A little while ago I sent out a questionnaire about things people wanted more support with in their running. By far the area people had most questions about was nutrition. As such the next few weeks blog posts are going to address this topic.
If you have specific questions about running nutrition, then post in the comments below, so I can answer you.
Nutrition can be incredibly simple, or it can be incredibly complex. There is a huge diet industry and a growing sports supplement industry. We see marketing messages everyday. However the marketing messages that get through are often from companies that produce food products in factories and often not food products that come from the Earth.
This adds a further layer of confusion to acheiving sensible healthy nutrition.
I’ve certainly been guilty of this mentality in the past, rewarding myself with all sorts of “food” because I’ve been for a run. It was a recipe for weight gain and poor health. The truth is nutrition is important in so many areas of healthy living.
Our nutrition can affect our running in many ways:
With so many factors that are crucial to our success in running being affected by what we eat and drink, isn’t it worth paying attention?
Before I go into detail about how your eating can affect the above factors, we need to get one thing straight; the success of any eating plan will depend on how well YOU stick to it.
Let me say that again; the number one determinant of dietary success is adherence. Whether you’re eating clean, gluten free, or following a fad diet, your success/your results are determined by how well you stick to it.
This is mainly determined by hydration levels. As you run, you dehydrate and so your blood volume decreases. This makes it more difficult to deliver nutrients and clear waste products from working muscles. If you are constantly in a state of dehydration, you are hampering your performance. Read this article to learn more.
There are a few who have a concept of ‘racing weight’ to optimise performance. Certainly for a sport like running, the less you weigh, the faster you’ll go. This of course has to be balanced with the health risks of losing too much weight, or losing weight too quickly, leading to a poor body composition.
There are two key racing weight concepts – one is the Stillman racing weight, and frankly, for the majority of my followers, the guidelines are far too extreme, and I would say dangerous. Not a sensible place to aim for unless you have a team of doctors, physiologists and dietitions around you together with your coaching team.
The second, and the one I recommend to most of my clients is Matt Fitzgerald’s Racing weight – this concept states that by paying a little bit of extra attention to what you eat, you should be able to alter your body composition in a way to reduce your weight and optimise performance safely.
Its about making small changes to what you’re already eating, rather than a completely new approach.
Most gym users want an improved body composition. Put simply, less fat, more lean mass – usually muscle. Nutrition plays a very important role in body composition. The type of exercise you do is important, but if you’re putting in the wrong foods, you will not make the progress to optimal body composition as quickly, or even at all.
When you have optimal body composition, it’s easy to run fast, and you recover quickly from extreme exertions. You are also less susceptible to injuries or getting sick. Optimal body composition should be the goal of any athlete, and this changes from the off Season to the on season. This is where the concept of racing weight comes from. You carry a little extra weight in the off season to allow you to train, and then you cut that back in preparation for the key race.
This is a pretty obvious one. The more energy have for your training the better you will perform. The more energy you have for your racing the better you will perform. This is where the timing of your nutrition is important, both prior to during and after exercise. A blog post later in this series will go into more detail on this. Check out our blog on hydration for how the timing of your water intake can affect your performance.
When you get injured, there are quite complex mechanisms involved in your recovery. A lot of us will naturally accept, that topical manipulations will aid your healing, such as sports massage, Rocktape or even creams and gels. But many people don’t think too much about what we ingest believing that only pain killing medication will help an injury.
That’s just not true. There are a lot of foods we can eat to enhance our recovery from injury, and there are also plenty of foods we can eat and drink that will hinder our recovery from injury.
Precision nutrition has a great series of articles on this particular topic, but if you don’t want to read those, simply adding foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish, avocado, nuts and seeds, you can aid your recovery from injury.
Lots of high sugar foods and alcohol will slow it down, as well not taking in enough protein, or enough fat.
My latest giveaway will help you with that
Check it out here 3 healthy breakfasts with no cereal in sight.
Much like with physical injury the effectiveness of your immune system can be determined by what you eat. When we drill down into micronutrients in a later blog, you will see that there are certain vitamins and minerals that are crucial in preventing disease. And I don’t just mean the common cold, I’m talking about far more serious diseases than this.
Food can quite literally be seen as medicine. If you have a healthy, balanced diet rich in natural foods, full of fruit and vegetables and low in processed foods, you are setting yourself up for optimal health, with the added bonus of optimal sports performance.
We know that with running that consistency is key, so the less time you spend not training because of injury or illness the better your performances will be.
You can now see how it’s all linked: training, injury prevention, nutrition – none of them comes as one they all work together. These are the 3 Pillars upon which I Run Success has been built, and paying attention to all three Pillars will give you the best results.
This blog post is about adherence. Rather than giving you a cookie cutter plan, I would like you to make small changes based on the knowledge you gain from this series of blog posts. The easiest thing to start with is breakfast and that’s why I’ve created this recipe guide – 3 healthy breakfasts with no cereal in sight.
Each breakfast has a decent portion of protein together with fruits or vegetables to ensure a healthy balance of macronutrients and micronutrients.
Tell me about your favourite cereal free breakfast in the comments below, and I’d love to hear which one of the recipes you’re going to try first.
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And remember, you can’t outrun a bad diet.
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Angela Isherwood is the founder of I Run Success
She is a REPs Level 3 Personal Trainer, a Run England Running coach, and a multiple marathon runner. She is a London Marathon Good for Age runner, a Boston Marathon Qualifier, a parkrun Run Director and Trainer for Goodgym Colchester.