Training for a marathon, whether you’re an experienced runner or a beginner, is a big undertaking. Not only will you need to build up physical endurance in order to complete the race, you’ll also need to prepare to take a few mental and emotional hits. Diet is one of the many factors of your training that’s essential to success. Many runners make the mistake of eating too many fortified products, with protein shakes, energy bars, supplements and other processed and packaged foods. Yet, the best thing you can do for your body to prepare for the marathon is to eat whole foods with a healthy diet.
You may be worried about counting calories and temptations, but a whole-foods diet isn’t a difficult choice compared to the ill effects of consuming too many fortified foods. Here’s what you should be eating as you train for a marathon:
Consume seeds and seed-derived foods.
Seeds themselves are great on salads, pastas and wraps. Plus, they pack an amazing nutrient-rich punch in a small package.
Chia seeds, particularly, are a runner favorite. That’s because even one tablespoon helps you consume food more efficiently and gives you an energy boost as it’s a high source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Chia seeds are great in yogurt and as a tea.
Eat the peel.
You may have cut the crusts off of your bread and peeled every fruit and vegetable you came across as a child. Well, stop it. You’re not a child anymore, and many beneficial properties are inside of the skins that are edible. Don’t miss out and leave the skins intact.
For instance, did you know that an orange peel has twice as much vitamin C as the inside? The peel also contains properties that fight cancer and are anti-inflammatory. Cucumber peels contain most of the fruit’s vitamin K, which is important for bone health. Eggplant skin may look weird, but it contains chlorogenic acid, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to boost your lung and heart health.
Drop that peeler and eat the skins.
Eat five types of fruits and vegetables daily, that have various colors.
You may raise an eyebrow at some of the brightly-colored produce at the grocery store, but those colors have significant dietary meaning when it comes to health. Over 2,000 plant pigments exist, and not only are they appealing, but they also tip you off about what nutrients are present.
The red in tomatoes and watermelon indicate the presence of lycopene, which blocks the destructive properties of free radicals and impairs the growth of cancer in the body by stimulating the immune system. Red grapefruit has pantothenic acid, which transform proteins, carbohydrates and fats into energy that will aid your running.
You’ve likely heard about the benefits of eating dark leafy greens, which contain a wide variety of minerals, nutrients and phytochemicals. They can help reduce cardiovascular and diabetes risks. The vitamin K found within most dark leafy greens is intrinsic for production of osteocalcin, a protein that maintains bone health.
For middle-aged women, a study recently showed that those who consumed one or more servings of dark leafy greens per day had a 45 percent lower risk of having a hip fracture. Such facts are important for marathon trainees to keep in mind, too.
Don’t dismiss dairy.
Take your pick of a milk source: cow, goat or reindeer. Add in delicious cheeses, yogurt and kefir.
Dairy milk is a great source of protein, and yogurt and kefir help you maintain good gut bacteria, which assists you with digestion. However, milk derived from an animal origin has even more importance to the body than you may think.
The immune system is strengthened through the consumption of whey protein present in dairy. The stearic acid within milk is also considered to improve blood-cholesterol levels. Regular dairy intake even helps you reduce cardiovascular health risks and lose fat.
Eat meat and eggs only from grass-fed animals.
Your designated serving size of meat at each meal is about the size of a deck of cards. Maintaining that portion will ensure you get enough protein throughout the day. If you eat it all at once, you’re going to be too full to function.
When you’re looking for which meat to add to your diet, go for grass-fed varieties. For instance, grass-fed beef tends to have healthier fat content and more healthy Omega-3 than their grain-fed counterparts. Grass-fed animals also have less inflammatory Omega-6 fats but more antioxidants and vitamin K responsible for bone health and growth. With cows on a corn-fed diet, even ranchers notice a significant drop in the nutrients present within the meat.
Your body deserves the best natural source of nutrition it has access to, ensuring you will perform at your optimal level. Consuming grass-fed beef is a healthier option when compared to the unhealthy way that many animals are fed and treated — and it’s reflected in the nutritional value of the meat.
Eat more fish and seafood.
Much like grass-fed beef, fish tends to be high in healthy Omega-3 fats. You may think that fish is slimy and prefer a big juicy steak, but there are many benefits for runners to add it to their diets.
Tina Muir, elite runner for the Saucony Hurricanes, has five important reasons why athletes need to be eating fish regularly:
- Lung health is improved because fish oil assists with blood circulation, delivering oxygen at peak times.
- Joint health is assisted by the Omega-3 fatty acids, which ease stiffness and fight chemicals that attack cartilage.
- Muscle health and recovery after rigorous training may be eased by the fish oil that reduces the inflammation exercise can cause.
- Heart health is supported by consuming fish oil, and the Omega-3 fatty acids decrease cardiovascular risks.
- Unhealthy body fat is combatted by the fish oil and Omega-3 fatty acids, which help rewire your genes to break down carbohydrates and not store them as fat.
The take away from this is that Omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil are good for you. So, eat more fish to improve your health as a runner.
Training for a marathon is hard work, and your diet is as important as your exercise routine. When you push yourself, remember to eat a balanced diet with whole grains, grass-feed beef, fish and a variety of brightly-colored produce. Fortified foods can be convenient, but you can’t beat the benefits of the real thing.