The Nitty Gritties–Food

As I’m plodding my way through my training for my sixth marathon I thought I’d do a mini series on some bits and bobs (“the nitty gritty”) to do with my training that might either be interesting (who knows!) or helpful to other people. Obviously I’m no expert and this is only my experience, which isn’t huge, and everyone is an individual. What works for me might not work for you, but you might find something that helps! I have a few other topics in mind but if people find this a) boring or b) have a request, please let me know Smile

First topic surrounds one of my favourite things (other than running): FOOD. When it comes to food and marathon training I think it can get over-complicated and confused. To be quite honest, if you’re a regular runner or do regular exercise then really not a huge amount needs to change straight off the bat. You don’t suddenly need to be eating pizza every night and gulping down a protein shake to get through the day.

Ideally as you gradually increase the miles each week then you should also gradually increase your calories/fuel as well. This is especially true if you’re trying to lose weight (I’m not, don’t worry!). Just because you added an extra few miles onto your usual run at the weekend doesn’t mean it’s time for a second lunch. That being said, as the miles do get substantially bigger and you suddenly find the day after a long run you are rungry ALL THE TIME then sensible snacking can help immensely.

Protein

As you probably know I’m a huge fan of protein. Personally I think a snack that’s high in protein is fantastic because not only is it quite satiating but it’s also great to help towards muscle repair. Running takes a lot out of the body and protein can really help build back up the muscles.

  • Cottage cheese – this might sound a bit odd but cottage cheese is a fantastic, tasty snack. It’s high in protein and low in fat and sugar. It’s a good source of calcium and selenium (a good antioxidant). Have it plain or add in some berries and some seeds and suddenly you have quite a well-rounded snack with protein, carbs and fat. I take a little Tupperware box with me to work and eat it like a yogurt in the afternoon.
  • Nuts – pistachio nuts are a regular snack for me at work. I prefer them to other nuts as they’re a bit harder to eat as you have to de-shell them. This means I’m less likely to mindlessly power through a bag of them. Nuts are high in calories but they’re a fantastic source of protein and ‘healthy’ fats. If you have more self-control than I do, other nuts are also just as good.   IMG_8275
  • Meat jerky/biltong – OK not exactly a ‘normal’ runner’s snack but I love these. Just make sure you get good quality that’s not full of sugar and strange chemicals. It’s super high in protein, while low in carbs and fats.IMG_8276
  • Icelandic-style yogurts – they taste just like normal yogurt though they’re a lot thicker. They’re low in fat and sugars but really high in protein (something like 11g per 100g) and contain all the good probiotic magic too. There are flavoured ones too but they’re usually full of sugar so I’d recommend just throwing in whole fruit instead.

Fat

Fat, like protein, is very satiating and shouldn’t be feared. It’s an important source of nutrition for our body, helping contribute to healthy hair, skin and nails and also hormonal function and reducing inflammation. Just avoid trans fats as they’re the nasties that can mess around with your system.

  • Hummus – pair with some vegetable crudités or some wholemeal crackers and you’re good to go. A great source of fat from the chickpeas and olive oil.
  • Avocados – the star of Instagram posts all over the world, mash onto a rice cracker (preferably a wholegrain one to bump up the fibre and satiety factor). It’s a great source of potassium (more than bananas!) and monounsaturated fat.
  • Nut butters – again, spread on rice crackers, toast or eat by the spoonful. Fairly calorific so a good choice if you’re in a rush and need to get in some nutrients fast. Personally I’m not a fan of nut butters. It’s alright but I don’t get the craze for it…
  • Cheese – avoid processed rubbish (though I’m always partial to Babybells as they’re in such handy little packages). Try and get some good quality cheese that will be more tasty, more nutrient rich and just generally better for you. Cube up some feta and throw in some cherry tomatoes or olives and that’s quite a nutritious and filling snack.

Carbs

Carbs are a necessary requirement for running. When training for a marathon, a low carb diet is probably not the best approach unless your body is really used to this way of exercising. Your body needs fuel and carbs are the easiest and simplest fuel for your body to use. You do want your body to tap into your fat reserves as well but within reason.

I’d avoid crisps purely because they’re not that filling and they’re likely to spike your sugar levels and leave you wanting more. Aim for low GI (more complex) carbs that will digest slowly and leave you feeling full and satisfied.

  • Fruit (banana is obviously a great choice here but obviously I’m going to say apples are the best).  
  • Vegetables, such as carrots. I don’t need to convince you veg is good for you.
  • Pretzels – a nice salty snack that’s more filling than crisps and really moreish.
  • Popcorn – a great snack as long as you avoid the sugary ones. A great source of fibre as well which is key for a good working gut and digestive system.
  • Toast – a slice of wholemeal toast can be exactly what the body needs. Add some jam and have before a run and you’ve got a great source of fast and slow releasing energy. Or peanut butter for a more sustaining snack.

Little bits of what you fancy…

Life is too short to not enjoy food! Have that slice of cake or bar of chocolate, just don’t have it every day “because I’m training”. I will always have a naughty snack/cheat meal/whatever the hell you want to call it at the weekend because though my body might not need it, my mind and soul does.IMG_6459

My ethos is that I generally try and save a big treat until the weekend so I can fully enjoy it rather than some shop-bought cakes or biscuits someone from work has that I eat because I’m bored. I want to go out to a nice restaurant and eat a nice meal with people I enjoy being around. I make it into something that can be fully immersed into and enjoyed. Like afternoon tea or enjoying some home-baked cake from my friend.

If you’re feeling tired and worn out, generally it can be one of two things: you’re not getting enough quality sleep or you’re not eating enough. Your body needs fuel and recovery. Sleep and food are two very simple easy ways to make running easier (IN THEORY – busy mums all over the world don’t shoot me!). If you’re not looking to gain weight, eat as much as you possibly can to maintain your weight with your training. Don’t skimp on calories, dive into those bad boys. And if you start gaining weight? Drop it your calories down a bit. Better to gain a little weight in the process of good running than burn out because you’re not eating enough. I’m not saying to suddenly count your calories and become obsessed over it, but just be mindful of what you’re putting in to get the best out.

Just my personal thoughts!

What are your favourite snacks?

Do you lose weight or gain weight when training for a marathon?

Do you graze through the day or stick to bigger meals?

19 thoughts on “The Nitty Gritties–Food

  1. “I want to go out to a nice restaurant and eat a nice meal with people I enjoy being around” basically read: “I want to go out to Coast to Coast and eat ALL the ribs with people I enjoy being around” haha!

    Some great tips here, though I did try cottage cheese with strawberries once and found it horrid so choose now to pair it with savoury food like avocado and salmon! My favourite snack is chopped apple and 1/2 banana with a drizzle of pb and a square of melted dark chocolate! I have it for dessert most nights because it seems so indulgent but as long as you stick to a small helping of pb and just the one square of dark choc it’s actually pretty healthy!
    xxx
    April recently posted…Ryde 10 Mile Race!My Profile

  2. Love this list girl!
    Man on days when I lift really hard [like leg day] I literally feel like I eat alllll day long. Im just constantly shoving food into my mouth, but not really full meals. Its more so like my tummy just starts grumbling every 2 hours so I grab something quick to shut it up. I’d probably be better off eating something larger like a real meal, but snacking throughout the day works for me!
    Kat recently posted…Fudge Truffles [Vegan & Paleo]My Profile

      • We would like to know about the sunburn. what If got really very bad sunburn and very dark red? will that be problem with skin and possibly 2nd degree of burn from sunburn really bad ones? and also if put tanning lotion too much on anywhere body can cause very dark red very bad sunburn at least 10 minutes between 30 minutes?Thank you

  3. Such sensible advice here. When I first started running I really thought I might faint on a run as so much info was about keeping energy levels up. Just eat real food 🙂
    I don’t get the real runger until 13 miles so am OK right now!
    Maria recently posted…Company on a long runMy Profile

  4. I have to do the exact same thing with nuts! Pistachios for work, else I get mindless and before you know it, my cashews are all gone. Sad times. Also, chive cottage cheese is probably one of my favourite “special” things. So good! I am a nut butter fan, but can’t get the avocado thing at all. It’s totally passed me by. Suddenly a load of people at work have decided to go vegan (no idea why, and a totally alien concept to me!), and they’re all “avo on toast is ah-maze-ing”. Nope. I don’t get it.

    I’m a three round meals (and maybe a snack sometimes) kind of person.
    Steph recently posted…Weigh in Wednesday 10: Danger ZonesMy Profile

    • I like avocado in a salad but I’m not crazy for it on it’s own. It’s a little bland (guacamole however is a different story!)
      I fully respect people who go vegan for animal welfare and environmental reasons but I personally couldn’t do it. I love meat and dairy far too much. It’s a selfish choice I realise but it’s just how I want to live! For health reasons though I don’t understand it…
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…The most sensible route to takeMy Profile

  5. I’ve never really thought about cottage cheese before, and haven’t had it since my Uni days. I might have to add a pot to my Tesco shop this afternoon now that you’ve mentioned it!
    I can’t say I’ve ever had avocado on a rice cracker though!
    I’m a big fan of beans on toast post/pre run (and obviously my chocolate milk! 😉 ) I think I read somewhere once that beans on toast has the right amounts of protein/carbs to refuel, and it’s a relatively small meal that my stomach won’t struggle with. I have real issues eating large meals after a run.
    Snack wise, I’m still loving nakd bars or the homemade equivalent at the moment.
    Mary recently posted…All my spare time has been spent sleepingMy Profile

    • I prefer cottage cheese to yoghurt because of the texture – it’s just a bit more interesting!
      I used to eat beans on toast all the time at uni and when growing up. I’m now sick of it. I’m actually not a big beans fan in general and if I have a fry-up I’ll usually ask for tomatoes instead. But they are very good for you, like you say!
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…The most sensible route to takeMy Profile

  6. My post long-run meal is always rice bread (toasted crisp) with butter, avocado and fried egg. Cottage cheese is great with gherkins chopped into it. In the afternoon when everyone else in the office is eating chocolate, I eat chunks of Jarlsberg 🙂
    MrsB @ Mind over Matter recently posted…Learning to swimMy Profile

  7. This was a really interesting read – I’ve yet to try Icelandic yogurts but I keep seeing them on blogs and Instagram and I’m curious! I didn’t lose as much weight as I hoped to / would have liked to when marathon training – even thought I was conscious not to it is so easy to fall into the trap of eating more (both the good stuff and the less good stuff) because you feel like you deserve to… I’m lighter now than this time last year and I think that’s because I’ve barely been running and so I’ve been aware of not gaining weight while not training as much – kinda ironic given that this time last year I was so much fitter! x
    LilyLipstick recently posted…Working It: Cocoon At GymboxMy Profile

    • I think our bodies are very smart. As soon as you up into marathon training with big mileage your body holds on to weight and increases appetite so you reduce the likelihood of losing valuable weight that would help you run strong. I always find if I take a break from running I lose weight. It’s bizarre! Very few people actually lose weight marathon training (unless they’re really overweight).
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…The most sensible route to takeMy Profile

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