“Protein takes a while to digest and needs oxygen to do so. If your body is using its oxygen to breakdown protein, it can burden your run.” Laura Jordan, MA RD CDE, Beacon Medical Group
If Sunburst is one of the year’s race goals —or your first race goal—a month out is a good time for a nutrition form check. Registered dietitian Laura Jordan, MA RD CDE, with Beacon Medical Group, admits the most popular question she is asked by runners is about race-day diet. However, getting to race day properly fueled carries the bulk of insurance for a race that meets performance expectations.
Keep it simple. A well-considered meal prior to and after a workout will meet nutrition needs for most people building toward a goal.
What you eat is important, but equally so is when you eat. “Timing is key when it comes to giving your body its best chance to improve in strength and endurance with training,” Laura said.
Are you taking in easily digested carbohydrates within one hour prior to exercise?
“In general, if you are exercising more, you want to make sure you have energy for each workout. Getting some form of healthy carbohydrate is important.” Prior to exercise, eat a source of fast-digesting carbohydrate within an hour of activity.
Stick primarily to carbs and be careful of the reverse effects of eating too much protein before a run, Laura warns. “Protein takes a while to digest and needs oxygen to do so. If your body is using its oxygen to breakdown protein, it can burden your run.”
Good sources of fast-digesting (high-glycemic) carbs include:
- White breads/bagels and white rice,
- Best fruits include watermelon, bananas, grapes and peaches. Apples, grapefruit, pears and prunes are some slower-digesting fruits you might want to avoid.
- Bran flakes, corn flakes, instant oatmeal and puffed rice are good fast-digesting cereal choices.
Are you refueling, rebuilding and rehydrating with protein, carbs and fat after a workout?
Refuel with healthy carbs to restore muscle glycogen. A general rule is to take in .5 – .7 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight within an hour after exercise.
And now it’s time to bring on the protein so the body can rebuild. “Any source of lean animal or plant protein or a healthy protein shake within an hour of finishing your run will serve as a good recovery meal,” Laura said. A general rule of thumb is 20 to 30 grams of protein.
Getting a recovery meal in within that hour-after window will address the damage of your workout. Five miles may have become easy, “. . . But you are still breaking down muscle at a good rate. Your body needs protein to rebuild and recover after every workout,” Laura said.
- Chocolate milk is one of Laura’s favorite post-workout recommendations. “It’s still the best and cheapest healthy source of carbohydrate, protein and fat.”
- Whole vs. processed foods a are a good first-line choice for lean, well-balanced, proteins, carbs and fat.
Hydration can’t be over stated when it comes to increasing a workout schedule. “When you sweat, you lose electroyltes which can lead to muscle cramps and ineffective workouts,” Laura said.
Water is the natural source of hydration and the favorite among dietitians. While sport drinks provide a little refueling with the addition of simple sugars as well as electrolytes during a long run, products with electrolytes without the added sugars/calories such as propel, smart water, powerade zero are a great option also , Laura says.
“If you are a long-distance runner, then yes, add electrolytes. But for more recreational workouts that are 30 minutes or so in length, water is still ideal.”