Marathon Monday: Just EAT It

Well, you don’t have to tell me twice.

One of the many highlights of my weekend in Oregon was listening to a sport nutritionist give us advice over an amaaaaaazing post-run brunch of granola with yogurt and fresh berries and strawberry sauce, a spinach and raspberry salad, mini mushroom and pesto quiches, and some sort of heavenly apple-cinnamon-pancake-muffin-thingy.

I’m sorry, what were we talking about again? I’m suddenly very distracted… and hungry.

Oh, sports nutrition. Yes.

Sport Nutritionist Emily Edison met us for a few minutes to answer our questions about fueling pre, post and during runs. She also offer up some tips of her own. Her basic tenents were, aptly enough, summed up by the acronym “EAT”:

E: Enjoy the foods you eat. Eating the fresh foods you love provides high quality fuel for workouts.

A: Always travel with snacks. Familiar foods help athletes feel confident in their fueling plan.

T: Time your foods to fuel your performance. Eat a meal 2-3 hours prior to a workout. Refuel immediately with carbs and protein.

Naturally, as the girl who packs snacks when she goes to babysit just in case the house is out of peanut butter or granola bars (the horror!), I could relate to “always travel with snacks.” But the part of “familiar foods” helping athletes feel comfortable was a little weird to me.

Emily expanded on that point by telling a story about an athlete she worked with who kept a food diary and always ate some of his mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies before a race. Emily was a little mystified and asked for more explanation, and the athlete told her that before his races in high school, his mom would bake him cookies and tell him that they were going to help him run his faster. A ha! Lightbulb moment. In this case, a familiar routine and maybe a bit of a placebo effect were necessary to helping this athlete fuel his body before a major race, even though he may have been better off nutritionally with other options. Emily told us that to this day, the athlete’s mom bakes cookies and sends them to wherever he’s racing so that he can have his special pre-race meal. Whatever works!

For me personally, I know I feel at my best on race day after a breakfast of coffee, oatmeal with all the fixings and a green smoothie, but I’m still figuring out my own routine. If you’re like me you may have some of the same questions:

  • What should I eat post-run? I’m still experimenting with post-run fuel. It’s so hard to avoid just loading up on pizza and a well-deserved beer!
  • What I should eat during the race? I’m already dreading this phase of marathon training a little.
  • How close to my workout should I pre-fuel? For me, it’s usually almost immediately before or, at most, about an hour and a half. I get hungry a lot, okay?

The bottom line is that what works for one runner won’t necessarily work for another, but with a few guidelines in place, you have free reign to experiment and find what works best for your body.

Do you guys also pack snacks wherever you go? How far in advance of a workout do you eat?

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About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.