TGIF Everyone! Sometimes I feel like shorter work weeks take the longest. I’m sure I’m not alone. I hope everyone has a great weekend! As you know, my niece and I will be running the Harrisburg Half Marathon this Sunday! So when Alicia approached me about this guest post, I thought the timing was perfect!! Tis the season for fall running!!
Without further adeu, for this Fitness Friday post, it is my please to introduce you to Alicia!
People often say, “You are what you eat.” That saying holds a lot of truth, especially in the days leading up to a race. Even three to four days out from your race, what you eat matters because it affects how much glycogen you have stored and how well your muscles have recovered from previous training.
If you want to run well and give a high quality performance, it’s absolutely essential that you choose high quality foods as your fuel. Here are some suggestions of what to eat the week of your race, the day before your race, and race day morning to put you at the top of your game:
Week of the Race
1. Whole Grain Pasta
When you are days out from your race, whole grain pasta makes a great staple for dinner. Whole grain is better than the refined versions of pasta because it stabilizes your blood sugar and has more filling fiber per serving. Pasta offers B vitamins that support energy metabolism and it helps to restock depleted glycogen stores.
- How to eat it: Add lean meat such as chicken or fish for a great source of protein, chopped veggies (such as spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, etc.) for their vitamins and antioxidants, a light sauce (try to avoid anything cream based) and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
- When to eat it: For lunch or dinner in the days leading up to your race, the only exception being the night before your race, when you should be focusing on foods with a lower fiber content.
2. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C, iron, potassium, and have 250% of the daily recommended value of vitamin A. In addition, sweet potatoes also have copper and manganese, two minerals that are essential for healthy muscle function.
- How to eat them: Sweet potatoes can be boiled, baked, or cooked in the microwave. You can top them with chili and your favorite toppings, or you can slice them up, sprinkle them with olive oil, a dash of sea salt and ground pepper, and bake them in the oven for tasty fries. In the wintertime, sweet potatoes also make a great addition to soups and stews.
- When to eat them: Anytime in the days leading up to a race with the exception of race day
When it comes to nutritious fish, salmon is hard to beat. A 4 oz. serving has about 30 grams of protein, and it’s also a great source of omega-3 fats, which help reduce inflammation in the body, making salmon an excellent post-workout meal to aid in recovery.
- How to eat it: Grill, bake, or poach salmon with fresh herbs, lemon juice, or citrus zest. Leftover salmon can be added to salads, sandwiches, and soups.
- When to eat it: Salmon is good to have regularly throughout your weeks of training, but it’s especially beneficial after hard workouts. Have it after your last hard workout the week leading up to you race.
4. Chocolate Milk
Chocolate milk is a nutritional triple threat thanks to it being a good source of carbohydrates, protein, and B-vitamins. And it just so happens that the protein and carbohydrates in chocolate milk occur in the 4:1 ratio that is ideal for muscle recovery after endurance exercise. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also a great source of calcium that’s essential for building strong bones.
- How to drink it: Just plain by itself
- When to drink it: To reap the most benefits, drink chocolate milk within thirty minutes of finishing your run to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscle tissue.
Oatmeal is one of the most virtuous foods you could have for breakfast. It has carbs, protein, and soluble fiber that helps reduce cholesterol levels. It also stabilizes blood sugar levels, giving you sustained energy to take on the day.
- How to eat it: Oatmeal is a great base for an endlessly versatile breakfast. Add chopped nuts such as pecans, almonds, or walnuts, fruits such as sliced bananas, blueberries, or diced apples, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. To sweeten, use a natural sweetener like agave syrup. For added calcium and a creamier taste, make your oatmeal with milk instead of water.
- When to eat it: Anytime you want. You could potentially have it the morning of your race if you make it plain and you’ve tried it before in your training to know your body can handle it.
Day Before the Race
Many people mistakenly assume that potatoes are a worthless starch with zero nutrients to offer, but that couldn’t be more wrong. Potatoes have 45% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C, 10% of the daily recommended value of vitamin B-6, and they also have more potassium than bananas, broccoli, or spinach.
- How to eat them: Top them with a light buttery spread and a dash of salt and pepper. For a boost of protein and way less fat, plain non-fat Greek yogurt makes an excellent substitute for sour cream. You could also add grilled chicken strips, part-skim mozzarella cheese, and broccoli florets.
- When to eat them: Potatoes are great for lunch or dinner the day before a race to top off glycogen stores. Just be sure to go light on the toppings.
7. Refined “White” Pasta
Although white pasta isn’t as nutritious as the whole grain version, it still gives you the essential carbs that you need and is gentle on sensitive stomachs when you have only hours until race time.
- How to eat it: Normally you could add lots of veggies to raise the nutrient value, but the day before a race when you want to keep fiber to a minimum, it’s best to eat your pasta as plain as possible, adding just a little marinara or meat sauce for flavor.
- When to eat it: For dinner the night before your race
Pretzels give you the carbohydrates that your body needs to perform well without the fat to weigh you down and make you feel sluggish. In addition, pretzels are a great source of sodium, which is essential for muscle function.
- How to eat them: Plain before your race. At other times, they make a great addition to a yummy trail mix.
- When to eat them: The morning of your race, especially if you will be racing in warm temperatures where you will be sweating out salt and thereby depleting your body of sodium.
Bagels give you the carbs and protein that you’re going to need in your race, and they’re easy to digest, making them a great source of quick energy.
- How to eat them: Before a race, eat bagels plain, with a drizzle of honey, or a light spread of jam.
- When to eat them: Eat white refined bagels the morning of the race, but at other times, opt for the whole-wheat variety instead.
There’s a reason why you always see runners standing around munching on bananas before races. Bananas are a nutritional powerhouse because they offer potassium, carbohydrates, vitamin C, and even iron. They’re also easily digested, making them an excellent pre-race choice.
- How to eat them: Plain before a race, but after a race, adding peanut butter is a great way to facilitate muscle recovery.
- When to eat them: Before or after races
As much as the hard work of training matters, the food you eat is just as important. Making good nutritious choices is the key to getting amazing results and unlocking your running potential.
Is anyone else running a race this weekend? Which one?!