19 October 2016

“You are what you eat”

We know that adage is true. So, if you are to be a runner, what should you eat?

Should you absolutely include proteins? If yes, are the vegans/ vegetarians at a disadvantage, right at the start line?

Should you compulsorily eat pasta the night before a race? What if you like rice more than pasta?

Should you give up that pre-race glass of wine? Does a post-race beer taste better because it is celebratory or does it help with hydration?

The questions are always many. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Healthy input = healthy race output: If you eat a balanced diet, 3-4 times a day, ensure your daily calorific diet requirement is met, that is half the battle won. The other battle is if you are tracking unhealthy fried snacks or desserts, and ensuring that you keep the treats as exactly that – treats! Eating them daily makes them meals, not treats. And this would help you perform better at your daily runs and at races, not to mention, be more energetic to handle everyday challenges, too!
  • Proteins, the building blocks of life: Running takes effort. It is high impact on the muscles, which need to repair themselves, to be able to perform optimally over time. Proteins are the key ingredients that help with this recovery process. So, meat-eaters have it easy, over here. Others are encouraged to eat high protein meals – soya, and legumes aside, also add protein supplements (there are vegan options, such as pea proteins now).
  • Carb-loading: the last big meal before a big race should be about loading up carbohydrates. 90 minutes into cardio efforts, your glycogen reserves (the thing that helps you maintain energy while running) from the carbs you have eaten starts to deplete. So, loading up on the fuel food, carbohydrates, which will help release glycogen is a good way to keep from bonking at an endurance event. Don’t like pasta? Rice or rotis are good too!
  • I run, so I can eat all this: The fallacy that many new runners (and some old ones too, for that matter) operate under is that since they burn it off, they can eat anything, in any quantity. The bad news: a lean physique isn’t necessarily a sign of a strong, fit body. You need to be mindful of what you feed yourself. You don’t take your brand new car to the dingy petrol bunk, do you? You prefer the ‘good’ petrol place to fuel up. Treating your body the same way, the occasional treat of street food or greasy food, or sinful desserts is fine, but watching what you eat is a smart practice, not an uncool one.

Go right ahead, then, give a thought or three to your fuelling up system. Eating right is critical to your performance as a runner, and as a strong human.

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