A Perfect Meal for Runners
Alexi Pappas' Sandcastle Analogy
We're starting from a place that's unexpected in most running nutrition guides.
Long-distance runner, influencer, and filmmaker, Alexi Pappas likens her view on running nutrition to building a sandcastle. Of course, the castle walls are the essential fortifying elements, but what makes a sandcastle more durable and more beautiful is the unique touches and patterns you add to it. Alexi adds chocolate, seaweed, and home-made bread to her diet to fill in the spaces.
Her message is simple and positive: each person is unique, and their diet should be, on some level, unique too. Alexi recommends "thick walls" of nutrition (staples) with lots of added variety to strengthen the body for a run. "This variety of micronutrients," she says, "creates a strong foundation," and thicker, less frail walls. Cravings are a sign that you might be denying your body what it needs.
Be Open to Diversity
Before we recommend the perfect meal, we want to encourage you not to be tied down to one eating plan. From blood type to differences in DNA, we're all unique beings with different nutritional requirements. Like Alexi, some may prefer a hearty broth with home-made bread, while others gravitate towards oatmeal with decorative fruit. In other words, by all means, steer away from processed meat and junk food, but don't be tied down to a restricted diet that, in the end, causes an imbalance, jitters, or cravings in other vital areas.
With this in mind, let's move to a more general nutrition-based performance tip: The Pre- and Post- Workout Fuel.
Protein and Carbs
Before the race, your nutritional needs tend to be centered on two significant elements: protein and carbohydrates (of the fast-absorbing kind.) This means veering away from excessive fat and fiber. Even avocado, nut-butters, legumes, and beans are heavy-going for the digestive system just before a run. We want the body to be ready for action, not still digesting things.
For this, it's best to stick to a protein-filled diet of scrambled eggs and vegetables like spinach and tomatoes. Mushrooms are a great addition as they don't contain too much fiber. Something like broccoli, on the other hand, is too fiber-rich. There's no harm in adding a little salt and pepper for flavoring, but when frying, avoid using too much oil.
Fruits, especially bananas, are super-fast absorbing carbohydrates, so a side of half a banana will get into your system in time for the race.
As for bread, avoid the high-fiber variety just before runs. An excellent home-made sour-dough is perfect for this purpose.
Timing is essential too. You'll eat your pre-workout meal about 2 or 3 hours before the race. This allows the meal to digest, so it'll be ready to give you energy for the run.
Smoothies are an excellent way to refuel after the race. Grab your blender and add a cup of coconut water, greek yogurt, and sliced mango. Raspberries are also an option for antioxidant richness and flavor, although any berries, from blackberries to strawberries, are fantastic alternatives. You can get your healthy fats replenished in the form of chia seeds. Soak these before you blend everything.
The reason for this smoothie's efficacy is easy to understand. Coconut water is full of electrolytes, yogurt is full of protein, and mango is one of the most healing fruits around, helping to mend damaged muscles while modulating glucose intake. Other recipes accomplish the same thing involving rolled oats and fruit. Explore these options before your next big run.
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