I am no different than you. I love to eat.
We are fortunate in that we are in a sport which involves burning calories and we need that steady flow of caloric intake to keep training properly.
Success in this sport doesn’t come just from doing race pace training workouts that I talk about or from learning how to run faster by using lactic acid.
It is a combination of the things you are doing to better yourself as a runner after the hard work is complete.
What are you doing the other hours of your day?
Do you do a 20-mile long run and are so exhausted you fall on your bed and pass out?
I ask the question because I have done this, which is not the wise way to go.
Your muscles are like sponges after you deplete yourself of glycogen (muscle sugar) stores. You want to immediately eat something after a hard workout or long run.
A runners diet should consist of plenty go foods high in glutathione and iron.
It could be a cliff bar, fruit like a banana or apple, something but you certainly do not want to put off putting back nutrients you lost simply because you lost your appetite or are too tired at the time.
This is one of the dumbest mistakes I have ever made in my own training.
I always eat a Powerbar or have some fruit in my car when I return from long runs (usually done on the highways near my apartment).
What Should You Eat
Don’t eat empty calories.
Sodas and candy are worthless when it comes to training at higher levels.
It doesn’t mean you have to give them up for good but you don’t want to go overboard with it either.
I was diagnosed with anemia back in 2007.
I had no idea what was going on with my training.
I went from doing repeat miles on the track at 4.45 at 6400 feet elevation to having a hard time trying to run 5.20 a few weeks later.
My runs were suffering and I couldn’t hold pace in races.
It was frustrating, depressed and was thinking about retiring from competition.
Focus On Iron And Glutathione
Glutathione is an antioxidant that the body produces but that can easily be depleted.
There are very few endurance athletes who know anything about it a runners diet must consist of it.
My coach at the time, Lisa Rainsberger, the last American female to win the Boston marathon, suggested I get a blood test to see if my iron and ferritin levels were low.
Lisa ran professionally for 12 years, has a 2.28.15 marathon best and has run 53.21 for 10-miles, still ranked as one of the fastest women in world history.
You would be an idiot to not listen to advice of someone so successful at what she does.
I did and it changed my running career.
My iron levels were very low and I’m telling you this story for a reason.
Your body does not produce iron so a runners diet but consist of foods that are going to help deliver it to his or her body.
You can only get iron by way of your diet.
There are many runners like me around the world who have never really payed attention to this part of their diet.
Eat More Meat
I certainly was not much of a meat eater prior to finding out that I was anemic.
Anemia is basically when your body runs low on red blood cells.
If you are not eating enough foods high in iron your body runs low on its oxygen delivery capacity.
I always hate chicken but rarely did I ever eat steak, porkchops and other types of meats.
Iron plays a vital role as do red blood cells to ensure oxygen is delivered as efficiently as possible to your working muscles.
It is like sitting in a Ferarri with no gas and not being able to truly test the power of that machine.
Your body is the same.
You may be the sharpest runner on the block but go try to race when you have little to no iron stores in your body and you may own the fastest personal bests, be sponsored by the biggest corporations and still get beat.
I don’t care if you are a 6 hour marathoner, overweight or even an Olympic Trials qualifier, what I do care about is seeing you surpass your athletic expectations.
I absolutely love hearing about runners breaking barriers, part of that is nutrition. and I am telling you from experience, you cannot neglect this part of your runners diet.
High In Iron
Some foods you can try that can assist you in your training is red meats, egg yokes and various cereals.
My personal favorite is Total Raisin Bran.
It is 100% in nearly every vitamin known to mankind.
If you do not eat meat and want other options, you can consider spinach, lentils, beans and raisins (love them!).
I am a huge seafood fan.
You can find iron in seafood such as scallops, clams and oysters as well.
One key piece of advice is to eat iron rich meals with a glass of orange juice.
Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron more efficiently.
Glutathione helps cleanse the cells of free radicals and other toxins that build up from our environment.
You can also take iron supplementation if the idea of eating red meats or egg yokes makes you want to run to a toilet.
I have taken a 65 mg Natures Best iron tablet daily since early 2008 and I always take it with a glass of orange juice.
Once I got my iron stores back to normal levels I started to run faster, my pace felt more controlled at race pace and my motivation for the sport quickly returned.
If you get anything out of this post, I hope this piece of advice changes your life as it did mine.
I had been running for nearly 15 years and had never realized the importance iron played in athletic performance.
Eat Before I Race?
I would never advise skipping breakfast before you race.
A runners diet must consist of a well-balanced breakfast, especially after morning workouts.
You don’t want to fill heavy the morning of the race and it is definitely not a good idea to eat an hour before you race either.
You want to eat with plenty of time for your food to digest and clear your system.
Two to three hours is optimal on race morning.
A light breakfast of 500-600 calories will help stock your body with the energy you will need in the race.
It isn’t what you eat the night before the race but the week before.
You want to be eating foods that are not empty calories such as candy and soda but that are going to give you the most bang for your buck come race day.
The Big Race
What you are eating the week before the race is key.
It isn’t just eat whatever you want leading into the race and than start paying real attention because it will be too late.
You want your body to be fully stocked on carbohydrates with a little protein sprinkled into the mix to assist in muscle repair such as having a bagel topped with some peanut butter or a protein drink in the morning after one of your runs.
One of my favorite drinks to get my protein fix is a simple glass of chocolate milk.
There was a recent study in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sport And Exercise which states that chocolate milk outweighs a carbohydrate-rich beverage like Gatorade or Powerade post-workout.
Exercise physiologists at the University of Connecticut and Eastern Michigan University chose to ingest low-fat chocolate milk, rather than the usual sports drink after their runs and performed better in their next long run.
They saw a 38 percent increase in muscle building and actually ran 28 percent longer during their next long run the week after.
What About Fats?
Fat does you really no good leading into the race.
Your body already has far more fat stores than carbohydrates.
This is what I write so much about teaching your body to run faster because you are burning less of what you need most, carbohydrates.
This doesn’t mean you should not eat any fat, just be conservative in your dietary approach.
A cookie or two the week of the race is not going to ruin your race.
So-called ‘ordinary’ runners are only running that way because they have not trained themselves in the proper way to get the most out of their performance.
I love my readers and but you have to learn how to burn fat and conserve glycogen to get better racing results.
It isn’t that you don’t have what it takes, are too old, too overweight, past your prime (one of my favorites).
Go tell that to Ed Witlock, who at 81 years young, ran a 3.30 marathon.
A runners diet should consist of carbohydrates, protein and small amounts of fat, in that order.
There are more nutrition authorities than you can imagine online.
There are over 30 hours of youtube videos uploaded to the third largest social media site every minute of every day. This is staggering.
There is more nutrional content than you or I and everyone else who visits rundreamachieve combined to listen to in our lifetime combined.
What is important is you keep learning and don’t leave your dreams and goals up to thinking you don’t have what it takes.
Find what works for you.
Listen to advice from those who have performed at a level you dream of or who can help you get to a level that satisfies you.
My advice is like a half a drop of water in the pacific ocean but I also believe in human experience. I can only share it. You can eat right but miss something as valuable as iron and have dramatic negative results when you race.
Please don’t do this to yourself.
I am certain you have far more in your than you realize. Small changes in your diet can take your running to a dramatically different and positive direction.
I believe in you. Keep hustling!