Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Fuelling up for long runs & endurance activity

Today I've got another guest blog. This time from my friend @monicashaw from the smarterfitter blog who has been inspiring me with delicious recipes for over 4 years. Former neighbours in Stoke Newington, she is now based down in Wiltshire as a freelance writer "specializing in science, technology, food and fitness." So an ideal contributor to this blog, particularly as any of you in training for London or Paris marathons should be appropriately fuelling up for your killer 20 - 22 miler in the next few weeks. I owe Monica a lot - she encouraged me both to start blogging and to get swimming lessons, both of which provide me a lot of happiness. Anyway, over to Monica. Please stop by and check smarterfitter in more depth if you like what you see here!

Beyond Bagels: Fueling Up for the Long Run

If you're training for the London or Paris marathons, then you're already well-acquainted with "the long run", that blissful time of the week (usually Saturday or Sunday) when you give up hours of your life to put in those crucial miles that are fundamental to finishing the race. And with marathon day fast approaching (in just over a month? crikey!), those long runs are only getting longer, and more challenging, with each passing week. But you can make those runs a whole lot easier by making sure you feed your body good prior to putting in the miles.

What should I eat the day before a long run?

We've all heard of "carbo-loading" before a big workout, but this doesn't mean eating a massive plate of pasta for breakfast lunch and dinner. Here are a few basic guidelines:

The two days before your long run (and marathon):

  • Aim for at least 65% of calories from carbs
  • Stick to carbs with a low glycemic index (GI) - these are processed more slowly by your digestive system and will make a handy source of fuel during the run
  • Avoid gas-forming foods - do I have to explain why?
  • Stick to low fiber foods - high fiber foods absorb water in your gut and swell, not ideal for a long run
  • Go easy on fatty foods that are hard to digest, such as peanut butter or anything fried
  • Drink lots of water and avoid the booze!
  • Stick to familiar foods that you know will agree with your tummy

Timing is everything - avoid eating solid foods at least three hours before a run. This article in Runner's World offers a few good ideas for people who run at various times of the day:


Food Ideas That Won't Make You Cringe

Here are my favourite low-GI carbs to fuel up on:

  • Root veg - Carrots, yams, sweet potatoes
  • Whole grains - Pearl barley, rye, wheat, brown rice, bulgar
  • Whole grain products - bread, pasta, cereal, pizza bases, pita bread
  • Legumes - lentils, peas, soy beans, kidney beans, chickpeas
  • Fruit - bananas, apples, pears, grapes, apricots, peaches, plums and grapefruit
  • Vegetables - Broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, green beans, lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini

Meal Ideas

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of articles recommending bagels and energy bars as ideal running foods. Bagels have their place and all (usually under a thick layer of cream cheese), but it's not exactly the kind of thing to get you excited about food. Life is short. Runs are long. Here are a few meal ideas to make both a little better:

For breakfast:

Oats (jumbo oats or steel-cut) cooked with pear and topped with toasted pecans (or any other fruit / nut combo)

Bircher muesli with low-fat yogurt and banana

Eggs on wholemeal toast with avocado, roasted tomatoes and steamed spinach

Boiled egg with wholemeal toast soldiers and fresh fruit

Buckwheat crepes (vegan or not) with fruit and low fat yogurt or cottage cheese

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/37996594610@N01/3512548232

For lunch or dinner:

Baked butternut squash stuffed with puy lentils

Jacket sweet potato topped with veggie chili or ratatouille

Ploughman's lunch with wholemeal bread, a bit of cheese, lots of veggies, pickles and apple

Hummus with wholegrain pita bread, tabbouleh and veggies

Veggie-loaded pizza on a wholemeal pizza base (go easy on the cheese, or skip altogether!)

Do you believe in healthy pizza?

Everything salad of veggies tossed with whole grains, lentils, toasted seeds and a good vinaigrette

Lentil & quinoa salad with basil and lemon

Minestrone soup with good crusty bread

Any combination of lentils + grains + greens (i.e. puy lentils cooked in stock served with boiled brown rice and sauteed kale)

Indian dal with basmati rice (a staple in my household) - photos

Sweet potato and black bean chili - photos

Roasted root vegetable salad with butternut squash, beets, carrots and parsnips

Veggies stuffed with veggies and grains - try roasted red peppers stuffed with smoky chickpeas or stuffed tomatoes

Farinata - a chickpea pancake you can use as a pizza base

Red beans and rice - a creole classic, great with steamed greens like kale or chard


Great stuff from Monica, I'm sure you'll agree. What are you favourite pre-run meals? Please add in the comments section and link to any recipes if you can recommend.

1 comment:

Monica Shaw said...

Stu, thanks so much for the opportunity to guest post - I am truly honored!

One of my food suggestions was a jacket sweet potato topped with veggie chili. It just so happens that my blogger friend Jes just posted a fantastic and easy recipe for such a dish. Your readers should check it out: Black and White Chili.

Happy eating and good luck training!

- Monica, SmarterFitter.com