Following on from Fuel Rules Part 1, now we look at foods balance. Exercise affects the immune system, temporarily reducing many of the cells which help the immune response and creating short term inflammation. Such immune system stress can lead to reduced performance and injury.
You could reduce your risk, stay injury-free and enjoy peak performance by following rules 4 to 8 of our 11 fuel rules for runners could help.
RULE 4: Don’t ignore main meals: If time is short before you run, split your meal and have half before your workout and half after. The key to a great workout is having enough energy to see you through. Balance your food intake throughout the day and be sure to eat before exercising.
RULE 5: Carbohydrates (carbs): One way to reduce immune stress is to ensure keep up your carb intake. Start each run well-fuelled, refuel during exercise if you are training or racing for more than an hour and make sure you provide your body with proper recovery nutrition afterwards.
Think quality carbs to give you fuel for your workouts and nourish spent muscles afterwards. It’s all about fruit, vegetables, whole grain bread or pasta and potatoes rather than their processed alternatives. These carbs are the backbone of the runners’ diet.
RULE 6: Protein: Proteins provide the amino acids needed to build and repair muscles, reduce muscle soreness and enhance recovery. Mix them with your quality carbs by having yogurt with trail mix, cereal with milk, or pasta with meat sauce.
RULE 7: Healthy fats: Fat fills your stomach, but fails to fuel muscles with glycogen. If you eat too much fat, you can displace the carbs needed for optimal glycogen replacement and end up with ‘dead legs’.
Yet, if you eat too little fat, you’ll fail to replenish fat stores in the muscles that can impact on endurance performance. Runners can perform better with (healthy) dietary fat, as long as they eat enough carbs. Avocados, olives and olive oil, nuts (almonds, macadamia, cashews), fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel) are all good sources of healthy fats.
RULE 8: Eat the right proportions: Get the balance right by making carbs 55-65 per cent of your diet; unsaturated fats 20-35% and lean protein 10-35%.
For quick meals with good balance, have a look at Cook Italian’s “25 minute meals” suggestions!