When I first signed up for the marathon and starting increasing my mileage I noticed one thing: I was hungry. In fact, I was always hungry. Then I started to get worried that training for a marathon would lead to poor eating habits such as overeating high fat and high sugar foods. But here I am, a soon to be dietitian, with resources at my fingertips. So what am I going to do about training and fueling my body in a nutritious way? After this initial realization, I reread the position paper on athletic training from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2016). I found myself enthralled by the recommendations and thinking of ways that I can fit them into my lifestyle. I also do not want to become obsessed and, therefore, decided to come up with a few small, achievable goals that I can do each day (read on to find out what my goals are).
When it comes to fueling my body, first and foremost I am trying to better listen to my hunger cues. Some days, I have intense cravings and can't decipher hunger from desire. Other days I can clear-as-day identify when I am hungry and what my body is asking for specifically. Some days are definitely easier than others. For example, this past Friday after I ran 7 miles I felt completely in tune with what my body needed for energy. I went grocery shopping immediately after the run and by the time I got home I had to eat a snack before I could even unload the groceries. That's how hungry I was. And I knew exactly what I wanted too (a yogurt). On the other hand, while working this past weekend I had trouble identifying if I was actually hungry or if I was eating out of habit (because it was a certain time or because I had a break). Listening to your body takes practice and I am nowhere near perfect.
Saturday night I was driving home from the gym thinking about what I wanted for dinner. I had just bought all of the necessary ingredients for a fantastic Mexican-inspired meal and I was really craving cheese (it's one of my favorite foods). But my conscious was telling me I "shouldn't" have quesadillas or tacos because I would likely be having nachos the following night while watching the Patriots. I was able to notice that my brain was trying to override my hunger cues and decided to listen to my body and make a quesadilla. After all, I had found some smaller flour tortillas at the store this week, which would make the perfect sized quesadilla.
Another thing that I have notice while training is that although I want to listen to my body and be more intuitive when it comes to eating, there are times in which I need to be regimented. During the past few runs, I have had great conversations with Rebecca (she wishes to be named so as to not sound so ominous) about what she eats before a long run or even a medium-length run. She is a future RDN as well (we are in the same program) and she has ran 3 marathons. She usually eats toast with peanut butter and jelly or cheerios (although one day this week she ate a muffin). Throughout our conversations, I have come up with a few pre-run meals that are high in carbohydrates, moderate in fat and protein, and low in fructose and fiber.
It's all about trial and error and seeing what your body can handle. No two bodies are alike. Even my twin sister and I! She can't eat a single thing before running or she will get some serious stomach pains. Whereas I like to brag that I have a stomach of steel and can run after eating anything. However, that may not be the case anymore. While I still need to eat something before a run that is longer than 3 miles, I have to be a bit smarter about what that is. Not to say that one food is better than another, but no longer can I have my normal oatmeal because of the high fiber content. Before the 7-mile run I tried one slice of toast with peanut butter and jelly and a banana with more peanut butter and I found myself hungry at the end of the run. Therefore, next time I am going to try two pieces of toast with peanut butter and jelly (I told you I can't go a day without peanut butter). The banana will likely be a snack mid morning, probably with a yogurt.
My number one goal lately has been...
To eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. This will provide my body with essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and carbohydrates (the primary fuel for your body when you are exercising).
Another goal that I have is...
To have 3 servings of dairy each day. This is extremely hard for me because I did not grow up in a dairy-loving family. However, as a twenty something woman dairy is extremely important for strong bones. Lactose, the sugar found in dairy, is also a good source of carbohydrates and protein! Dairy is a perfect food for training, in my opinion (if your GI tract can handle it). Carbohydrates (some natural), protein, and vitamins and minerals!
There you have it. My goals for fueling while training.
- Listen to my hunger cues.
- Eat 5 servings of fruit/vegetables each day.
- Have 3 servings of dairy each day.
Follow along to see how the process goes!
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American College of Sports Medicine, Dietitians of Canada. Position of the academy of nutrition and dietetic, dietitians of Canada, and the American college of sports medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016;116:1501-1528.