So you've signed up for Run the Line 2018 and we are 12 weeks on the count down to race day. You might be a seasoned trail runner and opting for the 26k kilomarathon distance or you could be completely new to all this trail running stuff and trying your hand at the 13k half kilomarathon distance. Whatever your story is just remember that even Usain Bolt had to start with the basics! People often underestimate how important getting the basics nailed down in relation to diet are and the effect this has on performance so this week we are stripping it all back and hitting that nail on the head so you can make this race your best ever!
At this 12 week marker it's time to start thinking of a training plan, the distance you're going to cover this week as well as any strength training you may be undertaking and it is important that your diet supports this. Some people find keeping a food diary beneficial as it allows them to pinpoint where improvement can be made. For optimum performance, I suggest that you look at reducing or removing any processed and convenience foods in your diet. These include foods such as processed meats like breaded chicken or fish fillets, sweet treats such as cake, ready meals and breakfast cereals. All of these foods contain very little nutrients for your body to run on and do not support performance. It may appear that they are providing energy but ask yourself how you feel an hour or two later? Are you hungry again? Has your energy taken a dive and you now feel sluggish and tired? These are all signs that your body is struggling to keep blood sugars balanced and keeping blood sugar balanced is vital to good performance as it will ensure a steady energy output while training and racing. Keeping blood sugar balanced supports brain function, eliminating “brain fog” as the brain does not have to cope with sugar highs and lows. Certain hormone function relies on blood sugar balance also and it is not uncommon for people to notice an improvement in mood as a result. Women may also notice an improvement in symptoms throughout their cycle.
“So what can I eat?” you may be asking. Look to whole foods! The foods that sit on the peripheral of the supermarket like lovely fresh fruits and vegetables. Vegetables in particular will provide fiber which everyone needs more of according to all health publications! Fiber is very filling for very few calories so it is great for keeping the bathroom scales balanced...bonus! Fiber also keeps our good gut bacteria happy and healthy and this is vital to many functions including a strong immune system, heart health, brain function and mental health. Most of the serotonin in your body is actually produced in your gut!
Look also to foods such as fresh meats, fish and eggs rather than those in a packet. Foods such as beans, chickpeas and lentils are fine to have tinned as long as they are tinned in water or brine and are a very quick and easy option if you need a fast and tasty meal. They can be added to pasta, rice or vegetable dishes to give an extra protein and nutrient hit. Try to include some protein and vegetables with your carbs to help slow the digestion process and reduce the speed of that sugar release.
A good option for breakfast might be porridge or overnight oats with one or two portions of fruit, a small handful of nuts and seeds and some cinnamon to sweeten and balance blood sugars. Another option may be 100% wholemeal toast with eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes. Options for snacks include sliced apple with some nut butter dip or vegetable sticks with houmous or salsa dip rather than reaching for that packet of biscuits. Oatcakes are another quick and tasty snack option. Cover them in nut butter and fruit or houmous and cucumber or tomato. Be creative and eat as wide a variety of colours as possible to ensure you are getting the vitamins and minerals needed to support your training plan. We would love to hear how you are getting on and what ideas you come up with for your meals and snacks so please do let us know in the comments on the Facebook or Instagram page. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with. Happy trails!
Julie-ann is a qualified nutritionist based in Co. Wicklow who specialises in sports nutrition for performance and recovery for all levels of fitness. A keen runner herself, she is currently training for Dublin City marathon 2018 so has first hand experience in understanding not just the nutritional demands but also the mental and physical demands of all sports. Nutrition is now being looked to more and more to improve performance, speed up recovery and provide an edge against the competition. As Julie-ann says herself, "everything you eat is fuel for the body but the body needs the best fuel to get the best results. You don't put the wrong fuel into an expensive sports car and you need to think the same way about yourself! You've probably spent a small fortune on running shoes, sports watches and all the other accessories so why risk reducing performance by not giving your body what it needs?"
Over the coming weeks Julie-ann will be providing nutritional information for all competitors via our blog so be sure to check in and have a look.