If you're training for the HBF Run for a Reason, getting your diet right will pay dividends.
According to accredited practising dietitian, sports dietitian and performance expert Julie Meek, the right type and amount of food fuels our bodies, improving our physical and mental functioning, which make it possible to perform at our best when in training for an event like the HBF Run.
"Carbohydrate, which is stored in our liver and muscles as glycogen, is the fuel our bodies use for vigorous types of activity and vigorous exercise causes the glycogen stores in our muscles to run low," she said.
"That's why eating carbohydrate-rich foods like bread, pasta, potato and fruit at each meal and - for athletes - particularly before and after training sessions, is critical to ensure a continuous supply of the right type of fuel."
It was also important to ensure that your protein needs were looked after. "Good sources of protein are lean meat, chicken and fish, legumes such as baked beans, dairy products, eggs and nuts," Ms Meek said.
"Iron, calcium and fluid are also important nutrients that will aid a good training schedule."
Eat regularly and be vigilant about consuming some carbohydrate and protein within 15 to 30 minutes of finishing a training session, said Ms Meek.
"Your recovery will be vastly improved," she said.
Before a big training session or the race, avoid takeaway or high-fat foods and spicy foods. Ms Meek said unfortunately runners might be twice as likely as other athletes to experience stomach problems. However, the cause of the problem was not so much running as dehydration.
"Sweat rates vary a lot but when sweat loss is not matched by fluid intake, dehydration will occur," she said.
Begin exercise sessions well hydrated and try to consume about 150-250ml of water every 15 minutes if exercising for less than an hour. For prolonged exercise sports drinks such as Gatorade were useful, she said.
HBF dietitian Kathryn Malley said to make sure you took in enough omega 3s for overall health and good body functioning.
"The best source is animal- based - oily fish, eggs, lean meat and chicken," she said. "Plant sources are less bioavailable but still nutritious - linseed, flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil."
Want a great recovery drink? "Skim milk powder is a perfectly acceptable alternative to more expensive protein supplements," Ms Malley said. "Make up your own smoothie using skim milk with extra skim milk powder, yoghurt and fresh berries."
HEALTHY FOOD SWAPS:
- Green tea instead of coffee.
- Small portions of dried fruit and nuts instead of energy bars.
- Fresh whole fruit instead of smoothies.
- Darker wholegrain, rye and soy and linseed breads instead of multigrain or white bread.
- Basmati rice instead of short-grain rice.
- Homemade muesli using rolled oats, bran flakes, dried fruit, chia and nuts instead of sugary cereals.
- Avocado, light cream cheese or hommus instead of butter.
- Sweet potato instead of white potato.
- Fresh herbs instead of salt.
BIG TRAINING SESSION?
Night before a big run? University of the Sunshine Coast nutrition and dietetics senior lecturer Fiona Pelly said eating a meal containing carbohydrate the night before a longer run could help with topping up muscle and liver glycogen (carbohydrate stores) and was of particular benefit if the runner had not been eating much carbohydrate in their lead-up.
"It's also important to taper training during this time," she said. "Carbohydrate loading, where there is a focus on carbohydrate with tapered training three days before the event, is really only needed for events over two hours duration."
You might be eating well but that does not have to mean you are denying yourself. Reward yourself after a big training session with a fat-free chocolate milk, said Ms Malley.
"It protects your muscles and for those with a sweet tooth, low-fat chocolate milk is high protein for muscle recovery and development," she said. "It's also high in calcium for bone health."
Low energy before your afternoon training session? "Grab four strawberry cream lollies for a quick fix or, for some lasting energy, go for a banana," Ms Meek said. "The same amount of carbohydrate, but the banana delivers the goods with a boost in fibre, potassium and vitamin C without all the added sugar."