Saturday, March 28, 2015
A day in the life of a runner, food edition #GameOnPGH
First comes running, Second comes fueling! Fueling during a marathon can make or break an awesome performance, but fueling at all other times of the day and throughout the training cycle is just as important. In my very first big blog, I wrote about food and my challenges with regaining an adequate energy balance. Energy balance means taking in enough calories to keep building up my body and keep my metabolism happy and healthy, not breaking down my existing muscles, energy stores, and the like. I have worked with my awesome nutritionist, Rasa, and with my coach to make sure that I am on the right track. I have also recently met with a doctor (getting a blood panel done) and found out all of my tests that were abnormal before -- liver function, kidney function, folate/B12 function -- were all now in the normal range!
Making sure to get enough food in training is my struggle, while some runners battle with making sure not to take in too much food. There is a sweet spot for everyone, an amount of food that helps you benefit from workouts and improve in training. In preparation for the Pittsburgh marathon, or any marathon, its important to have a look at what your milage is, what your workouts will be like, and what your diet is like. With increased miles, an increase in food intake should follow. Whether your hunger cues get you there or if prescriptive eating is required, when the engine burns more fuel, more fuel is needed in the tank.
Recently I posted on my Instagram (@emrunygordrun) a picture of a really fantastic sandwich I had after a 20 mile treadmill workout on Tuesday. Someone commented on it asking what a days worth of food looks like for me. I decided the response would best be done on a blog, because I can post pictures and explain a little bit of how each meal benefits me. Also, because I'm in PGH Marathon preparation, why not show the other awesome runners what its like to eat like an elite athlete* (that rhymes).
*now, this is not how every day looks. I don't limit myself to certain types of foods, I eat out occasionally, and I don't require myself to hit a certain macronutrient limit for each day. Its not necessarily a science, but more of an art. I just do my best each day to get enough volume, vitamins, and nutrients to recover, sleep well, and build up! I have realized, after over 6 months working with my nutritionist, that my hunger cues are just not an adequate measure of the amount I need to stay healthy. It important to know whats best for you and equally important to not compare yourself to the people and runners around you. everyone will eat differently and needs different things.
Before I get into a calendar, I wanted to explain with a little more detail the categories my nutritionist and I plan to hit daily. Because the contents and calorie density of my diet has been a problem for me in the past, it still takes work every day to ensure that I eat enough. I'm not one to always measure things out by serving size or cup/oz/tbsp, but Rasa does have me guestimating in order to have an idea of exactly how much food is going in. Here are the categories:
1. Grains/Carbs - healthy, whole grains are essential for glycogen restoration, required for rebuilding muscle, and is composed of THE essential metabolic energy source (Glucose) that is turned into ATP (our cells energy currency). Its an important category, especially for marathon runners, that I was missing for quite a few years. we measure grains by the "fistful", one serving is roughly the size of my fist.
2. Protein - protein sources, be them from plants or animals, are macromolecules that are made of amino acid building blocks. These amino acids have many functions. They are mainly broken down in your body and then each building block is used to make new proteins in your own cells, including the essential protein chains that make up the majority of your muscle cells. exercise brings upon micro tears in these fibers, so protein in the diet is essential for rebuilding these and other proteins needed for general cell function. Amino acids can also be converted into glucose or other intermediate molecules in the glycolysis cycle to be converted into energy. we measure with my palm for chicken and steak/beef, check book (those still exist) for fish. Also, we often guess by grams
3. Fats - Healthy fats are essential for absorption of a litter of vitamins (A, D, K, E), they're major building blocks of the cell wall and in cellular structures, and is also an important energy source. Everyones cells contain enzymes which can break down fatty acid chains into glucose precursors to be used in the absence of a carbohydrate source. nut butters are roughly a tablespoon for a serving, hummus and avocado are two tablespoons
4. Calcium - Especially for females, but for all runners, calcium is essential for Vitamin D absorption as well as important in bone growth and maintenance. Its also an essential electrolyte in nerve function.
5. Vegetables/Fruit - I am a lover of all things vegetables. They contain essential metals, fiber, vitamins, and slow release carbohydrates. Fruits contain more sugars, but contain a different array of vitamins, so they are also important. we do servings by the cup for veggies and fresh fruit, two tablespoons for dried fruit
6. Timing - As an athlete, when your body isn't working hard to do physical activity, its working hard to recover from it. With that I'm mind, it follows that a consistent supply of fuel is required to keep all systems running smoothly. I eat 6 times a day, 3 meals and 3 snacks, all around 2.5 to 3 hours apart. each feeding has its purpose, so they often vary in content. Each snack has 2 - 3 food groups, and each meal has all of the above food groups.
7. Water - liquids and electrolytes are really really really important for recovery and life itself. check out my last #GameOnPGH blog about how I stay hydrated!
Now, don't be overwhelmed, please. I know it can be daunting. If it makes you feel any better, I still don't know the exact number of servings of each I am required to have a day or even what my idea caloric intake should be. My nutritionist keeps that under wraps and she monitors my daily intake to make sure I am in the ball park. If a nutritionist isn't someone you can continuously see, even just a few appointment to help establish your estimated daily intake can be helpful for you to take the reigns. Then you can do as I did, and monitor weekly with a morning weigh in. don't stress too much about the number, just make adjustments if you seem to be losing or gaining rapidly. If there are questions that come up, ASK.
If increasing your intake is what you need, like me, take it one meal at a time. When I first started this, I did one meal a week. I felt extremely full and uncomfortable for a few days, but my body got used to the added volume. Your metabolism will take a kick start, you'll have some night sweats, and then things will get considerably better. Your energy will go up, you'll sleep better, and if you slowly and steadily gain needed weight, your body will adapt to carrying the weight and your running won't be drastically effected.
Okay, loads of build up, but here it is... a day in the life:
EXAMPLE: 1 cup oats (or bagel), blueberries, and tablespoon almond butter. 2 eggs, 1 piece of uncured turkey bacon, and spinach.
EXAMPLE: energy or protein bar and handful of trail mix with raisins, nuts, and m&m's.
EXAMPLE: Whole wheat turkey sandwich with avocado, tomato, spinach, peperoncini, onion, and mustard. crackers and carrot sticks (as shown on my Instagram feed) or salmon, medium potato with butter, side salad. The picture above lacks about a serving size of grains, so I would usually add a handful of crackers or pretzels.
EXAMPLE: 1/2 cup serving of Seven Sundays (@sevensundaysmn) muesli and a scoop of whey protein
EXAMPLE: roughly 1.5 cups quinoa, grilled chicken, avocado (or hummus), zucchini, and shredded cheese.
EXAMPLE: 1-2 cups of greek yogurt (usually more than pictured), 2 whole foods fig bars and blueberries (or granola or cereal with nuts, instead).
I try and stick to defined meals so that I am not snacking on less-than-ideal sources throughout the day. If I find myself hungry, I eat more, if I'm not hungry, I make sure to hit these guidelines anyways. Of course, I can't include all of the foods above that I eat, and I tend to try and bring a lot of variety into my diet. But, some of my staple favorites are broccoli, greek yogurt, pretzels, cashews, sweet potatoes topped with some kind of nut butter, and baked tofu blocks from trader joes!
I hope you PGH Marathoners find some of this information helpful, if only to be interesting to see just how much I need to eat to keep myself moving. Keep up the good training and fueling, race day is right around the corner!