Among the biggest nutrition mistakes made by new runners is the post-run pig-out.
It’s easy to justify that second piece of lasagna or that jumbo combo meal when you’ve laced up your runners, pulled on the track pants and gone for a run, shuffle or walk.
But beware of the tendency to confuse feelings of accomplishment with those of great energy expenditure. Because while getting out for a training session is certainly something to be proud of, you may not be burning as many calories as you think.
Dana Lis, a sport dietitian at SportMedBC, says most people who are doing the “learn to run” Sun Run training program are probably burning between 150 and 200 calories per 30-minute workout.
Compare that to the 400 calories in a Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino — hold the whip cream. Or the more than 500 calories in a McDonald’s Big Mac, and it’s easy to see why a half-hour walk-run does not justify giving in to unhealthy cravings.
“A hard training workout is not an excuse to have a free-for-all,” Lis says. “If you end up overeating, it’s not going to support your running goals.”
Even with ramped-up training that has you doing a solid 30 minutes of running, most people will still only burn about 300 calories.
For many people, 30 minutes of running would feel like a strenuous workout, but remember that all those calories can be gained right back with one Egg McMuffin, a modest serving of Haagen-Dazs ice cream (not the whole tub), or two bottles of beer.
Making the commitment to train for the Sun Run in April often goes hand-in-hand with New Year’s resolutions to lose some weight and get healthy.
But if that’s the goal, getting out for three training sessions a week won’t be enough. Healthy eating has to be part of the package.
“Nutrition is a huge component,” says Lis. “A lot of people start doing Sun Run training to lose weight and without the nutrition end of things, you’re not going to see the results that you want.”
Lis’s general advice is nothing we haven’t heard before: Eat well-balanced meals, eat more vegetables, eat healthy snacks between meals, etc. But she also has plenty of running-specific nutrition advice that should keep the body operating on all cylinders.
If you’re looking to improve your eating habits while training for the Sun Run — and hopefully beyond — but you don’t know where to start, Lis recommends starting a food journal. Begin by writing down everything you eat and drink, every day. Include everything from the cookie your colleague gave you at noon to the leftover noodles you ate out of your toddler’s bowl. It all adds up.
Once you’ve written down a week’s worth of meals, snacks and drinks, it’s easy to see where you’re overdoing it, where you could cut back and where you could add more variety. Studies have also shown that you’re less likely to overindulge or “cheat” when you know it will be recorded, forever, in ink.
For some good recipe ideas for quick, healthy, running-friendly meals, check out the Nutrition on the Run recipes at www. sunrun.com. Or, check out the SportMedBC website. The recipes there are created with “optimal performance” in mind, and are meant to minimize the amount of time you have to spend in the kitchen. Oatmeal pancakes, citrus couscous with roasted chicken, lunch box chili rice and beans, and peanut butter chocolate smoothies are among the recipes.
Lis recommends eating a snack one to two hours before running. Half a bagel with some cheese or sliced turkey is a good option, as is low-fat yogurt with a banana.
One big key to eating while training is ensuring you’re getting enough nutrients in your diet. “You need to get enough protein to recover from your workout. You need the antioxidants from fruits and vegetables — that will also help with recovery as well as adaptation to the exercise. Make sure you’re getting enough carbohydrates in, too,” Lis said.
But for those who think training for the Sun Run is an excuse to carb-load on pasta and bread, Lis says that is a misconception. Carb-loading is intended primarily for long-distance runners.
“For the Sun Run, you don’t need to carb-load. It’s not a marathon.”
Lis suggests trying to include three to four food groups in every meal,
Of course, drinking plenty of water is essential both before and after workouts (and during workouts, if you feel you need it).
If you really feel you deserve a treat after running, Lis says chocolate milk is one of the best recovery drinks around. Just don’t drink a whole litre of the stuff.
PRE-RACE DINNER SUGGESTIONS:
– Tuna burger with a bean salad
– Vegetarian chili with a side salad and whole-grain bun
– Veggie and chicken pizza
– Vegetable and tofu stir-fry with brown rice
– Grilled or baked salmon with quinoa salsa