Nutrition 101 (Lori Muhr)

Posted: December 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

As you train your body to run longer and longer distances over the next several months, it will become increasingly important to be sure you are fueling your muscles adequately.  Food is your body’s fuel and the better the quality of food you put in, the better the quality of performance you will experience.   While it is important to make healthy food choices on a daily basis, it is especially important to fuel your workouts properly before, during and after.

The foods you eat every day affect your health, your energy and your mood.  Your eating schedule also plays an important role.   Choosing lean meats, whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables will provide you with the best mileage, keep you healthier and boost your energy.  Eating frequently throughout the day will moderate your blood sugar so that you don’t experience the drops that often negatively affect your mood and energy level.  Planning meals and snacks ahead of time and having them on hand is the best way to make good choices.  Hunger usually always wins when given the opportunity and the food choice is usually ‘whatever is handy’- likely not the healthiest options.  Fruit, baby carrots, almonds, or even a peanut butter (just peanuts and salt) and jelly (fruit preserves) sandwich on whole wheat bread, are good foods to have on hand for between meal snacking.

If you are eating well in general, fueling your workouts doesn’t require much more than that.  Timing is important though.  It’s ideal to eat a snack about 45 minutes before a run.   Usually, this snack would be mostly carbohydrates- simple carbohydrates (toast with jelly, banana) are good for a shorter run (under 8 miles) and complex carbs (oatmeal, brown rice or whole wheat pasta) for longer runs.  Training is the best time to determine which fuel sources you like best and which make you feel the best.  Try many options- at the very least, it’s very helpful to know what doesn’t work.

Fueling on the run is a vital part of your training because it will help you maintain your energy and your blood sugar for the duration of your workout.  It’s so important to stay ahead and not let your tank become empty- once you bonk, it’s tough to get back.  It takes time for your body to assimilate food, so allow for that by eating before you need to.  For example, if you are doing a 12 mile run, you might take your fuel at mile 3 even if you are feeling good.  Take your fuel early and often.  By the time you use up what’s in your tank from pre-fueling, your “snack” will be available to fill in that energy gap.  Be sure to try different kinds of fuel sources such as energy gels, or candies such as jelly beans, licorice, jolly ranchers, or whatever is palatable and portable.   Don’t be concerned with nutrition for this part, your goal is simple sugars to fuel your brain mostly (via your blood sugar) and give you energy for the duration of your run.  Your muscles use mostly the glycogen that has been stored from your general eating and post workout refueling.   It’s so important to experiment with fuels so on race day you’ll know which to avoid and which to tote along. 

After your workout, your muscles are like sponges ready to absorb nutrients for repair, and storage for your next run.  Feed them!   Timing is important for this, so eat as soon as possible and within an hour of exercise.   The ideal food for recovery is a combination of protein and carbohydrates in a 1:4 or 1:3 ratio.  So, if the food has 5 grams of protein, it should have about 15 or 20 grams of carbs.  More important than the ratio of protein to carbs is to just be sure the food has some protein for muscle repair and carbs for glycogen.  Good choices of recovery foods would be a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, yogurt, a bowl of whole grain cereal, a *Bananarama (see recipe below) and even chocolate milk.  Remember, post-run fueling is mandatory and will make a difference in how you feel during your next workout.

Use your training runs to train your body to accept and utilize fuel.  Having a wide variety of fueling options will help your confidence on your long runs and during the marathon because you’ll know which foods to accept and which foods to avoid at all costs.   While it’s a good idea to always carry your own fuel, you might find yourself in a situation where you’re on empty and needing fuel, the aid tables will likely have something for you if you know what to take.   Proper fueling isn’t rocket science, but it’s what will make the difference in whether you complete the marathon ‘in relative comfort’ and or not at all.


In a blender, add the following and blend on high:

1 banana

1 cup vanilla yogurt

2 TBSP peanut butter


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