So, I wouldn’t really call myself a “runner” per se. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t absolutely LOVE doing it. I remember seven years ago on my 16th birthday when I couldn’t even run a mile without getting winded and let down. Now at 23, I run nearly every day, sticking to 3 to 4 miles at a nice steady pace. I absolutely love the way it makes me feel afterward. I love the wind blowing through my hair. I love how it gives my face this unbelievable glow like no other when I’m finally finished. And I love how it makes me feel strong, healthy and beautiful. Let’s just put it this way: I love running and admire all of you healthy, avid runners out there. But let me ask you this: do you know the BEST way to eat when training for a race? How about what to grab in the morning before your quick 2-mile loop? Do you need to guzzle lots of water before and after? Not a clue? I wasn’t 100% positive myself. That’s why I asked Registered Dietitian, Allison Rovtar from Chicago, to be featured on my blog as a guest columnist. Here she shares hot, exclusive tips and advice for all you runners out there!
RC: So, you just woke up and you’re going out for a quick 3 to 5 mile run in the morning. Do you suggest you eat/drink anything before? Wait ’til after?
AR: I always encourage my clients to eat about 45 minutes prior to working out. This allows them the energy they may need to have a good run. A good rule of thumb is to have something that includes protein, carbohydrate, and fat. This could mean an apple with 2 tbsp peanut butter, oatmeal with chia seeds, or even Greek yogurt.
RC: What should women in particular be aware of when following a runner’s diet? Anything you’d eat more of? Leave out?
AR: People used to believe that you had to load up on carbs weeks before and this just isn’t the case. Yes, you do want to be sure you are taking in adequate calories from carbohydrates but no need to overdo it! Overdoing it and consuming too many carbohydrates the night before can leave you feeling bloated for race day. Carbohydrates are, however, a necessity as they provide us with the glycogen needed for energy! Complex carbohydrates are key and generally my endurance athletes consume 55% calories from carbohydrates, 25% protein, and 20% fat but these numbers can vary a bit person-to-person. In the days leading up to your event you can up your carbohydrate intake to 60% if desired.
RC: I know many people (not myself) who run well over 13 miles-sometimes more-on a regular basis? What should they be fueling up with? Do you suggest gu, gels, etc? What should you drink?
AR: I suggest runners carry Gu or Gu Chomps with them when planning on running anything longer than 45 minutes. This will help with energy levels and for most people stop them from hitting a “wall” during the latter miles. A good rule of thumb is 1 packet (Gu) or 2-3 Chomps every 45 minutes to 1 hour. During a half marathon or marathon I encourage runners to switch between water and an electrolyte drink at each station. They usually have both throughout the race. For some runners it may be important to walk through the water stations. This way they get enough water in and don’t spill most of it while trying to drink and run!
RC: How do you prep most effectively for a race? A 5k? A half marathon? A full marathon? What kind of meals do you suggest you eat drink before/during/after? The night before?
AR: Each race is going to be different. The mileage plays a significant role in the prep before, during, and after. I always encourage runners to add chia seeds to their meal plan. Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3’s and calcium. A lot of research has shown that when chia seeds are ingested they form a gel like consistency in the gut. This can help slow the breakdown of carbohydrates.
The before routine is going to vary from person to person. Before the Rock ‘N Roll Chicago half, I had a banana with peanut butter and 8 oz. of an electrolyte drink. Experiment with what works for you and do not try something new race day! Marathon runners may need more to eat the morning of. I have had some clients who will have three pieces of whole wheat toast and almond butter the morning of so they are not starving mid race!
Hydration post race is especially important. Be sure to consume water and pay attention to the color of your urine. If it is light yellow a few hours after your race, more than likely you have adequately rehydrated yourself!
RC: What’s your #1 nutrition tip for women athletes?
AR: Rest days! Be sure to listen to your body. Women tend to push themselves to the point where there body begins to breakdown and this is where injuries can happen. Taking a break from running and doing yoga or Pilates is always a great idea!
RC: What do you do to stay fit and maintain a healthy diet? Are you a runner? Do you go to the gym? Any special diets you follow?
AR: Along with being a Registered Dietitian I am also a NASM-Performance Enhancement Specialist, so staying healthy is important! I enjoy running and boxing for my workouts along with resistance training. I work at a gym so it is very easy for me to get my workouts in! As far as special diets I try to ensure complex carbohydrates and adequate protein. At the end of the day my calories usually add up to about 45% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 25% fat.
RC: Thanks Allison! I definitely learned a lot. Be sure to check Allie out on Twitter at Allie_RD for more sweet nutrition tips!