Whether you want to run a competitive time, are just hoping to survive, or anything in between, here are some of the best types of foods to eat that will help maximize your performance.
Nothing too complex about complex carbs
Foods to include here are:
- Green vegetables
- Beans and legumes
- Whole grains
- Fruits - especially low glycemic fruits
Complex carbs are great for providing long-term fuel needed for workouts and recovery. These carbs break down slowly and require a few hours to digest. They also have the added benefit of providing much needed fibre helping your digestive system and are high in nutrients and vitamins.
A good rule is to have more complex carbs and limit your intake of simple carbs. As simple carbs break down into sugars, any unused or excess carbs are converted into fat. This is one of the main reasons why there is an obesity epidemic in America - our high intakes of simple carbs in the form of processed foods and not enough exercise.
Stick to healthy fats
Among your healthy fat choices, include the following in your diet:
- Olive oil
- Peanut butter
Some nutritionists even suggest eggs as a good source of fat. Stick to about 20 to 30 percent of good fats in your diet for a healthy balance.
Feed your muscles with lean protein
Keep it natural with organics
- Growth hormones
There are zero additives in organic food. According to the British Journal of Nutrition, they contain more antioxidants than processed food. This means that your body will absorb the most nutrition available from the food you eat. This maximizes nutritional value without polluting your body with unwanted chemicals.
Don't be afraid to experiment
- If you don't like fish, eat more chicken and beans.
- If you love fish, eat more of that.
- A smoothie can be a great snack, but it can also be an entire breakfast or lunch.
- If you don't like olive oil, substitute peanut oil or canola oil.
English walnuts have the healthiest Omega 3 fatty acids, but Butternuts are very close, if you are not fond of walnuts. All nuts will help lower your cholesterol, and contain L-Argnine, which is heart healthy. Nuts of any kind are perfect for marathon runners.
If you don't want pasta, use potatoes, sweet potatoes and oatmeal for your sources of complex carbs. Even though beans are great for protein, they can also be considered a complex carb.
The bottom line here is to experiment with what your body thrives on. No matter how good for you any one kind of food is, if you don't like it, substitute it with something else.
The week before a race
- Monday. Begin eating five to six meals per day, every day. This prepares you for carb loading later in the week. Today, lower your carbs to less than 50 percent and take in more protein.
- Tuesday. Think protein for breakfast and a high Omega 3 lunch. The protein supports muscle growth and repair, and the Omega 3s aid in energy and muscle function.
- Wednesday. Start loading high complex carbs during lunch and dinner. Eat high antioxidant snacks in the morning and evening. Add in a protein snack for the evening.
- Thursday. Protein and high complex carbs at every meal.
- Friday. Carbs, carbs and more carbs. Over the next 48 hours, concentrate on carbs at every meal. Don't be afraid to add in a sweet dessert either.
- Saturday. Continue carb loading, but eat types that are the easiest to digest. Do a liquid carb evening snack for best results.
- Sunday. Start your engine, it's marathon day. Before the race, eat a breakfast of simple and complex carbs. Waffles, pancakes or french toast with syrup are wonderful. Right before your run, eat a juicy piece of fruit that is high in liquid content. During the run, a sports drink with electrolytes will help keep you hydrated. After the race, have a protein smoothie for post-race recovery.
Of course, these are just basic tips and ideas for a marathoner’s diet. Before embarking on any diet or strenuous exercise, always consult with a physician about your health and your personal dietary needs.