Eating Your Way to a Personal Best
RECIPE Chicken Stir-Fry
The California International Marathon takes place every year in early December, a perfect opportunity to get the most out of your sweaty summer miles, before the snow and ice in Atlantic Canada sends runners scrambling inside to their trainers and “dreadmills.”
Twelve of us f rom the Halifax Road Hammers team began the journey to California a few days before the marathon. Nutrition should always be one of the most important components of any marathon, from beginner to elite. Over the course of the trip, nutrition was the most important thing on my mind. While most of my teammates were making lists of running essentials like sneakers, and compression socks, I was dissecting United Airway’s list of foods allowed and not allowed on f lights. There were no race week nerves as I had my hands full making grocery store lists, and thinking about a menu to fit the likes, dislikes, and dietary restrictions of 12 hungry runners.
We arrived in California late Thursday evening, and while most were thinking about a nice warm bed, grocery shopping was the priority on my list of things to do. Every day, I would drag a lucky volunteer to the grocery store to help me pick out groceries for a set menu I had organized the week before. I would then get to cutting, washing, chopping and cooking with the help of my teammates. For each of our meals I focused on making carbohydrates the star, by preparing slightly less veggies and protein at each meal leading up to the race. Carbohydrates are found in grain products like pastas, potatoes and fruit. Carbohydrates are also found in smaller quantities in dairy products like milk and yogurt. If you think of your body as a car you want to put the best possible fuel in your car so you can get to where you are going in the fastest time possible. You wouldn’t put diesel in a gas car, just as you wouldn’t eat a double cheeseburger before going out for a training run. In this case, our best possible fuel isn’t supreme clean, it is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuel for running, as they are used more eff iciently, and take less time and energy to break down.
The marathon is a tricky race. It’s long enough to deplete our stores of glycogen in the body (the fancy term for stored carbohydrates). So we need to make sure we take in some carbohydrates on the run, as well as making sure our stores are full and ready to go on race day. We can make sure our stores are full on race day by carbohydrate loading. Carbohydrate loading three to four days out before a goal marathon is a great way to enhance performance, but mindlessly eating spaghetti every night for a week isn’t going to get you that big PB either.
LEFT The author in Sacramento, Calif., preparing a meal for her teammates