As athletes are making their training plans, there is one often overlooked component: the runner’s diet. You can get yourself the best training plan around and follow it to fidelity. You can also do strength training and get adequate rest. However, if what you put on your plate is garbage, you are sabotaging yourself. If you are truly hoping to get the most you can out of your training, you should be careful and meticulous about what you put in your body. While there are differing schools of thought regarding an athlete’s nutrition, there are some basic things you can do to help bolster your personal nutrition. Today we will be discussing a half marathon diet.
What’s The Best Diet To Follow When Training For A Half Marathon?
One thing is for certain; you may quickly learn that certain food fuels your body and runs better than others. If you’re sedentary on the couch, a diet of pizza and potato chips might be perfectly fine for you. When you start racking up miles and working hard day after day, week after week, your body will ask you to pay better attention to it.
If you are hoping to hit a personal record (PR) and asking your body to perform to the best of your ability, you absolutely need to think about your fuel on a daily basis.
The very first thing you should do is commit to putting more real food in your diet. Tempting though it is to eat convenience foods, these are not likely to put you in the best position for greater health.
Think about food in its most natural form. What that means is eating as much food as you can of food without processing.
✓ Lean Meats: If you eat meat, your meats should be from real meat sources. Lean beef, pork, chicken and fish are great choices. You should stay away from heavily processed meats such as sausages and lunch meats.
✓ Fresh Vegetables: Veggies are an excellent dietary choice and the more they look like they did when they came from the garden, the better off you will be. Vegetables are best consumed raw. The next obvious choice is lightly steamed and it is great if they have never been frozen or processed in any way. When choosing your vegetables, be sure to add color to your life. We will discuss color later on.
✓ Fruit: Keeping an assortment of fruits on hand gives you a healthy option for curbing that sweet tooth. Sure, candy and cakes are delicious; however, they are also full of empty calories with no nutritional value. Try freezing a bunch of grapes and grabbing a few when you get a sweet craving.
✓ Real Grains: Many runners eat pasta and whole-grain breads as staples for fueling their bodies, especially as you get up into mileage. If you are eating grains in their purest form, such as quinoa or steel-cut oats, you are getting way more bang for your buck.
✓ Healthy Fats: Contrary to everything you have heard, fats are not the enemy. That is if you are eating fish like salmon, nuts and cooking with olive oil. These types of fats are excellent for your body and great sources of energy.
A Colorful Diet
One thing to consider is to keep your diet colorful. The bigger the variety of fruits and vegetables you put on your plate the greater chance you are covering various corners of nutrition.
Also, the more brilliant the color the higher the nutrients. Think about swapping your iceberg lettuce for spinach. Instead of eating plain green beans, add a green bean mix with carrots. Cut your banana into slices and throw in some purple grapes.
Everyone thinks of salads when they think about adding color to your plate but there are many, many brilliantly colored vegetables out there. Try them all!
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
One thing many people fail at is proper hydration. You may think you drink enough, but many of us don’t. As an athlete who pushes your body, you need to be certain you are taking in enough fluids.
Although all fluids technically count toward your intake, the more clear (or opaque) fluids you take in the better. Try to keep your daily water intake high. Your body will thank you for that.
What Should I Eat The Night Before A Half Marathon?
As you plan out your half marathon diet, one thing to consider is race week. As you lead up to the big day for which you have trained, you likely will want to up your carbohydrate intake the days leading up to the race.
Many experts say that a runner should get approximately 60% of their food from carbohydrates. However, athletes are finding that not everyone needs to run on carbs. With keto dieters taking the world by storm and ultramarathoners like record holder Zach Bitter eating a very low carb, high-fat diet, that conventional wisdom starts to be questioned.
Suffice it to say that most runners eat more carbs in the week and days leading up to their race. Unless you have trained low carb and high fat, you should consider eating this way during race week.
What Should I Eat During My Half Marathon?
Half marathon diets do not end with the starting line! You need to have practiced what you will use for fuel before the race and how you will take in calories as you race.
Whatever you typically eat the morning of a long run is what you should put into your body on race morning. Eating a couple of hours before you toe the line is a tactic that works for most. Above all: don’t eat anything new on race day.
If you have fueled during your long runs by eating sports gels, then do that when you race. Everyone’s stomach is a little different.
There is a multitude of products out there specific to athletes such as sport beans, chews and gels. You can also mix up high carbohydrate drinks that give you calories and hydration at one time.
Other athletes prefer using real food sources, such as pouches of nut butter or bites of sweet potato. Really the preference is yours.
After Your Hard Effort
Within 30-45 minutes of a race or other hard effort, your body needs recovery food. Sure, that chocolate cake is tempting. Don’t fall for it. A protein and carb is the best way to keep your body in top form.
An apple with peanut butter, for example, will curb that starving beast within you and help you to wait for a real meal. If you have preplanned your post-workout snack, you are more likely not to make poor food choices when you walk in the door.
No Two Identical Athletes
The most important thing about sports nutrition is to recognize that no two athletes are identical. You need to figure out what combination of foods works best for you. This means making a conscious, year-round effort to eat healthily and pay attention to your body.
If you are giving your body optimal nutrition 90% of the time, those small indulgences like beer and pizza with friends won’t matter in the greater scheme of things.