Switch to high­oc­tane fuel

Runner's World (UK) - - Running Wisdom -

We run­ners have a rather strange re­la­tion­ship with food. We run our­selves rav­en­ous, but how can you re­fuel to en­hance, rather than undo, your good work? We hear ‘ex­perts’ ex­tolling the virtues of eat­ing like a cave­man, ab­stain­ing from sugar, eat­ing more fat, eat­ing less fat, go­ing raw, cook­ing slow and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. What to do?

Emily Brown, a di­eti­tian at the Mayo Clinic in the US and for­mer elite run­ner, says it would be bet­ter if run­ners looked at the per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing qual­i­ties a food brings to the ta­ble rather than how it can hurt them. ‘I try to ad­dress nutri­tion from the stand­point of the pos­i­tive in­flu­ence it can have on health and per­for­mance, ver­sus fo­cus­ing on the neg­a­tive,’ she says. ‘An op­ti­mal diet can ben­e­fit an ath­lete by in­creas­ing en­ergy for train­ing and en­hanc­ing re­cov­ery.’

One way to get bet­ter fuel is by pack­ing your own snacks, says Brown. Healthy snacks that pro­vide quick en­ergy in­clude whole­wheat crack­ers with nut but­ter, dried fruit and seeds, and fruit smooth­ies. Min­i­mal pro­cess­ing is good, be­cause the ad­di­tives found in many com­mer­cially pro­duced foods can neg­a­tively im­pact your per­for­mance. And be aware that sim­ple sug­ars in­crease the pro­duc­tion of cor­ti­sol, a hor­mone that can in­hibit re­cov­ery if it’s con­stantly flow­ing through the blood­stream.

That doesn’t make all pro­cessed foods bad, says Brown. Con­sider ce­real. ‘Some are low in sugar and for­ti­fied with nu­tri­ents such as B vi­ta­mins, iron and zinc.’

Try to in­crease the amount of fresh, nat­u­ral food you con­sume. Then en­joy your in­dul­gences guilt-free.

CHANGE THIS In­crease your in­take of healthy, nu­tri­ent-rich foods to im­prove your per­for­mance.

WHY Food is more than sim­ply calo­ries to burn for en­ergy. Real foods con­tain nu­tri­ents that can im­prove car­dio­vas­cu­lar health, speed re­cov­ery, pro­tect you from dis­ease, pro­vide more con­sis­tent en­ergy and re­sult in pro­longed pe­ri­ods of bet­ter health (which will, in turn, im­prove your run­ning).

THE CHAL­LENGE Pro­cessed foods are con­ve­nient, in­ex­pen­sive and well mar­keted. Run­ners may feel their reg­u­lar ac­tiv­ity writes them a nu­tri­tional blank cheque. It re­ally doesn’t.

THE RISK Health-wise, none, al­though pay­ing more at­ten­tion to nutri­tion re­quires time and fo­cus.

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