To all our VRP athletes – that’s right, you are all athletes so get used to calling yourself one!
For those who are regular attendees of my zoom sessions, you know that food is one of my favourite subjects, mainly as my Mum is such an awesome cook and from a young age has nurtured my enthusiasm for an array of different tastes and flavours. This included finding myself in junior master chef at the age of 14, mostly as my mum was living her dream through me, which led to bumming out in the semi finals as it took me too long to poach over 5 different fruits in different reductions, while the girl who went through stuck to the faithful and solid strawberry Pavlova!? Anyway, I digress which I will probably do a lot of.
I will be attempting to provide you with a little information, which you may or may not already be practicing currently, on why it is important to fuel your bodies effectively if you want to get the best out of your training and perform to your best. I will set this out over a few blogs starting with FUELLING YOUR BODY PRE-TRAINING.
A lot of what I will mention I have learnt through studying at University but the majority is through trial and error over the years from when I began to run marathons when I was 23. Of course, everyone has different nutritional needs and there is no single diet that fits all. Some athletes (that’s you) require different amounts of calories, proteins and vitamins than others and each sport has its own specific and unique nutritional demands. Although I do believe that in VRP’s instance, we can find a broad nutritional agreement as to what constitutes a healthy diet for runners generally.
I’m going to start with talking a little about carbohydrate – the most important fuel for exercise. This is stored as glycogen in our muscle cells and liver and is necessary for almost every type of activity. The amount stored has a direct effect on our exercise performance. If we get this right it will allow you to train at your optimal intensity and achieve a greater training effect, get it wrong it can lead to loss of concentration and early onset of fatigue meaning sub-optimal performance.
Ideally, you should eat 2-4 hrs before training which helps the increase the glycogen levels and enhances your performance although realistically this may not be possible. In that case, a smaller snack or liquid meal (smoothie) 1-2hrs before may be more achievable. You will need to experiment yourselves and what works best as some people can eat a substantial meal before with no ill effects but others prefer a smaller snack.
A pre- exercise lunch if your were training in the evening could be:
- Sandwich/roll/bagel/wrap filled with chicken, cheese, egg or peanut butter (not all of those!)
- Sweet or jacket potato with cheese, beans, tuna or chicken
- Pasta with a tomato and vegetable based sauce (or Colleen’s kale pesto)
- Chicken with rice and salad
- Vegetable or tofu stir fry with noodles or rice
- Wholegrain cereal (bran or wheat flakes, muesli or Weetabix) with milk or yoghurt.
If time is more of an issue and you are training early in the morning you may grab:
- Cereal bar
- Breakfast muffin
- Small bowl of porridge
- Dried fruit
- Toast with honey or jam
Something to take note of is the amount of carbohydrate needed in relation to the intensity and duration of the exercise that is about to take place.
There is sometimes a misconception in regards to how much carbohydrate consumption is needed.
During exercise lasting less than 45 mins there is little to no performance benefits in consuming additional carbs or SPORTS DRINKS (my pet hate when I see kids bringing them to sports lessons)
For intense exercise lasting between 45-75 minutes, small amounts of carbohydrate are beneficial.
Once you start going over 75 mins – 3hrs is when the intake of approx. 30-60g of carbs can really play a part in reducing the onset of fatigue and increase your endurance, sports drinks, gels, bananas then become a great source.
The longer and more intense your run is, the greater your carb needs are.
Something else that often gets forgotten in HYDRATION. Failure to be hydrated before training can again lead to reduced endurance & strength. Little but often leading up to your training. For any training less than an hour, there is no real need to consume during exercise as long as you are sufficiently hydrated before hand. Anything longer and indeed more intense, regular sips would be beneficial. Sweat loss also becomes a factor when you start to perform over 90 mins which can lead to loss of sodium, Sports drinks can be advantageous here because of their sodium content which will promote water retention.
The above is just my thoughts on pre- training food and just points to re-focus ourselves towards as we follow our specific running programmes. Small changes to what we consume can really benefit our performance and again I want to high light that one size does not fit all for example, my dear husband can consume carbohydrates until the cows come home and NEEDS them in every meal to not only prevent him from becoming hangry but his body/muscle make up, training schedule and metabolism demands it! Myself on the other hand cannot process so many without feeling bloated and lethargic – sad times.
I’m already looking forward to talking about all things to do with training DURING Exercise next….