and not too much in the way of protein, fiber or fat, and you’ll aim to eat that breakfast close to three hours before the start to allow for digestion. A big factor to consider is where you’ll be on race morning—you may make a very different choice if you’re sleeping in your own bed vs staying in a hotel. More on this topic HERE.
WHAT WILL YOU EAT ON THE COURSE?
Carbohydrates are our most efficient source of fuel, but fully carb-loaded, we can only store enough to power 60-90 minutes of hard effort. It’s easy to see how runners can become depleted and hit the proverbial wall! Thankfully, there’s an huge variety of highly portable, easily digestible carb supplements in the form of drinks, gels, gummies and chews.
If you’re running a half marathon, you may be able to complete the 13.1 miles without eating carbohydrates on the course, but if you’re trying to achieve a personal best, or aiming to prevent feeling totally wrung out at the finish, carb supplements can be a great tool.
Eating or drinking carbs is non-negotiable for the full marathon unless you plan on doing a good bit of walking. Depending on a marathoner’s size (a larger runner needs more fuel) and how hard you’re pushing on the course (walk/run needs less fuel, running at hard effort requires more), full marathoners need to consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. Consider this math problem of carbs needed per hour, and put together a plan for hitting your number.
More on the variety of sports nutrition and average carb content HERE.
WHAT'S FOR DINNER RACE EVE?
The dinner you eat on the eve of your race should leave you feeling well-fueled and light the next morning, not bloated or heavy. While you’re looking for a good source of carbs, race eve is not the time to pile your plate to the ceiling. You’re looking for a reasonably portioned meal with a decent source of carbs and some protein, but not too much in the way of fat and fiber that could cause GI distress. Again, it's important to consider where you'll be (at home vs away) and what's available.
As you complete the remaining weeks of your training, ask and answer these questions, too:
· Are you eating carbs right after your long runs to speed your recovery and prevent cravings? More on this topic HERE.
· Is your diet full of nourishing foods to rebuild your muscles, including vegetables, fruit, nuts & seeds, plenty of lean protein (preferably from whole foods, not powders, shakes or bars) and whole grains?
· Are you getting enough sleep?
If your training plan and diet are absolutely perfect, but you’re regularly getting less than 7 hours of sleep, you may be missing out on the training effect. Much of the adaptation from all your work happens in your sleep, so plan your rest the same way you plan your runs—and be consistent!
Here’s to a great training season leading to a fun and successful race day! if you need support in fine tuning your diet to support your goals, talk to a professional like myself to ensure you’re performing at your best.
Back in the spring, I excitedly signed up for a summer running camp for grown-ass women. During the course of marathon training this summer, I developed a femoral stress fracture, and when I emailed the organizers to request a refund, I got a hard NOPE. What should have been an empowering weekend for strong women to come together over running...actually was.Read More
Joe and Ashley had each run quite a few 5Ks, 10Ks and a couple half marathons with increasingly fast times when they decided to train for a full marathon. The pair embarked on a training plan over weeks and months to ramp up in a smart way: They practiced increasingly difficult speed workouts, and strategically extended their long runs to prepare for 26.2 miles. Neither Joe nor Ashley could have run a marathon on the first day of training, but over those months they built tremendous strength and endurance to complete the distance.
But disaster struck on race day: Joe ate a packet of carbohydrate gel early on in the race and swigged a cup of sports drink from an aid station around the 10-mile mark, but it wasn’t enough. Just before the 20-mile mark, Joe hit what runners refer to as “the wall.” His legs felt like they were made of lead. His run slowed to a jog, then a walk, then he plopped down on a curb for 10 minutes sipping sports drink as dizziness, exhaustion and despondent feelings washed over him. He walked in the last 10K.
Ashley, on the other hand, wore a fuel belt loaded with carbohydrate gels someone recommended to her at the expo where she picked up her bib. She began fueling early and often—something she’d never tried before—and around mile 16, she felt bloated and nauseated, with water swishing heavily in her gut with every step. She miserably slogged along for the last 10 miles unable to take another bite or sip, walking for long sections of her race and visiting the porta-potties every chance she had.
Joe and Ashley neglected a vital part of marathon training: They didn’t have a race day fueling plan.
To avoid a splat on the proverbial wall in a marathon, a typical runner needs somewhere between 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour, depending on his or her size and speed (larger runners pushing faster speed potentially require closer to 90 grams per hour).
Digestion on the run can be a tricky affair, which is why there’s an entire sports nutrition industry made up of products designed to be easy on the gut while providing immediate fuel:
· Carbohydrate gels (like Gu, Hammer, Stinger, Huma, etc) contain between 20-25 grams of carbohydrate per packet
· A 1-ounce package of jelly beans (like Sports Beans) has about 25 grams of carbohydrate per bag
· 8 ounces of sports drink (like Gatorade or Tailwind reconstituted at full strength) has about 10-15 grams of carbohydrate.
If you’re considering eating whole food instead of specially formulated sports nutrition, consider this:
· One large date contains 10-13 grams of carbohydrate
· A medium-sized banana has about 25 grams of carbs
· An ounce worth of pretzels (just about a 100-calorie pack) has around 20 grams of carbs.
In order to meet your needs solely with bananas, you’d need to carry a produce section with you. But the bigger issue is the longer you run, the less blood your body sends to your digestive system as oxygenated blood is diverted to your hardworking legs. This is good for your legs, but tough for digesting solid food. You may end up under-fueled and in serious GI distress in the final third of your race.
A smart fueling training plan looks like this:
· Early in the season, visit the running nutrition section at your local running store and look for products that sound tasty. Check out the carb content, too, considering how many carbs you’ll need to consume per hour on race day
· Caffeine can be performance enhancer, but if it doesn’t agree with you in your daily life, it probably won’t agree with you on the run. If you choose to consume caffeine on race day, practice with it in training, and alternate between caffeinated and non-caffeinated products
· Always consume a gel or chewable carb supplement with plain water
· Test out products one at a time on the run to see how you like them in terms of taste, fueling and how they impact your gut. If you try two different gels, or a gel and a drink and have GI distress, you won’t know whether the gel, the drink, or the combo caused the issue
· Once you’ve confirmed you like a product, then you may choose to test mixing it with other products to meet your race day needs. For example, to reach 50 grams per hour, you may try one gel + 12 ounces of sports drink over an hour; or one gel + a snacking on bag of jelly beans over an hour
· There’s no need to consume as much carbohydrate on your training runs as you will on race day, and in fact, by going out with less fuel during training, you will adapt to becoming a better fat burner, which is a good thing. However, choose one or two of your longer runs as a fueling dress rehearsal: Eat a simple carb-rich breakfast 2-3 hours before your run, take your first bite of fuel early in the run, and test your race day fueling strategy.
And this is important: If you have a bad experience with one product, don’t completely dismiss the entire sports nutrition section. There are a variety of sweeteners and textures in each gel, bite, bean and drink, so keep experimenting to find what works best for you.
Need support in developing a fueling plan for your race? Let's talk!
If this display on a stationary bike is my view on a beeeeautiful summer day, you know something went wrong.
Any long distance runner will tell you, we frequently have aches and pains, and it's an art and a science for the runner to answer the question:
Is this pain run-through-able, or is this something serious?
I clearly have not mastered this skill, as I demonstrated after completing a race last spring that left me with a personal best on the course...and a torn tendon. And I further demonstrated it this month as my training season has been cut short by a very painful injury which turned out to be a stress fracture near the top of my femur.
I made a comeback from that aforementioned torn tendon in spring of 2017 and ran the best marathon of my life just eight months later, qualifying for the Boston Marathon for the first time. After that victory, I took the winter months to savor running with no target race, no pressure--just enjoying running, barre classes and group workouts.
I set my sights on a late summer marathon, Lehigh Valley, and began training for that race in May.
I ramped up using a smart plan, careful not to add too much mileage too soon. I tracked my mileage and the wear on my running shoes in a spreadsheet, being careful to swap out shoes before I completely ran them into the ground. I ate healthfully, with lots of greens, whole grains and lean protein making up a big chunk of my diet (with my nightly dark chocolate, of course). I continued to cross train, though maybe not quite as consistently as the miles began to add up. My speed was picking back up after a laid back winter. My endurance was strengthening. I pushed through unbearably humid summery runs and was acclimating to the Baltimore heat.
And then there was a week where I REALLY stepped up my mileage, hills and speed and felt a good bit of pain when I set out on a 16-mile long run with a group. That pain never abated. I ended up with 10 great miles, 1 slow-ish paced mile, and 4 miles of walk/hobbling back to my car, finishing the morning--and my training season--with a limp and a whimper.
I had my pity party: I did everything right, damn it! In hindsight, I can poke some holes in my plan. I'm now an over-40 runner, and maybe I should have taken the issue of slower recovery more seriously. Maybe I should have cross trained more, or rested more when I was feeling sore. Or maybe I did everything right, but this is just one of those times when $h!t goes wrong.
My doctor gave me the go-ahead to bike, workout in the pool and do gentle yoga--three things I do not do, but will most definitely be doing this summer and into the fall. So I may not see you on the roads or trails for a few weeks, but you can bet your butt I'll be back at it!
See you at the gym--I'll be the one at the back of the yoga class grimacing as my tight hamstrings get a much-needed stretch, awkwardly gripping the handles of a stationary bike, or doing a goofy water workout.
Happy first day of summer and NATIONAL SMOOTHIE DAY (yep, that’s a thing)!
Yes, it's a silly day, but in my book, nothing beats a smoothie after a hot summery run, but I have a few caveats:
1. Skip the protein powder. It's tough to come up short on protein in a healthful diet, so it's not necessary--my protein needs are easily met otherwise! Not to mention, after a tough workout, my body is looking for carbohydrates to replenish lost stores in any case, and the amount of protein in most powders is overkill.
2. I only put in my blender or bowl the amount of fruit I would actually eat whole--here I've used frozen banana and wild blueberries. It's easy to overdo it, adding five or more servings to fill the blender, resulting in an over-filled bowl with hundred and hundreds of calories of fruit. Yes, you can definitely have too much of a good thing.
3. It's ALL about the toppings! I love a good dollop of nut butter--cashew butter in this case--or whole nuts & seeds, and something crunchy--a quarter cup of nutty whole grain Michele's Granola in this bowl. It's also easy to keep piling on the goods, but unless I'm re-fueling after hours of running, this bowl will easily meet my post-workout hunger.
Here’s to meaningful food holidays!
I eat a rotation of similar meals, I buy the same clothes over and over again, I do specific workouts on specific days, I order the same meal from the same small group of restaurants I frequent, I run the same roads and trails, and while I like to challenge myself and try a new thing here and there, I am very much a fan of staying in the comfort zone.
When some friends were talking about forming a team of eight to run the Ragnar Trail race outside of Richmond, VA, it didn't even cross my mind to join them. It's a relay race where each runner completes about 15 miles of trail running broken into three segments, coming to a total of 120 miles over 24 loops and 24-ish hours, while camping out to complete the feat. The running trails part sounded great, but the camping part? Not so much. I have never slept outdoors in my 40 years, and I saw no reason to start. Plus the group is a tight clique of friends with their own vocabulary of inside jokes, and I'm somewhat on the outside
So yeah, outside my comfort zone.
At one point months ago, I offered to be an alternate if anyone dropped, figuring no one would drop.
And then someone dropped, and to my own surprise, I didn't hesitate to say YES when I was asked to fill in.
The race was this past weekend. Holy smoke was I outside my comfort zone, and damned if I didn't have a great time. While the group was generally laid back, we had good leadership and we planned well in the weeks leading up. We had a few camping pros in the group who made sure we'd have the right equipment. We made new inside jokes. We ate ALL THE CARBS and endured a damp, cold, mostly sleepless night together. The trails themselves were fun--well-marked and very runnable, but with big muddy patches providing their own source of challenge. We were each other's best cheerleaders in completing each loop, and we celebrated wildly as our final runner came through.
The comfort zone is a great place to be, but the occasional trek outside the zone--under the right circumstances--is an awesome place, too. (Just to be clear, though, I am NOT lining up my next camping trip!)
Wow--the response to the lectures I've presented this spring on being a vegan athlete has been amazing! Clearly the topic of fine tuning our diets for sports performance is of interest, likely in part due to hubbub around films like James Cameron's The Game Changers, and the forthcoming book by vegan ultrarunning record-breaking Scott Jurek.
It's been a pleasure talking about the potential and pitfalls of choosing this lifestyle, and I've fielded some fantastic questions.
Those in attendance have ranged from long-time vegans, to new vegetarians, to those just curious about this diet and lifestyle. I met new runners, a couple ladies pursuing a half-marathon in every state (they even have plans for the boring states!), and runners of all ages looking to raise their game.
By popular demand, I'm hosting this talk ONE MORE TIME: Join me at TriSport Junction in Sykesville on Wednesday, April 18th, and let’s talk about the plant-based athlete! RSVP HERE.
Questions I'll be sure to answer include:
- Will going vegan make me faster?
- Do vegans recover more quickly?
- Will I have to supplement?
...and the big one:
- Where do vegan athletes get their protein?
Hope to see you on the 18th!
Got too many questions for a group talk? Let's meet one-on-one! Contact me here to make an appointment.
Thanks to everyone who joined me Thursday evening to answer the question: Can runners thrive on a plant-based diet?
No doubt you’ve seen fitness influencers posting their impossibly lean bodies posed with green smoothies, espousing the benefits of going vegan. And you've likely read about or seen documentaries on how athletes are trying out this way of eating with amazing results.
But can a runner like you or me really thrive on a plant-based diet?
Let’s back up for a minute for some definitions: A vegan diet is one that eschews all animal products: No red meat, poultry or seafood; no dairy, eggs, gelatin or honey. (These choices also extend to a vegan’s lifestyle, where they avoid animal-derived products like wool, leather and more.) A vegetarian diet excludes all animal flesh, but depending on the individual, may have more flexibility to include animal derived products, like dairy or honey.
From an ethical standpoint, a vegan diet is a compassionate choice, and there are tremendous environmental benefits to eliminating or even reducing meat consumption.
But here’s the kicker: Other than the exclusion of animal products, there are no other parameters around this way of eating, so being vegan is not synonymous with being healthy. In fact, there is a ginormous range of heavily marketed vegan junk food, from cookie dough to highly sweetened yogurt alternatives, to boxed mac and cheese. Active people adopting a vegan diet need to do diligent research to make sure their diet adequately meets their needs, not just as a runner but as a human. Additionally, if one chooses this diet without a supportive network of family or friends, it can be socially isolating.
Following are the five most common questions I hear from veg-curious runners:
WILL GOING VEGAN MAKE ME A BETTER RUNNER?
Eschewing animal products does not guarantee you’ll be a faster runner, better fueled, or faster recovery. ALL runners benefit from eating a health-promoting diet like the model from the Harvard School of Public Health, which is adaptable to omnivores, vegetarians or vegans:
- Half of a nutritious diet is made up of non-starchy vegetables and some whole fruit
- A quarter of the diet is healthful proteins
- A quarter is whole grains and/or starchy vegetables.
If your way of eating falls way outside these parameters, whether you're a vegan, vegetarian or omnivore, your body may not be getting the nutrients it needs.
DO VEGAN ATHLETES RECOVER FASTER?
Principles of healthful fueling apply to plant-based athletes, too: Vegetables, whole fruit, nuts, seeds, whole grains + legumes are vital to a healthy body, as is eliminating inflammatory foods, including many animal products, fried food + sugary junk. Fueling well before and after workouts is also key for speedy recovery. More on that what and when to eat before, during and after workouts HERE.
WILL I NEED TO SUPPLEMENT?
Some vital nutrients do not occur naturally in significant amounts in a whole food, plant-based diet. They must be consumed via fortified foods, in supplement form, or very deliberately eaten as whole foods:
B12 is required for healthy blood and nerve cells, as well as production of DNA, and it’s the one non-negotiable supplement vegans must take. B12 deficiency accumulates over years and can be devastating to the body. To achieve the recommended 2.4mcg/day, supplements are the most convenient option. There are some fortified foods, like nutritional yeast, some cereals + plant milks, but this route is tougher.
Iodide regulates thyroid and supports metabolism and is found in eggs, fish, dairy and sea vegetables in small amounts. ¼ teaspoon of iodized salt contains nearly half the recommended daily value.
Omega 3 fatty acids DHA + EPA are vital in managing inflammation, and necessary for brain + heart health. They’re found in cold water fish (the fish get them from algae). Omega 3 fats as ALA are in flax, hemp + chia seeds, you may need to eat 10-50 times the amount of ALA to convert it to adequate DHA + EPA. Eating less Omega 6 fats from processed foods like soybean oil is also key.
Depending on your unique needs and diet, whether you’re plant-based or an omnivore, you may need additional supplements, such as vitamin D (which many are deficient in regardless of diet), zinc or iron. There is no need to self-diagnose vitamin and mineral deficiencies when they are easily detectable by blood tests ordered by your doctor.
WHAT ABOUT CALCIUM?
The RDA for calcium for adults is 1,000 mg/day (1,200mg/day for women >50 + men >70). This is achievable with whole foods: There are 80mg calcium in 1 cup edamame, 100mg in 1 cup cooked kale, 160mg in ½ cup white beans, 140mg in 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds. Fortified plant milks have 300-450mg/cup. You can see how an intentional combination of foods could easily add up to meet daily needs.
AND THE BIG QUESTION: WHERE WILL YOU GET YOUR PROTEIN?
To determine your Recommended Daily Allowance—the amount you need to meet basic nutritional requirements—for protein, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36. (You can also get a more detailed calculation based on your gender, age and activity level on using a calculator HERE). For example, the basic protein requirement for a 130-pound woman is about 47 grams daily, and a 180-pound man is 65 grams daily. A more active person will most definitely require more.
If your diet follows the Healthy Eating Plate proportions, your protein needs can be easily met without ever touching protein powder or bars. Whole grains, nuts + seeds, and legumes (including whole soy) all provide excellent protein, and even fruit and vegetables provide small amounts that add up to your daily needs. This example of a fairly light day of eating shows how easily 75.9 grams of protein add up:
Breakfast - 13 grams
- .5 cup oats: 6g
- 1 Tbsp chia seeds: 2g
- 1 banana: 1g
- 1 Tbsp peanut butter: 4g
- 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk: 0g
Snack - 6.5 grams
- Apple: 0.5g
- Handful of almonds (1 oz): 6g
Lunch - 25 grams
- 2 slices sprouted grain bread: 8g
- Avocado half: 2g
- Green salad: 2g
- 1/4 cup cooked farro: 3g
- 3 Tbsp hemp hearts: 10g
Snack - 5 grams
- Handful of carrot sticks: 1g
- Hummus, 1/4 cup: 4g
Dinner - 30 grams
- Green salad: 2g
- 1 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste): 3g
- Whole wheat pasta serving: 7g
- Green beans: 2g
- Marinated cooked tempeh: 16g
Final verdict: If you’re driven by a strong motivation to choose this lifestyle, and if you’re willing to do a bit of extra homework to make sure your nutrition needs—as well as social and emotional needs—are adequately met, veganism can be a healthful choice that supports an active lifestyle.
Even if you don't want to commit to a fully vegan lifestyle, we can all benefit eating more vegetables and adopting the proportions of the Healthy Eating Plate, where protein represents a smaller portion of the diet than most American's consume.
Got questions? Please be in touch!
This information is not intended to prevent, treat or diagnose any disease, and should not supersede recommendations prescribed to you by a medical professional.
Runners all of the Baltimore metro area are training for spring half and full marathons, and it will be my pleasure to visit with training groups to answer that burning question, "What should I eat before, during and after a run?"Read More
If you have a half or full marathon on the calendar this fall, hopefully you've been following a smart training plan and logging plenty of miles. But have you been paying attention to what you're eating before, during and after your runs? Consider this mid-season checklist as you enter the latter days of training...
- Have you determined what breakfast you're going to eat on race day? You should be testing out different options to see what works best for you in terms of fueling as well as what is easiest on your digestion. You'll also want to consider what will be available--are you running in your hometown or staying in a hotel another state over? Remember, you're looking for a breakfast with a good source of carbs and not too much in the way of protein, fiber and fat.
- Have you experimented with carb supplements in the form of gels, gummies or drinks to determine what you'll eat and drink on the course? Half marathoners will need much less of this stuff, but full marathoners will need to consume 30-60 grams of carbs per hour.
- Have you experimented with options for dinner the night before your race? Race eve dinner can leave you feeling fueled and light the next morning, or you could feel bloated, heavy or--every runner's nightmare--plagued with GI issues. You're looking for a reasonably portioned meal with a decent source of carbs and some protein, but not too much in the way of fat and fiber. Again, it's important to consider where you'll be (at home vs away) and what's available.
- Are you eating directly after your long runs to speed your recovery and prevent cravings?
- Is your diet full of nourishing foods like vegetables, fruit, nuts & seeds, lean protein and whole grains?
- How is your energy level during the week?
- Are you getting enough sleep?
Check in, see where you are, and continue to fine tune for a healthy training season and a fun and successful race day! And if you need support in fine tuning your diet this training season, let's schedule a conversation ASAP.
After a nasty injury that sidelined me this spring, I'm back on my feet and training for the Philadelphia Marathon in November! Are you training for a fall race? Whether you're just running to finish or training towards a big personal best, if you haven't made nutrition a key part of your training strategy, you're missing a huge component of race preparation. The food we eat rebuilds our battered muscles stronger; it fuels us through those speed workouts, hills, and long weekend runs--or it doesn't.
If you have a fall race on the schedule, the best time to hone in on your nutrition was probably this spring. But the second best time is RIGHT NOW! Please be in touch to schedule a consult.
P.S. I've been visiting lots of running groups in and around Baltimore this fall and would be happy to come chat with yours! Shoot me an email if you run with a group that could use a visit and some common sense fueling support.
I've been making the rounds to running groups and talking to runners about eating well to fuel their workouts. One of my favorite topics is what to eat before and after a workout. I'm always surprised at just how few people make a consistent habit of eating after their tough workouts and long runs.
Eating a nutritious snack after workouts an hour or longer helps you gain strength and recover more quickly. Skipping that snack could lead to poor recovery and an out-of-control appetite. Following a workout with greasy or sugar-loaded foods doesn’t help you recover, either. A broadly accepted ratio for a perfect long run snack is about 3 or 4 to 1, carbohydrate to protein. That means a nice chunk of carbs and some protein, and the next meal should be rich in quality protein to speed recovery.
I often suggest a home-blended smoothie with frozen fruit and nuts; or whole wheat toast with banana and natural peanut or almond butter; or a loaded sweet potato with yogurt and almond butter. Even with these great suggestions, I often get the follow-up question, "But what do YOU eat after YOUR workouts?," as if I'm hiding a big secret, like I've got some supplements, or commercial shake powder (sorry, Shakeology--I ain't buying your crap), or I'm hitting up a smoothie shop and getting kooky, expensive boosters.
I'm revealing all today and sharing one of my favorite homemade post-workout treats: The Hot Pink Smoothie Bowl! It's got plenty of carbs from bananas, berries and dragonfruit (sounds exotic but easy to find), and who needs protein powder when I've got the real deal from seeds and nut butter! And with the bright colors in the fruit, I know I'm also getting plenty of antioxidants to aid in recovery. Here's my formula...
- 1 giant handful of frozen banana chunks, maybe a couple bananas worth (check my freezer any day of the week, and I've always got a container of frozen bananas)
- 1 packet of unsweetened, frozen dragon fruit (I like Pitaya Plus, available at Wegmans or MOMs)
- A splash of unsweetened almond milk
- A tablespoon of chia seeds
- A heaping tablespoon of chunky almond or peanut butter
- A handful of fresh fruit
Blend the bananas and dragon fruit with just enough liquid to make the blender work, using a tamp down thingy to keep, well, tamping it down so the blade can do its work. When it's blended, pour it into a bowl and add the toppings. Enjoy!
If you’re training for an event like a half marathon, marathon or ultra, the breakfast you eat on race day is an important factor in your performance, whether you’re out there for a good time or for a personal best. Make a good choice and eat it at the right time, and you’ll feel energized and powerful. Make a poor choice and you may experience an uncomfortable finish, unpleasant GI issues, or both.
Training runs are an excellent opportunity to try various options to find not only what works well, but also to exclude what does NOT work (trust me, race day is a less-than-ideal time to learn that you have a tough time digesting oatmeal, or that dairy don’t sit well with you). We’re all a little different, so it’s important to figure out what works best for you:
WHEN TO EAT
When you eat is as important as what you eat. Consume a meal and your body diverts blood to your GI tract to digest. Begin running and your body shuttles blood to the muscles of your legs. While our bodies are amazing multi-taskers, they’re not great at digesting and running simultaneously.
With this in mind, on race day, you’ll want to eat your breakfast 2-3 hours before your event. That doesn’t mean you have to eat that early before every training run, but I recommend picking a couple of your longest runs and practicing this strategy so you can experience what that early breakfast feels like.
WHAT TO EAT
When a runner hears “Carbohydrate” he or she should think “Fuel.” Even if you started running to lose a few pounds, carbs are a runner’s primary source of energy and are an important part of your diet.
Less than an hour before your run? A light carb-rich snack will provide energy:
- A piece of fresh fruit
- A couple dates or some unsweetened dried fruit
- A cup of apple sauce
- A slice of toast, either dry or with 1-2 teaspoons of nut butter.
With a solid hour, preferably longer, before your run, you can afford a larger meal (using some of the previous foods, if you choose), making sure to focus on carbs but also adding a little fat or protein:
- Toast or bagel + a small amount of almond butter and/or a banana
- Oatmeal with fruit
- A baked potato or yam
- White rice – this is especially good for those with GI issues on the run. You could add cinnamon and unsweetened almond milk (or other milk of your choice), or go savory by adding a small amount of soy sauce or liquid amino acids.
Avoid foods with lots of fiber, protein or fat right before a run, since they take longer to digest and don’t provide immediate fuel.
While I encourage eating nutrient- and fiber-rich vegetables, fruit, beans and whole grains most of the time, right before a long run, it can be reasonable to choose dried fruit and more refined grains, due to their ability to quickly turn into glucose for fuel (this is the exact reason why I do NOT recommend them other times).
DO I HAVE TO EAT BEFORE EVERY RUN?
If you’re running for an hour or more, it’s a smart paly to eat something before or take some fuel with you. However, many runners need to wake up at the crack of dawn to knock out training miles, and some of these runners can get by without breakfast for 3 or 4 or more miles. Others can’t step out the door without a proper meal. There’s actually evidence that completing some runs under-fueled can help your body adapt to burning fat (ideal since we can store far more fat than carbs). However, if all of your runs are attempted without adequate carbs, A. Your runs will be miserable, and B. It will be tough to gain speed.
The decision to complete some of your runs with a deficit of carbs is a very individual one, and if you’re diabetic or subject to hypoglycemia, it shouldn’t be attempted without a doctor’s go-ahead.
Happy running! Need more support in fueling your training and achieving your goals? Let's talk.
This blog is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment, nor is it intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.
Thanks again to everyone who’s emailed, texted, posted on social media and otherwise checked in on my recovery since I tore a tendon in late March (in case you missed it and are interested, I break down the not-all-that gory detail of my injury during a 30.5 mile race HERE and a bit on my recovery plan HERE).
I ditched the crutches weeks ago and said goodbye to the ugly boot. The wicked swelling is gone, and I’m not limping. In fact, if you didn’t know something happened, you wouldn’t guess by looking at me.
But this injury was a doozy, and on the advice of my orthopedist and physical therapist, my body isn’t ready to run.
In my mind, on repeat, I’m giving myself the same advice I give my health coaching clients with big health and fitness goals…
Trust in the process that professionals are guiding you through, and for the love of all things holy, BE PATIENT!
I truly empathize with how frustrated my clients feel when I give them this advice when they’re facing what seems like an insurmountable goal. And I have a BIG goal: To recover from my injury mentally and physically stronger, to have a great fall training season and to run a fall race I can be proud of.
It’s tough to delay that runner’s high I know a short run will bring. It’s been a real adjustment dialing down my diet to accommodate a less active life (oh, how I miss you, pre-run carby breakfasts and giant, fruity, peanut buttery post-run smoothie bowls!).
As much as I’m tempted to get out there for a short run, as tempting as it is to whip up a ginormous starchy, maple-syrupy breakfast on Saturday, I know that those actions keep me further from my BIG goals.
So I’m resting, walking, and eating a solidly nutritious diet with fewer treats (not NO treats, but fewer). And if I treat my body well now, there are plenty of runs and starchy meals in my future. I’m counting on it!
If you need support in mastering the art of patience and making changes to achieve you health and fitness goals, let’s talk!
Thanks to everyone who's been in touch to commiserate since I shared I tore the ever-loving stuff out of a tendon during a 50K race and am sidelined. I've had a few folks tell me that "Everything happens for a reason," but I'm unconvinced the universe is sending me a message by tearing into my connective tissue. I AM a believer, however, in the High Church of Shit Happens (HCSH).
You may think that as a practicing member of HCSH, about 4 weeks out from the day of my injury, I'd be feeling helpless, frustrated and irritable. That would not be wholly untrue (ask the most patient man in the world, aka my husband John).
But I'm trying to compartmentalize those feelings into brief moments. I'm also super motivated to do everything in my power to heal quickly:
I rested, iced, compressed and elevated for DAYS. DAYS!
I made big adjustments to my diet, which supported someone running 40+ miles a week, and now reflects my much less active lifestyle (sigh).
I wore my giant immobilizing boot for three weeks, stomping around at first, eventually mastering a more graceful hobble. I am now bootless, and if it weren't such an expensive little accessory, I swear I'd hold a party to burn it.
I visited my physical therapist Brett (BIG plug for Lifestrength PT!) weekly. While acknowledging the seriousness of the injury, Brett has been very encouraging and has not a shade of doubt I'll be running in a manner of weeks.
I made a visit to my acupuncturist Heather (plug for Heather Johnstone Acupuncture--she's great!) to help bring more blood flow to the injured area and to get some stress relief. Because apparently I'm a little on edge.
And finally, I'm back at the gym trying to catch that runner's high by working on my weak upper body (so weak!) and doing boring core exercises. I'm not catching much of a buzz, but there's some satisfaction in knowing I'm priming my body for the day when I get the go ahead to crank out 5 super slow minutes on a treadmill. And then the next time, another 5 minutes, then a couple miles and a couple more.
So thank you again to everyone who's checked in on me. Shit most definitely happens, and though I can 100% guarantee more will happen in this lifetime, I'm finding some peace of mind in taking action where I can potentially make an impact.
It all started with a fantastic winter training season that began in December. I was consistent in logging my miles, I stretched after my long runs, and I did boring clam shells and leg lifts to strengthen my butt. Two days before the HAT 50K run, I felt a funny twinge in my shin on a short run. Not a terrible pain, but a new pain. I felt it on Friday when walking and even when resting. I felt it Saturday morning when I woke up. And I most certainly felt it when I started the event, running with the crew I'd trained with. If it's muscular, I thought to myself, after a couple miles it will warm up and I'll feel fine.
A few miles passed, then a few more, and the pain intensified from a twinge to a throb. The heat on the course was record high, adding extra discomfort. I began dreading the downhills, knowing that every step on my left foot would send a bolt of pain shooting up my leg. I kept quiet about it, though, not telling my running comrades what was going on for fear that would make it real. Over the next few hours, I shifted my body weight to the right leg as much as I could to give my throbbing shin a break. My training buddies were amazing and entertaining throughout the race, and the volunteers were unbelievably helpful and kind.
And thirty-and-a-half miles, four stream crossings, about 4,300 feet of wicked climbing, and six hours & fifty-three minutes later, I crossed the finish line. Somehow I shaved more than 30 minutes off my previous time on the course (which speaks more about the terrible conditions the last time I ran the HAT).
I celebrated, then iced and elevated, and woke up the next morning completely unable to put weight on my left foot.
Fast forward a couple weeks, and I'm in a place every active person dreads: I'm on the injured list. This is not the "ice and rest up," kind of injured. This is the multiple doctor visits, X-rays, MRIs, boot-wearing and physical therapy kind of injured. It's a place where I've seen many runners, but somehow imagined I'd never find myself.
I don't know how long the recovery will take on my torn tendon (apparently the tear I made is an uncommon injury). I don't know when I'll be able to run again.
I do know I'm bummed out and at a crossroads:
No one would think badly of me if I took a wholesale break from this healthy living thing. Who could blame me for "treating myself" a little bit? And certainly no one would look down on me for putting on a few pounds. In fact, many would expect it without all those miles.
But there's also an opportunity here: While I'm unable to run, I have hours and hours of time back on my calendar. There's an opportunity to fine tune my diet to make it even more nutritious, to get to work on my weak upper body neglected from the previously mentioned training time on my feet, to do more of those boring floor exercises to strengthen my butt and hips.
I'm pretty committed to the latter option, but time will tell. I know I'll come out on the other side more empathic to my clients with big, seemingly insurmountable challenges, and I'll come out knowing more about myself.
I look forward to updating you on my progress. And to answer the question of nearly every client who's heard about my injury, "No, we do NOT need to cancel our session." It's business as usual for Live Full!
Tomorrow I'll wake up early for a carb-filled breakfast, stress over something stupid (TBD--could be over socks or an imagined pain or whether to wear shorts or leggings), hop in the car for a ride to Susquehanna State Park, and line up with the goal of completing the HAT 50K trail run. It's going to be a long day of running with plenty of walking on grueling (hopefully not muddy) hills. I will have lots of company along those trails, but this effort is going to be a long internal conversation between me and me.
However, I most certainly didn't get here alone.
Ask anyone who's attempting to achieve a BIG goal, and you'll find that the most successful have a full team of support behind them. Whether your goal is to complete a race, to achieve in your career, to lose weight or to better your diet, even though much of the work is done solo, support or (lack thereof) from teammates, friends and family can put you over the top (or leave you broken at the bottom).
I'm so thankful for all the folks I've run with over the last few months, who've provided good company, inspired me, made me laugh, offered me a hand up when I fell (literally, not figuratively--I fall ALL. THE. TIME) and pushed me past my comfort level to be a better version of me.
Thank you to the AMAZING Charm City Run BelAir trail training group, including coach Darren (2nd from the left on the back row), who's "that's what she said" jokes made freezing cold mornings a little funnier.
Thank you to the No Meat Athlete Baltimore running group, who gave me a reason to get my butt out of bed 1-2 Sundays per month to get in that recovery run with good company (and apologies to everyone who's gotten lost running with me in this group!).
Thanks also go to the free Thursday night running group launching from Charm City Run in Baltimore. Whether I've run with someone or alone, just showing up for these group runs has provided a high level of consistency in my training, and helped me log some speedier miles in lousy weather that will pay off in my training.
And I would be remiss if I didn't thank my family, friends and even my clients who've checked in on my training and supported me with words of kindness. EXTRA props to Mr. Live Full, who's been training alongside me (though a zillion times faster) and putting up with a crabby and tired version of me during tough weeks. Without all this love and support in my corner, there's no way I cold even consider lining up tomorrow.
Here's to being better, stronger and more badass together!
Here's where I'll be spreading the good word about eating well and living fully in March:
Thursday, March 16, 6:00-8:00pm
CHARM CITY RUN COLUMBIA
Come chat with me about your nutrition questions!
Mondays, March 20 – April 10, 6:30-8:00pm
CHARM CITY RUN COLUMBIA
4-week group health coaching program. Pre-registration STRONGLY recommended for this series
Wednesdays, March 22 – April 12, 6:30-8:00pm
CHARM CITY RUN TIMONIUM
4-week group health coaching program. Pre-registration STRONGLY recommended for this series
RESCHEDULED: Tuesday, March 28, 6:30-7:30pm [originally March 14]
TRI SPORT JUNCTION OF SYKESVILLE, MD
Let’s talk about what to eat before, during and after your runs!
Hope to see you at one of these events. If you are a member of a group looking for a speaker on healthy eating, please be in touch!
And of course, if you’re looking for one-on-one support, message me for a consult.
Definition: An out of control ravenous desire to eat ALL THE FOOD preceded by a long run or a period of running consistently. Runger often occurs several hours after a tough run, but frequently occurs a day or even two after the run. If not mitigated, runger can result in weight gain for runners, even those who are crushing serious miles.
The specimen at left in this image is at high risk of experiencing serious runger. I know this because it's me (identities of other runners have been protected so their own runger risk is not called into question). I completed a tough 15-miler on hilly trails the day before completing this pictured 8 mile run (the excellent BRRC Super Bowl Trail Run), and my mileage this week cracked 40.
However, I have an effective strategy for minimizing runger:
1. Smart fueling before long runs: Carbs power hard effort and long efforts. Eat a couple hours before the long run, including a good source of carbohydrates without too much protein, fiber and fat. Protein, fiber and healthy fats are a wonderful part of a nutritious diet, but they take a long time to digest (meaning they require blood you want going to your muscles during running AND they could lead to GI issues), and they don't provide immediate fuel.
2. Fueling during long runs (runs over 75 minutes): Consuming carbohydrates during long runs can A. Allow a runner to work harder, gaining more from training, and B. Prevent especially powerful runger by providing fuel along the way. If you're training for a half marathon or longer, it's likely you'll supplement with carbs during your race, so using them during training runs also provides the opportunity to experiment to find what works well for you.
3. Fueling immediately post run: After long runs, eating a snack with plenty of carbohydrates and a bit of protein will help the body recover quickly (4:1, carb to protein is a good ratio for endurance training). Skip the post-workout snack to "save" calories, and not only do you risk slower recovery, you risk a bad case of runger. A peanut or almond butter sandwich with banana will fit the bill, as would yogurt with plenty of fruit, or a homemade smoothie with frozen fruit and almond milk. Shorter speedwork and resistance training also require a post-workout snack (2:1, carb to protein is great here). The next opportunity for a meal after the post run snack should have plenty of protein. Skip the protein powders and choose real, whole foods!
4. Hydrate often: Consuming water, herbal teas and plenty of hydrating fruits and vegetables is important for all humans, but especially for those pursuing sweaty endeavors. Signals of thirst can easily be mistaken for hunger, leading to misplaced runger.
5. Eat a healthful diet the majority of the time: The food a runner eats throughout the week will determine how much energy he or she has, as well as how speedily and how well a runner bounces back from tough workouts. Additionally, when the body is nourished, cravings are minimized. What does a healthful diet look like? It's about half vegetables and fruit (heavier on the vegetables), about a quarter quality protein, about a quarter starchy vegetables or whole grains. If you follow that model about 80-90% of the time, that leaves plenty of room for treats.
6. Plan, plan, then plan some more: Plan meals and snacks with your rational mind ahead of time so you don't have to make a food decision while gripped with runger. Keep shitty junk food out of the house and office space so if/when runger hits, you won't be tempted to overdo it on foods that don't support your training goals. Better to overdo it on fruit than a bag of chips.
Runners who practice these strategies can minimize negative impact of runger while maximizing the benefits from your training. Happy running!
Need support in building practical, healthy eating habits to support your active lifestyle? Let's talk about it!