The difference between a good day and a bad day at the race is nutrition.
– Eric Orton, World-renowned Running Coach
In episode 3 we talked about the importance of hydration for runners. I ran 15 miles … ok, it was more like 10 miles and then mostly walked the last 5 because I was so dehydrated. A week later I ran 16 miles after planning a shorter run — it was amazing!
Yes, I did a better job staying hydrated that day, but I also nailed my nutrition. It was all part of careful planning of my meals in the days leading up to the run that set me up for success.
In this episode, we hear from Eric Orton, fitness expert and running coach. You know him as the guy that whipped Christopher McDougall into shape to run a 50K ultra marathon in the book, “Born to Run”. He also wrote a book that has been my go-to guide for all things running called, “The Cool Impossible”.
Eric shares some of his vast coaching knowledge about different types of nutrition that we need depending on our activities. One of the things I like about Eric’s advice when it comes to nutrition is he doesn’t say “eat this” and “don’t eat that,” though he recommends avoiding the inner aisles of grocery stores where all the processed food lives. Eric realizes we’re individuals with different tastes and different physical needs, but there are some core nutritional elements that we can work on … how much we commit to it is up to us. In his book he says:
A lot of this is mental, a conscious decision you have to make. You have a choice as to how you want to eat, how far you want to dedicate yourself to improving your diet, same as you do with your training. The better you eat, the better you will feel and perform as a runner. Nutrition has a cumulative effect, just like good form and fitness.
Excerpt From: Eric Orton. “The Cool Impossible.” iBooks.
Nutrition for Running
We brought back sports and fitness nutrition expert, Dr. Laurel Wentz from East Carolina University to give us some ideas about what we should be eating. Laurel is a runner so her advice not only comes from research and theory, but personal experience.
We need protein for fuel and to repair our muscles, especially on long runs. Some examples of foods high in protein include:
- Plant-based Milks (watch for added sugar!)
- Some veggies like potatoes, broccoli, and spinach
- Greek Yogurt
- Meats (duh)
A recent article on Competitor.com explains why we need carbs for running,
Unlike fat and protein, carbohydrate is, for the most part, not used structurally in the body. Instead, it serves almost exclusively to supply cells with the energy they need to carry out important functions such as muscle work. Fat and protein can supply energy as well, but carbohydrate does so far more rapidly, making it the body’s go-to fuel for intense activity.
Dr. Wentz shares ideas for good sources of carbohydrates for runners:
- Complex Grains
I know some people think it’s the worst thing in the world to put artificial products in your body. Eric Orton talks about getting easily digestible carbs into your body on those short fast runs. Some of the products I currently use are:
- Gu Energy Gels (favorite flavors: Espresso Love & Chocolate Outrage)
- Honey Stinger Waffles
- Gatorade (What can I say? I’m old school like that. It works for me.)
- Nuun Hydration
Fats are an important piece of the nutrition puzzle — especially those found in foods high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids. One of the books that I read recently was “Finding Ultra” by Rich Roll. Here are recommendations from the book of foods high in Omega 3’s:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Hemp Oil
- Wheat Germ Oil
- Vega EFA Oil
- Udo’s 3-6-9 Oil
- Wheat Germ
- Fermented Soybeans (Tempeh, Natto, and Miso)
- Navy Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Dark Leafy Greens (Kale, Spinach, Mustard, Collards)
- Spirulina Algae (available in a variety of supplements)
- Winter Squash
Excerpt From: Rich Roll. “Finding Ultra.” iBooks.
Green Juice Nutrition
Want the nutritional punch of veggies without having to scarf down pounds of leafy greens? Ross Franklin of Pure Green recommends trying a green juice. According to Ross, each of their green juice bottles is made with five pounds of veggies and it tastes great. These cold-pressed juices are a safer alternative to unpasteurized juice and they don’t loose as many nutrients as pasteurized juices.
If you read some of the books about vegan ultra runners (see bottom of this page), they’ll often talk about their expensive high-power blenders. Ross made it clear that there’s a difference between these blenders, which are great for making smoothies, and cold-pressed juice. The blades and motors in the blenders create heat and damage the nutrients.
I did a little research and found this quote from a US News and World Report article, “Some also believe that because of minimal heat and air exposure, cold-pressed juices contain more vitamins, minerals and enzymes, but there is not enough research to fully support this claim.” But I say, as long as it tastes good and you get more nutrients than you would if you didn’t eat vegetables at all, go for it!
Ross is going to send me some green juice to try before a long run. I’ll report back on the results.
Recipes for Runners
Additional Research Articles
- The New Rules Of Carbs For Runners. Competitor.com
- Cold-Pressed Juice: Is it Worth the Hype?. US News and World Report
Books about Running and Nutrition on My Reading List
- “The Cool Impossible.” Eric Orton
- “Born to Run.” Christopher McDougall
- “Eat & Run.” Scott Jurek
- “Finding Ultra.” Rich Roll
- “Ultramarathon Man.” Dean Karnazes
- Want To Lose Weight? Cut The Carbs, Keep The Fat. TheLipTV
- Keeping Away From Carbs. 40/29 News
- Can Eating Carbs at Night Make You Gain Weight? The Doctors