THE LONG RUN: Advice for all the miles yet to come
By Kirstin Sandreuter
Hello again! I hope you've had a solid week of training, fueling, and goal-setting for the season ahead. To follow Nutrition Nugget 1: Don't Run on Empty, which I hope encouraged you to eat often throughout the day, this segment is all about what you should eat... no strict rules and confusing calculations to be found.
Nutrition Nugget 2: Understand that all foods fit
It is all too common for young runners, and people in general, to label foods as "good" versus "bad," or "healthy" versus "unhealthy." In keeping with cultural diet trends, the media often groups "superfoods" like kale, acai berries and coconut oil as "good," while frowning upon "bad" foods like (gluten-filled!) baked goods, pizza and burgers.
The truth is, it's much more complex than that. Overall diet patterns and long-term lifestyle choices can collectively amass to being healthy or unhealthy, but individual foods are not so black and white. Individual foods contain nutrients, tastes and flavors that serve different purposes at different times in our lives, and, excluding cases of diagnosed allergies, are not inherently healthy or unhealthy for us.
Think of it this way: a massive kale salad for lunch on the day of a track workout probably wouldn't feel too good, would it? While the leafy greens might provide several vitamins your body needs, the fiber load would likely have you overcome with gas and cramping on the run. A PB & J sandwich on white bread, however, might just do the trick, providing enough protein and fat to keep you satiated, plus plenty of easily digestible carbohydrates to fuel your workout and keep your stomach happy. Although you might think of the salad as the "healthy" choice at first, this example illustrates a situation where foods often thought of as "unhealthy," like white bread, might serve your body better. It's all about context, and overall balance. Eating a variety of foods from all food groups helps ensure you get the nutrients you need, without overthinking your diet.
Sticking to the "good food/bad food" mentality also tends to get in the way of enjoying food. More than just nourishing our bodies, food can and should nourish our souls! The mental, emotional and social benefits of sharing meals with friends and family are truly important to help you feel your best. Enjoying an ice cream outing with your teammates after practice, relaxing at Thanksgiving dinner with your cousins, or trying out a new dessert recipe do wonders to decrease your stress levels and allow you to enjoy life. And de-stressed athletes tend to run fast!
Your 2-word take-away for this post is:
I have one last bit of fueling advice coming up soon in Nutrition Nugget 3: TRUST YOUR BODY.
Once again, run with joy and stay warm this week!
Kirstin is an athlete turned assistant coach for Greely High School. She studied Nutrition & Dietetics at Cornell University, where she was a member of the varsity track and cross-country teams. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.