The last piece of birthday cake has been devoured.
The last drop of sangria savored.
The last birthday lunch enjoyed.
I must now get back to the business of training.
When I dusted off the good ‘ol food diary this morning, I breathed a heavy sigh and braced myself for a bumpy ride. I know that I said I would revive my food diary when marathon training started up again in May, but the truth is that I didn’t. I have been eating and even drinking pretty much whatever I want for over a month now. This means chips & margaritas at every tex-mex restaurant. Indulging at my favorite pizza joints. And, never saying “No” to sweets.
[Pause for a brief moment of silence and collective shock.]
It’s not that I’m concerned about the number on the scale. In fact, I might be the only person on the planet who was excited when it started going up. (My pants actually fit – woohoo!!)
It’s not that I enjoy being OCD about every single thing I put in my mouth. (Contrary to popular belief.)
It’s that I have zero energy; my mind is slow; my wit is two steps behind; my runs lack kick; and my rides need more spunk.
Regardless of your discipline, training and nutrition are inextricably intertwined. As coaches, we tell athletes this over and over again. Yet, still, I sometimes need a taste of my own medicine.
Lesson Learned :: Sometimes you have to do wrong to remember why right is right.
This lesson couldn’t have been better-timed because we are entering the sweetspot of marathon training. At the six-week mark, it is time to get serious. The mileage is steadily increasing. The “long runs” are finally getting long. And, speedwork is right around the corner. So, as much to remind myself as to remind (or educate) my runners, I’ve been working on an article about nutrition for marathoners. Here’s a sneak peek…
I see people make the same mistakes every training cycle:
1. Nutrition during the entire training cycle is equally – if not more – important than nutrition on race day. Everyone seems to ‘get’ nutrition in the days leading up to and during a race. Carb-loading is super fun (see # 3), and it makes sense that you need to eat and hydrate properly to safely and swiftly complete 26.2 miles. What people forget is that these same principles apply to training. You can’t ask your body to run 45+ miles a week for 20 weeks (yes, folks, that’s a total of 900+ training miles!) without the proper fuel.
2. Nutrition does not mean strictly counting calories. Yes, you need to make sure that you’re eating enough food to support your training. But the focus of your nutrition goals should be the ratio of carbohydrates to proteins to fats — not the total number of calories consumed. Throughout training, you should be eating around 60% carbs / 10-20% protein / 20-30% fat. Why so heavy on the carbs? Your muscles use mostly carbs and (if you are training at an appropriate easy pace) fats for fuel. If you deplete your carb stores, your body will break down muscle for energy (and, yes, that is as bad as it sounds). But, remember, these need to be quality carbs like fruit, low-starch veggies, and whole grains — not bagels, cookies, and frosted cereals.
3. Carbs alone are not the answer. Bring up the subject of nutrition during a run, and you’re likely to discover that your running group could be re-named “Carb Addicts Anonymous.” I honestly know people who have signed up for half marathons solely for the carb-loading pasta dinner. (Sorry guys, but at least I didn’t name names!) Drop a bunch of carb addicts into an environment where they constantly hear about the need to carb-load, and you end up with a group of runners who aren’t eating nearly enough protein. Runners need protein to recover quickly and to repair muscle damage. This also is why it is critical to eat/drink a meal that has both carbs and protein within 30 minutes of any run that exceeds one hour. (Chocolate milk is my personal favorite.) An added bonus: Protein satisfies hunger, so you feel full longer.
So, with this little lesson behind me… Goodbye fried food. Goodbye cookies, cupcakes, and brownies. Goodbye Pinot Noir and Shiraz. Hopefully, we’ll meet again…