Oct 21, 2014

Nutrition Strategies for Long Runs

My running has been steadily improving both in speed and in distance over the past few months.  However, for about a solid month I experienced a severely noticeable change for the worse in endurance.  Where I had been running 6-10 miles easily beforehand, I was then crashing around mile 4, to the point of needed to slowly walk the remainder of the distance home.  I couldn't figure out what was causing this.  My mileage increases were at a safe 1-2 miles per week.  I had been cutting mileage down every fourth week as a recovery week.  I was getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night.  I though my nutrition was just fine, as I was eating mainly veggies and proteins with some carbs.  So, I turned to my best friend, who also happens to have her masters in an exercise and nutrition field.

My nutrition was lacking horribly as an endurance athlete.  I was taking in around 1200 calories a day, which is fine if my workouts were around 30 minutes...not 2-3 hours.  My muscles literally did not have the energy to maintain endurance workouts any more.  After they used the direct energy from whatever I happened to eat prior to my workout, there was nothing left for them in reserves.  Thus, they shut down.

She recommended I increase my calorie intake, especially wholesome carbs, the day before a long run.  She was adamant I include sweet potatoes as they can provide a solid energy reserve.  She also recommended I eat a more substantial breakfast (as I usually run in the morning) before my run consisting of high-energy foods.  Her suggestion was a banana with some peanut butter wrapped in a tortilla.  But before I engaged in any long running, she insisted I take a few days off to rest, recover, and refuel.

I did everything she recommended.  I ate higher quality meals with carbs, protein, and plenty of veggies.  I hydrated more.  I rested.  Really rested.  Then, three days later, I ran and I ran well.  I killed my 13-mile long run.  Not only was I able to run the entire distance, but I did so at a pace that nearly surpassed my personal record.  Here is a sample day of employing this new fueling strategy:

Pre-Run: Banana PB Roll-up
1/2 banana with 1 tbsp peanut butter spread rolled in a tortilla.  Drink 1 serving pre-workout beverage.
Banana PB Roll-up

Breakfast/Post-Run: Pumpkin Protein Shake
Ingredients: 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1/3 cup vanilla greek yogurt, 1/3 cup pumpkin puree, 1/2 banana, 2 tbsp ground flaxseed, 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 5 ice cubes
Directions:  Blend all ingredients together until smooth.
Pumpkin Protein Shake
Lunch: Salmon with Chili Aioli  (recipe from Runner's World)
Ingredients: 3 tbsp mayo, 1 tsp jarred sriracha chili sauce, one 5-ounce can salmon, juice of 1/2 lemon, 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill, 1 minced garlic clove, salt to taste, 2 slices rye bread, 1 cup arugula, 1 slice tomato
Directions: Mix mayo and sriracha; set aside. Combine salmon, lemon juice, dill, garlic, and salt. Divide between 2 slices of rye; top each with arugula, tomato, and half the aioli.  Serve with 1/2 cup sweet potato fries.
Salmon with Chili Aioli on Rye
 Dinner: Honey Rosemary Chicken and Potatoes with side garden salad (recipe from recipe.com)
Ingredients: 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts, 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil, 1/2 lb baby Yukon Gold potatoes, 1 medium onion cut into thin wedges, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/8 cup honey, 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1 tbsp potato starch, 1/2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh rosemary, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper
Directions: Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over moderately high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes.  Place the potatoes, onion and garlic in a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker; top with chicken.  Stir together honey, juice, cornstarch, rosemary, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Pour over chicken. Cover and cook, 6 to 8 hours on low or 3 to 4 hours on high. Serve garnished with rosemary sprigs, if desired.
Honey Rosemary Chicken
 Snack: Popcorn, cottage cheese, or yogurt

There it is, a fairly obvious and effective solution to my muscular fatigue.  Eat better, eat more, and rest.  Now, I'm hoping that this new fueling strategy will carry me to another personal record at the DFW Monster Dash Half Marathon this Saturday.

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