Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Things I never thought I'd eat

As an athlete, fueling for optimal performance is important.  Over the years, I've heard a lot of runners say that they can eat anything, "if the furnace is hot enough it will burn anything," their diet is horrible, etc.  Sometimes I wonder if these statements are actually true or if they are just humble brags, but either way I am not one of those people!  Although I eat large quantities (my co-workers say "marathon portions"), if I start eating a lot of nutrient-poor foods I feel bad, my training and sleep suffer, and I can also gain weight from sugar indulgences, regardless of how much mileage I'm running.  Huge portions of lean proteins, whole grains, veggies, and fruits are far different than huge portions of cake, ice cream, and cookies!

I pay attention to what I eat and how it makes me feel.  I've also been paying more attention to what elites eat, and what I can take in to improve my performance and recovery.  I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, complex carbs, and quality protein, but I hope I would do that even as a non-runner.  However, there are some foods that I know I never would have tried if I didn't run:

Gels - For me, there isn't anything wonderful about slurping down the sickeningly sweet gooeyness of a gel during a long or hard workout or race.  The gross factor is multiplied when it's hot outside and by certain gel flavors (chocolate for one!).  But, they are a must for me during marathons, and therefore also a must to practice during marathon training.  Although there are other ways to manage taking in needed calories on the run, I don't like any that involve chewing, and I also don't like depending on the mix of sports drink that race volunteers have put together (it may be sugary thick or super watered down), so gels are my best option unless I can ever graduate to having elite bottles at aid stations.  I've learned to embrace gels, although I will never love them!

Jello - Did you know that gelatin is fantastic for tendon health?  Neither did I, until I strained my peroneal tendon and missed 7 weeks of training in early 2016.  J-E-L-L-O is now something I make about once weekly.  Who knew those jello shots in college were actually helping my running!

Bone broth - Even the name of this sounds disgusting, but I learned about it from Sarah Robinson's post here.  I decided to give it a whirl, and now use some of it in crock pot recipes in place of some of all of the water I would otherwise have put in, and I don't even notice it (I do not sip it like some runners!).  You can make your own, but I, like Sarah, have purchased mine, because I don't cook anything that results in animal bones left over.  Maybe after Thanksgiving!

re:immune - An IV bag worth of goodness in a single drink?  I would have never known this existed or that it could be used following long hard efforts to replenish if I weren't a runner, as all of this knowledge came from my training partner Missy.  I first tried it when I was sick before the Prairie Fire Marathon, and it perked me up so well then I had some right after the Prairie Fire Marathon.  My recovery from the marathon was excellent, and although a lot of variables contribute to that (negative splitting also being a big one), the re:immune couldn't have hurt!

Anything immediately after a workout - Food is the last thing I want right after running, especially after running hard or in the heat, but I now make it a priority to get something in within 30-45 minutes after finishing every single run.  Usually it's a glass of almond milk or a protein shake (admittedly sometimes it's coffee with a hefty dose of almond milk), but fruit goes well too.  I generally eat a real meal when I get hungry, at most 90-120 minutes after finishing, but I've learned that I can really maximize recovery and refueling by getting something in sooner.

Fish and poultry - I've been a vegetarian for more of my life than not, separated by stints of eating some white meats for various reasons (e.g., my parents made me, I thought it would be easier when Jon and I got married, etc.).  Meat is something I can take or leave, so it was easy to not eat it, plus I never had any problems finding and preparing vegetarian meals.  I decided to return to eating fish after learning more about its health benefits, and the more I read about including meat for muscle rebuilding, the more I decided to give it a go this marathon cycle.  I ate all types of fish, as well as some chicken, and turkey.  I feel amazing, but since so many variables contribute it's impossible to know if this is one of them.  However, I'm not taking any chances so plan to continue eating fish and poultry!

Tumeric, in supplement form - I love tumeric as a spice in Indian food, but I also take it as a supplement daily to reduce inflammation.  Does it help?  See statement in previous paragraph about impossible to know but not taking chances!


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