“You are what you eat.” Nothing could be truer for us runners.
Food is the fuel that feeds the engine, but the right balance requires a deliberate approach to our choices. Everything we eat or drink has a direct impact on performance. I know, because I asked an expert.
Jayme Frost, 28, is a certified fitness instructor and personal trainer, and is certified as a specialist in fitness nutrition through the International Sports Sciences Association.
The Jacksonville resident and member of Anniston Runners Club ran her first 5K at the 2010 Woodstock event, but says she didn’t get serious about running until 2012.
Although the 5K distance is her favorite, Frost has competed in half marathons as well. She even set a goal to complete 14 in 2014, and is training for her first full marathon in December, the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville.
Frost works with people one-on-one to devise nutrition plans to meet their specific needs. I recently caught up with her after the Woodstock 5K earlier this month to get her input on runners’ nutritional needs.
FROST'S TOP 5 NUTRITION TIPS
- Hydration! Hydration! Hydration!: Drink deliberately. Fluids are an essential part of a runner’s performance plan. For training runs, especially in the hotter months, a hand-held water bottle is a plus when running longer distances. In most races, water stations are positioned throughout the course: one to two water stations for a 5K (3.1 miles), water stops every 1-2 miles for a marathon (26.2 miles).
- Meal timing: When training, eat five to six smaller meals throughout the day to keep up your metabolism. An hour before a short run, you should drink about 16 ounces of water and have a small meal of 200-300 calories, being sure to include carbs. A sports drink or an energy bar is a good option. About an hour before a long run, drink 16 ounces of a sports drink that contains carbs and electrolytes, and eat about 300-600 calories, again including a fair amount of carbs. A peanut butter sandwich or bagel should do the trick.
- Portion control: Portions should coincide with your current training plan: “If you’re training for a 5K, don’t eat like you’re training for a marathon,” said Frost. “You won’t burn all those calories and your waistline will expand.”
- Balanced meals: Aim for each meal to contain 55-60 percent carbs such as fruits, whole-grain breads, pasta and vegetables; 15-20 percent protein such as chicken, sirloin, tofu, nuts and seeds; and 15-20 percent good, unsaturated fats such as olive oil, walnuts and avocados.
- Supplements/electrolyte replacement: Yes, you can drink too much water! If you do, you will end up flushing your system of all the nutrients you have taken in. If you are going to be running more than an hour, consume some form of carbs every 15 to 20 minutes. Favorites for runners include energy gels, gummy chews, sports drinks, snack-sized candy bars and trail mix.
THE BIGGEST MISTAKE
All five of the above points are grounded in proven science and make sense. But what is the biggest nutrition mistake most runners make? Carbo-loading. According to Frost, most runners choose to overindulge at the meal before a big race.
“What they actually end up doing when using this method is flooding their body with more carbs than it knows what to do with, leaving them feeling bloated and possibly leading to more Porta-Potty stops,” she said. A balanced diet throughout the training process is a better plan.
Remember, the time to try something new, like supplements and sports drinks, is during your training runs, not on race day. Never try anything you have not already tested on or in your body on race day.