Fuelling your body with the right food is a recipe for success, says Louise Pyne
A good training regime is, of course, essential for distance running.
But for real success on the endurance front, it is important to give your nutrition a long hard look.
The longer you run, the more fuel your body needs. As a general rule, if you exercise at intensity beyond one-and-a-half hours, your body needs to replenish carbohydrates and electrolytes to maintain performance, says nutritionist Sarah OíNeill (). And if you don’t consume the extra salt and sugar your body craves, you’re more susceptible to dehydration. Plus, without additional fuel, your body can start to break down lean tissue.
Your body burns fat more efficiently as a fuel in the presence of glucose, but otherwise, when your glycogen stores become depleted, your body turns to muscle as its next choice, which is obviously counterproductive and not the desired outcome of training, adds Sarah. Paying close attention to timing will also help you get the most out of each and every training session. You need to know what to eat and when, so weíve put together an easy-to-follow guide with some simple recipes for you to try.
2 hours before
Eat this: Grilled salmon with quinoa. This provides a good ratio of protein, carbs and healthy fats to help sustain energy for gruelling long runs.
Avoid this: Lentils and beans. These can be difficult to digest and may bring on cramps during training. Save legume-based meals for in between training sessions instead.
Star recipe: Turkey meatballs with brown rice
Mix together 100g lean turkey mince, 1 chopped onion, 1 crushed garlic clove, 1tsp tomato purée and
shape into balls. Dip into a beaten egg and roll in breadcrumbs. Place on an ovenproof tray with
a spoonful of coconut oil and bake for 25 minutes at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Serve on a bed of brown rice.
1 hour before
Eat this: A light snack combining easy to digest carbs and a small portion of protein. Good options include a banana topped with nut butter or cheese on wholemeal toast.
Avoid this: Gas-producing fruits like peaches, apple and pear will leave you feeling uncomfortable and bloated prior to training.
Star recipe: Homemade granola bars
Combine the following ingredients: 200g oats, 100g flaxseeds, 50g raisins, 50g dried cranberries, 100g mixed seeds, 2tbsp almond butter, 1 pinch ground cinnamon and a generous drizzle of maple syrup. Neatly spoon into an ovenproof tin and bake for 25 mins at 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 or until lightly browned. Allow to cool and then cut into bars.
15 minutes before
Eat this: A small helping of easily digestible carbohydrates will help to supercharge energy levels and counteract
fatigue. Excellent choices include a couple of oatcakes, half a banana or a few pieces of dried fruit.
Avoid this: Huge servings of food, especially complex carbs, protein-rich, fibrous or fatty foods, as these will take longer to digest, bring on a stitch and may make you need the toilet while running!
Star recipe: Oat and raisin cookies
Mix together 1 beaten egg, 70g plain flour, 150g oats, 100g caster sugar, 1 pinch cinnamon and 100g raisins. Roll into balls and place on an ovenproof tray.
Bake for 15 minutes at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
If you don’t eat the right food after your run, fatigue and headaches can set in, making you feel sluggish
for hours or even days afterwards. To offset the effects, a combination of carbs (to replenish glycogen stores) and protein (to rebuild lean muscle tissue) eaten within 30 minutes is the best choice. Try these simple recipes to get back on your feet after a hardcore training session:
1 Choco-fruity smoothie
Blend together the following ingredients:
1 small pot of Greek yoghurt
Handful of frozen berries (blueberries, strawberries)
250ml semi skimmed milk
1tsp cocoa powder
1 pinch cinnamon
2 Cajun chicken sandwich
Sprinkle 1 chicken breast with Cajun seasoning and grill. Once cooked, cut into small pieces. Spread two slices toasted wholemeal bread with 1tbsp crème fraîche, and top with the chicken breast pieces. Add 1 chopped tomato, mixed salad leaves and a squeeze of lemon.
3 Salmon and veggie pasta
Place a salmon fillet on a piece of foil with 4 cherry tomatoes and half a sliced yellow
pepper. Season with mixed herbs and place in the oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4
for 15-20 minutes. Cook 60g wholewheat pasta, drain.
Flake the salmon into the drained pasta and add the remaining ingredients. Stir in 1tbsp crème fraîche and the juice of half a lemon and a few shavings of Parmesan.
Injury prevention foods
Keep your body in tip-top condition with these healthy bites
1 Kiwi fruit
Your body needs vitamin C to make collagen, a protein that gives connective tissue its strength. Load up on kiwis to make sure your body has the required levels of vitamin C it needs.
Nibbling on cheese will provide your body with calcium, an important mineral that helps to keep bones healthy.
Carrots are a rich source of vitamin A, a nutrient needed to speed up wound healing by helping cells to reproduce properly.
Finally, here are some tips on how to get in great shape with these simple strategies
1 One size doesn’t fit all
There’s a wide range of sports nutrition products available on the market, but sometimes you have
to try different things out to see what suits you best. ‘We all have slightly different digestive systems and responses to sports drinks, gels and protein shakes,’ says Sarah.
2 Ditch the booze
Endurance training places a huge stress on your body, which means you really need to load up on extra nutrients. So, while a glass of wine (or two) might seem like it hits the spot after a long training session,
it won’t do your nutrient levels any good. Unfortunately, alcohol depletes the body of vitamins and minerals, slowing down performance and making you more susceptible to illness. So keep drinking to a minimum (no more than two alcoholic drinks (per week) or, better still, cut out booze completely in the run-up to a marathon.
3 Don’t binge
It’s tempting to reward yourself with food after completing a long run, but if you overeat junk post-run you’ll just gain weight. ‘You may burn 2,000 calories, but it’s still easier to replace these calories than burn them! It’s important to eat the “right” things, such as a range of fruit and veg, healthy fats and lean proteins to help provide the range of nutrients your working body requires,’ says Sarah.