What you eat is key to staying strong while you train, says Jodi Thirtyacre, captain of the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon and 5K teams.
“When I’m training, I’m really not very strict about diet. I don’t have a lot of time to cook special meals and I’ve got a family,” says Thirtyacre. “I’m not going to make myself something different when I barely have time to feed them!”
The main change she makes to her diet, Thirtyacre says, is to eat more vegetables and less red meat. “I’m not a vegetarian, and who doesn’t like an occasional big juicy piece of steak? But I find meat, especially beef, very difficult to digest. I like to feel light, not heavy, and if I eat red meat I’ll feel it the next day.”
So when training, I stick to fish or chicken, and eat mostly vegetarian lunches. You don’t have to love vegetables, just work them in as best you can. Soups are a great way to sneak in vegetables. Bean soups, noodle soups, I make a lot of both. Nuts and legumes are great sources of protein to replace meat.
Before a training run, I’m careful not to slow myself down. I never eat eggs and go for a run, or a turkey sandwich before a run — you’re going to feel it. If I’m running after work, lunch will be soup or a salad, something that won’t drag me down. Luckily where I work in San Francisco there are a lot of healthy eateries, so it’s quite easy to eat light even when you’re just grabbing a fast lunch.
Carbs and sugar are my biggest issue. I love carbs , which is a blessing as well as a curse! I try to cut out as much sugar as I can. I like to feel lean and sometimes sugar alters your state a little bit when you’re running. But sugar does have its place; sometimes you need that boost when your energy is flagging.
During the seven to eight weeks before the race, though, I do try to cut out processed sugar in order to keep my blood sugar more balanced. Fruit is sugar, so that’s the sugar that I eat.