Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Coach Jenny
Even if you generally eat well, taking a closer look at your diet may lead to performance gains.
I’m looking to qualify for the Boston Marathon and I need to shed 15 minutes from my time. I feel confident in my training approach, but I wondered if you have any strategies to dial in my nutrition. I eat well overall, but I’m not sure I’m getting in the right foods. How do I take my nutrition plan to the next level? Thank you. —Tom
You’re on the right track, Tom. I’ve seen runners shatter their personal best times by simply dialing in what they eat. Like training, it’s more than just following a standard, generalized program.
As you train, you begin to identify how your body reacts to various workouts and plans, which allows you to calibrate your training according to what works for you. The same is true for nutrition. What works for one runner may not be the best for another. For instance, I coach one runner who is very low in iron and another that runs too high in iron. If they both followed the general recommendation to eat more iron-rich foods, it would help one and might hurt the other.
The key is to take steps towards identifying the foods that nourish your body and begin to develop your personal nutrition plan. Here are three ways to personalize your nutrition to improve your running performance.
Take inventory. It’s easier than ever to track what you eat. Many use apps like MyFitnessPal and logs like Training Peaks to take inventory of what they eat to gain a big picture on all the nutritional variables including fat, carbohydrate, and protein percentages; frequency and portions; and sugar and fiber. Setting yourself up with an account and investing a month in tracking everything you eat allows you to view your nutritional performance just like your runs, and seeing is understanding. You’ll be able to determine what tweaks you can make to improve, whether that’s eating more to fuel performance and recovery, getting in enough protein, or cutting out added sugars.
Hire a personal nutritionist. Like working with a personal trainer, meeting with a sports nutritionist can improve your performance because you’ll get a plan based on the demands of your training and life schedule. The nutritionist builds a nutritional program that supports your body so it can recover optimally and maintain a healthy weight. One of the most common mistakes runners make is under-fueling, especially when they are trying to lose weight during the season. Getting personal guidance helps you avoid the many pitfalls of tweaking your diet and risking poor recovery and performance.
Consider visiting your doctor. If you’ve taken steps toward improving your diet and you’re not feeling or performing better, you may have a deficiency. A standard blood panel can indicate whether you’re low in iron, calcium, or other key nutrients. A nutritionist can help you rectify these problems.
Whether you’re trying to make performance gains, or attain more energy and vigor in life, it all boils down to the old adage that we are what we eat. When you focus in on improving and customizing your nutrition, greatness happens.
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You can ask Coach Jenny a running question on the Ask Coach Jenny Facebook Page or email your question here. Follow her on Twitter @coachjenny.