Challenge To Change: fuel your body

By Bobby DeMuro

Over the past several weeks, we've challenged you to choose a road race to train for, start the jogging and running process of training for it, and even to add some strength training components to the training regimen.

Well, there's more to training for a 5k (or any run!) than just the physical aspect - and a big portion of a solid regimen involves smart, beneficial nutrition to fuel your body.

A healthy nutrition plan during training must emphasize fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It must also include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans and nuts for energy and weight maintenance. All people (but especially athletes!) must keep a diet low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars. With athletes specifically, we are concerned with making sure they fuel their bodies for the demands of a sport

Before a Workout

What you choose to eat before a race will vary from athlete to athlete, as everyone has unique food preferences and habits, but there are a few things to keep in mind concerning optimal nutrition.

The pre-exercise meal should be predominantly carbohydrate, as it will be easy to digest and ready quickly to be converted to sustained energy within your body. Simple foods like toast, granola bars, English muffins, a banana or crackers are good meals before training.

It's also important to allow adequate time for digestion; typically, allow 3-4 hours for a large meal to digest, 2-3 hours for a smaller meal, 1-2 hours for a meal shake, and less than an hour for a small snack - but tweak that to your own tolerance. 

After a Workout

First and foremost, rehydration must be a top priority. Unfortunately, many runners don't replace enough fluid after a race, which hampers recovery and muscle growth throughout the body.

Ideally, the aim is to replace all the fluid lost on a run, though that is sometimes difficult to do. A flavored sports drink can occasionally be a health option after a workout, including ones that contain a small amount of sodium, which will help retain fluid and aid the rehydration process.

Regarding food, the most important goal is to consume a high carbohydrate meal within 30 minutes of the workout. Eating a source of protein within this high carbohydrate snack will also help muscle recovery and maintain long-term energy levels. Some great foods to consume for a post-workout recovery include chocolate milk, fruit smoothies, sports bars, and trail mix - good sources of carbohydrates and nutrients.

Just like anything else regarding nutrition, it's important to plan ahead for your training meals - both pre- and post-workout. Creating a sustainable eating strategy will make training runs and workouts much easier, and help you sustain energy levels to be at your best every day.

Just like gasoline is fuel for your car, food is fuel for your body when training for an event, and it's critical to be sure to effectively and smartly fuel yourself to run, walk, and train at your best!

About the author:Bobby DeMuro is the Founder of No Fizz America, a non-profit dedicated to health and fitness. He is also the founder FusionSouth, a sports conditioning firm. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook .

You can listen to Bobby on his weekly radio show on Radio Exiles.

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