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I am by no means an apex athlete or anything. However, I would like to start to train for an 8k run next March. I currently do workout with a trainer at the Mt. Prospect Club (who’s awesome by the way). Can you recommend an eating plan or point me to some resources to help me make the best decision when it comes to nutrition and my training? Thanks in advance for your time.
Bravo on planning well ahead of time, Robert. Let’s say that someone starting out jogs at 12-15 minutes per mile. Your total jog time also depends on how far your current distance is. Conservatively, let’s say that it’s 2 miles. So perhaps you’re moving 24-30 minutes now. By March, you’d like to be running faster 10-12 minute miles to complete the 8K (5 mile) race in about an hour. Given the time and energy expended, your training diet will not be much different than that for your current workouts with your trainer, but may be comprised of more carbohydrate and ample fluids.
Your initial nutrition plan should be to support your in-gym training & short runs, and to experiment with what foods your gut can tolerate prior to a morning race. Pre-workout nutrition is key so you have the fuel you need to complete an exercise session without feeling drained. Read more about fueling up by clicking here. A bowl of cold cereal with milk might sit well for some individuals but be too slushy for others. An egg white, half an English muffin and half a banana may be all that you need after you wake up to have a successful workout an hour later. Now is the time to try whatever smoothies, protein shakes or bars you might like.
By January, you’ll want to shift your focus to eliminating heavy fats and big meals that make you sluggish, as well as cutting back on alcohol, desserts, and late evening eating. Your muscle cells will be in full training mode to become more efficient aerobically, and they’ll need lots of nutritional support. Balanced lunch and dinner meals mean a plate with 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 starch (potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.), 1/4 lean protein (poultry, fish, lean meats) and a tablespoon of healthy plant fat. Picture a big bowl of shrimp and vegetables stir-fried in oil with just one scoop of rice on the side. For heartier breakfasts on non-run days, you can pick a starch, protein, fruit and milk product such as oatmeal with raisins, nuts and low fat milk. Add a glass of water to your daily fluid intake.
For the few weeks preceding the race, it’s all about ready fuel and recovery as you will probably be running more often and for longer. Read more about recovery nutrition by clicking here. Having adequate glycogen stores will give you sustained energy beyond the blood sugar derived from your most recent meal. The key to muscle glycogen is complex carbohydrate intake, not just before a run, but daily at each meal. Picture the meal balance described in the last paragraph with whole grains, beans, or corn. Then add starch such as pretzels or popcorn at snacks, washed down with another additional glass of water.
You can also read the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics article “Beginners Guide to Running Your Personal Best” by clicking here.
– Debbie J., MS, RD
This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.
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On today’s edition of Ask Our Dietitian we focus on nutritional advice for those struggling with Chronic Kidney Disease. Our registered dietitian, Debbie J., offers some protein alternatives that may help with muscle growth and strength.