Is there a perfect race weight? Can you maintain muscle mass and be a distance runner? Will being stronger make you a better runner?
These are all questions that have been coming up more and more lately, which is why you’ve seen more about them! I reached out once again for answers to a phenomenal coach – Elizabeth at Inpny Coaching for tips because I’ve seen her athletes and they define Get lean, Get Fast and Stay Strong.
As a lifelong competitive athlete and in more recent years nutrition coach, I've seen my share of runners struggling with proper fueling.
Most of my clients come to me with a three-part request “I want to lose x-amount weight, I want to PR and I want XYZ (more energy/better sleep/less injuries). ”
Each of these is doable but only if you train smart and create a very balanced eating plan. As much as we'd all love it, there is no magic bullet, no headline grabbing diet and no easy path to success.
I'm going to remind you of some of the dangers of not eating enough, warning signs to look out for that your body is suffering and then offer 7 valuable tips for getting on the fast track... pun intended!
Racing Weight or Underfueled?
I've never been to a race where you have to step on a scale before you are allowed to start– your results are based on your time and no one factors in your weight when determining that number. While it's true that a 'leaner' athlete can run faster, it's a fine line between lean and thin. If you're not eating enough, your body will suffer in the long run.
Some real and very serious consequences of restricting calories when training for endurance events include:
- reduced cardiac output
- low energy
- muscle breakdown
- nutrient deficiencies
- a weakened immune system
- hormonal imbalances
- lowered bone density
What you eat can make the difference between performing at your best or sitting on the sidelines. Tired, sore muscles and stuck in a training plateau? – I call this the new normal. In our quest to get tougher, suffer more and be warrior athletes, we tend to ignore the red flags that something isn't right.
Telltale signs that you're not fueling correctly include:
- Your body isn't recovering from workouts
- You're constantly getting sick
- You aren't sleeping through the night
- Your performance isn't improving despite increased training
- You've lost the motivation to work out.
Fueling For Performance: The Fast Track 7
Food Journal – Take one week to write down everything you eat, how you feel and how that influenced your training. Many athletes don't realize the direct correlation between food and performance and often have no idea what they are actually consuming.
Being aware is the first step towards making positive changes. After that week, make a plan that gives your body everything it needs (or have a nutritionist help you) and then stop obsessing.
Read more >> How to make food journaling really work
Know Your Numbers – While I don't encourage people to count calories you should know about how many you need to eat during the day and make sure you're getting enough. I recommend focusing on macro/micro nutrients – fat, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.
Read more >> Understanding your calorie burn and needs
Choose Wisely – Whole, real, unprocessed foods should be the building blocks and foundation of your diet. You'd never buy cheap running shoes; why put fake, low cost food into your body? Nutrient rich vegetables, grains, fruits and fats are an essential part of your training plan. Runners need vitamins and minerals – make food choices that provide you with ample amounts of iron, magnesium, folate, Omega 3's and Vitamins D,A,C and E.
Limit Sports Products – While they can be big a convenience, they aren't always the right choice. Gels, blocks, bars and sugary caffeine-heavy hydration beverages not only get in the way of your weight goals but they also do a number on your gut. There is a time and place for these products but a 45 minute run isn't it.
Eat correctly throughout the day and your body will have enough energy to get through that workout. If you are training longer, try making your own snacks with nut butter, dried fruit and salted sweet potato chunks. Look for sports products made from whole food ingredients and include them only when your training calls for it.
Read more >> How to fuel training with whole foods
Fuel Smart – The most important meal of the day is...all of them.It's true, but especially so for the meal you have directly after your workout.
Plan your healthiest eating around your training runs and workouts. After you've exercised, your body is in a weakened state and needs all the help it can get to repair and rebuild. If you want that PR this is the best gift you can give your body.
Read more >> 17 protein packed post workout green smoothies
Skipping Is For suckers – No one wins when you skip meals! You are setting yourself up for overeating later, impairing your bodies ability to recover and rebuild muscle, raising cortisol levels and disrupting your hormonal system. Make sure you eat on a regular basis throughout the day.
Role Model – I find it incredibly valuable to have a sports/nutrition role model. Look at other athletes that are leaders in their field (professional or amateur) who are performing at their best, not promoting crazy diets and achieving that fueling balance.
Mine is Meredith Kessler – a professional triathlete and all around incredible woman. Her body is a vehicle for performance and she trains harder than any human being I've ever met.
Meredith maintains that healthy, strong and fast body by eating enough of all the right foods. She doesn't diet, she doesn't cut calories and she doesn't obsess over a number on the scale. Not eating correctly will fail to make you leaner and sabotage your training by leaving your muscles under-fueled for maximum performance.
The key to achieving your goal of getting lean while running fast is about finding a balance between training and nutrition. I hope this has helped raise awareness on the importance of food in nailing your running goals.
Sacrificing performance for weight loss? Sports Nutritionist @INPYN shows how to do both on @runtothefinish
MEET COACH ELIZABETH
Hi Run To The Finish readers– when Amanda contacted me about writing a post around fueling for performance I jumped at the chance, having been a loyal reader for years. Recently, I started my own blog (can anyone say 'late to the party') and I couldn't think of a better way to reach thousands of runners and fitness enthusiasts and share something I'm so passionate about.
Elizabeth Inpyn is a Sports Nutritionist, former NCAA collegiate swimmer and water polo player and multiple 70.3 and Olympic distance triathlete. She works with endurance athletes, triathlon/run clubs and coaches to dial in training and race day nutrition plans from pros to amateurs.
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