Not all foods are created equal. A big Sunday dinner consisting of fats, carbs and sweet desserts may whet your appetite, but it’s not a good dietary regimen if you are in training for a marathon. Of course, you can occasionally cheat a little. When you have a hard workout day, have a little ice cream as a reward. However, you should mainly keep to a training diet.
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
The most important foods for runners are complex carbohydrates. They should make up about 60 to 70 percent of your overall training diet calories.
Foods to include here are:
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
Now, we aren't talking about lard, bacon and beef fat here. No saturated fats and definitely no trans fats. The fats you want to eat are the healthy fats, monounsaturated and those high in Omega 3 fatty acids.
Among your healthy fat choices, include the following in your diet:
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
The best protein comes from chicken, fish and beans. These foods should make up 15 percent of your diet. You can occasionally consume beef and pork for protein, but their high cholesterol and saturated fat count might weigh you down a bit. But keep in mind that these are not the fats you want to include in your training diet. Processed meat sources with trans fat are the worst. When in training, stick with leaner sources of protein. Stay away from the pork, and only eat the leanest cuts of beef.
Keep it natural with organics
If you are serious about your training, and want to compete, then think organics. Organic food has no:
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
You are feeding your body, and you must know what it will tolerate.
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
The week before you run, you want to ramp up on certain foods for maximum performance. Granted, if you keep eating what you have been, you will be okay. However, if you want to be at your competitive best, try these recommendations.
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.