More Q&A for you today – this week I'll share my answer to a few common nutrition related questions. My friends at ultrarunner.info posed the same questions to other coaches and we seemed to be in agreement on everything - which is a good sign!
What are the ideal pre and post-exercise meals for long distance runners in your experience?
Each athlete is an “experiment of one” so I encourage all of my athletes to try different things to see what works best for them. That said, there are some basic starting points that most people will find to work pretty well.
Perhaps rather obviously, I'd advise avoid large servings of slow digesting high fiber and high fat foods in the 2-4 hours prior to running. So, put the kale and pork belly salad down and walk away. That said, I seem to do fine with water and a banana with almond butter about 2 hours before training. Liquid nutrition options like a fruit and protein smoothie seem to work well for both pre- and post-exercise periods.
The length and intensity of the session are big factors to consider. If you've got an easy session planned you probably don't need to “fuel up” with anything special and may even be able to get away with eating a little more fiber, protein, and fat in your last meal before training. 30 min easy run? Sometimes nothing at all works just fine – before or after!
A long or intense session may require more forethought and experimentation. Once you get inside 3-4 hours before go-time, you'll probably want to consider softer, easy to digest foods. After the session or race, again, I think liquid options with protein and carbs are best due to faster absorption. Chocolate milk is a simple choice. Save the big eating until you get your appetite back ;-)
*Crushing high sugar drinks or snacks are unhealthy and rarely warranted, but after a very long intense session the average person can tolerate sugar much better than if they hadn't gone hard.
The thing to keep coming back to is the question: "How's that working for you?"
Can you provide examples of your typical daily breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Real, whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible! Here's an example of a typical day – note, I do not aspire to eat perfectly (there is no such thing), just trying to generally eat well, consistently, everyday. I never feel guilty about eating a piece of pumpkin bread (lovvvvvve!), because that's a drop in the bucket. I know that most of the time, say, 90% of the stuff I eat, is going to be nutritious because I value my health and performance.
Breakfast: Frozen veggie omelette w/ avocado + green tea
Lunch: Usually leftovers: Beef chili w/ extra veggies, an apple, 3 clementines, water and a latte.
Dinner: Fish (salmon, arctic char, tilapia..), curried quinoa w/ sautéed veggies, and water. And
sometimes often a handful of chocolate chips!
Do you support the use of supplements for your students?
It's not my place to recommend supplements and most are ineffective at best. (An excellent unbiased resource if you are considering a supplement is www.examine.com) If I suspect an issue that lifestyle and better eating habits cannot resolve, I may encourage my athlete to get assessed for any deficiencies via a blood test and work with a D.O. or naturopath to correct the issue.