Why must you fill your car up with gas instead of something as abundant and convenient as water? We must use gas, or the car will not run properly. Just like filling the car with gas, we must fill our bodies with the proper fuel, so it will perform optimally. We must eat with purpose. To eat with purpose means properly fueling your body with what it needs for the day. This means fueling for not just basal metabolism, meaning the number of calories required to keep your body functioning at rest, but all the workouts and exercise plans for the day. In addition to the amount of calories, it is just as important to have the right type of those calories. The key is to focus on meeting your needs for carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. So, proper fuel is essential to becoming a better athlete.
Shalane Flanagan, retired Pro Marathon Runner for the Bowerman Track Club and now Professional Coach, is one of the authors of Run Fast, Eat Slow and Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow. These books are focused on the proper fuel from anything between long runs or short quick workouts. Long run? Eat something with a low glycemic index, such as sweet potatoes, oatmeal, or brown rice, as they contain lasting energy to get you through those many miles. Need instant energy? High glycemic foods, such as breads, some fruits, and pasta, are perfect. The night before a race, I "carb up" with a sweet potato or some pasta and protein. The morning before a race, I have oatmeal with raisins and a bagel. This gives me long lasting energy to get me through the last mile and quick energy for the start. As always, experiment with these in practice to see what you can tolerate.
As I'm growing as a runner, I'm learning there are certain foods that have unique benefits for our sport. I'll give you one of my secrets...beet root juice! Disgusting, I know, but the juice is worth the squeeze. As Andy Jones from the University of Exeter in the Journal of Applied Physiology takes an extensive look at the benefits of beet juice through an experiment done on a cyclist, a highlight that stands out to me is "it takes less energy to cycle at the same pace." Beet juice also delivers a 1-2% reduction rate for your race time, so, of course, it became a part of my daily supplement routine. Along with beet root juice; iron, calcium, and my daily Smarty Pants vitamins are a must.
Game changers, a new movie out on Netflix, is about athletes that turn vegan in hopes of improving their performance. I decided to take on the challenge of being vegan for seven days, and a challenge it was. However, before I started this, I did some research. One of the vitamins a vegan is at risk for deficiency is B12 because it commonly comes from bacteria through animal products, so I made sure to stay on top of supplementing. I started the challenge and made sure I was getting in twelve grams of protein each meal (because I was still running) and plenty of carbohydrates. Eventually, race day came; I started the race and felt powerful. I did not see a huge difference in my running; however, the more I focused on what I was putting into my body, the more I realized what my body needed-lots of protein, carbs, and fats.
I'm not saying I look at the labels or calories, but I make sure I'm filling my body with the proper fuel, so it is able to "run" properly.
Food is fuel, and it is vital to a happy and healthy life. Eat with purpose, and your body will surely thank you.
Gone for a Run,