Half Marathon Nutrition & Recovery Plan

Here it is!

The post that I have been jabbering away about has finally arrived!

I need to preface this with the (obvious) disclaimer that I am not a dietitian or personal trainer! It would be preeeetty darn impressive for a girl to have gotten a four-year bachelor’s degree PLUS a master’s by seventeen, no?

nerd

As much as I would like to say I started university at age twelve, I believe I have to graduate from high school first. Which sort of requires the RESULTS FROM MY DIPLOMA EXAMS !

I’m sorry. Can you tell I’m a little worked up about still not knowing?

Anyway, moving on, moving on. Yet another thing I’ve been talking about nonstop is how necessary it is for me to prevent injuries during this training season. I am working towards two very different races, and will be spending a ton of time on my feet. It would be extremely easy to overtrain without even noticing it, and then BAM, there go my knees.

So I’ve been making plan after plan after plan to stay healthy, and here’s what I have ultimately come up with:

 NUTRITION:

Goal #1: Eat a LOT. Clearly there is more to it than this, but this is the starting point. Base mileage starting at 20+ miles per week = necessary extra fuel. Now, I’m sure this comes as no surprise. I do have a few tricks up my sleeve, however, to ensure that I eat a lot of good, quality nutrients and not chocolate and sugar. Because I have been known to do that recently (oops).

oats Bottomless bowl of oatmeal with chia seeds, an egg, pumpkin, banana, blueberries and almond butter. 

  • 3 meals & 3 snacks: Although my trip to the dietition last summer was largely unhelpful, this little tidbit was a good one. As long as I am eating three balanced meals and three balanced snacks, counting calories is unnecessary. Now, what does “balanced” mean, you ask? There is more to it than just the three macronutrients, although those are key. It’s important to also take into account micronutrients such as iron and potassium. There are of course other important things, like fibre, calcium and sodium, but I naturally gravitate towards high-fibre foods such as apples and carrots,

carrots

and my love of greek yogurt and lattes never fails to aid my calcium consumption. Basically, my plan of action is to ensure that each meal contains a relatively balanced (we aren’t going all IIYFM crazy over here) amount of HEALTHY carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, along with some iron and potassium. Each snack needs to have some protein and ideally some whole grains/healthy carbs, but I’m not obsessing. If I’m dying for an apple the size of a child’s head or, conversely, an ice cream cone the size of my head, that will be what occurs. The main plan is simply three meals and three snacks, balanced 80% of the time. 

  • Pre-workout + post-workout snacks PLUS a meal. Now, I’m not saying I am going to have my three meals, three snacks AND two snacks around my workouts/runs. What I am saying, however, is that a meal does not get to double as my post-workout nutrition. I am extremely guilty of eating breakfast, doing a hard workout, eating lunch and then wondering why I’m starving the rest of the day. I’m not even hungry when I eat lunch right after a tough run, but I do it anyway because I know how important post-workout nutrition is. HOWEVER, it makes way more sense to drink a smoothie or glass of milk immediately after I finish exercising, and then enjoy my meal when I am actually hungry.

sandwich

Goal #2: Maximize performance. Now, like I’ve said, I do not have an overly ambitious goal for this half marathon. Mainly, I want to finish. Knowing myself, though, that was a given the moment I signed up and the moment I cross the start line. Giving up is not an option for me. Ideally, though, that finish time will be under two hours. Again, not overly ambitious. I can do a comfortable 10k at around an 8:30 pace, and I just need to keep my pace under 9 minute miles to finish sub-2. I do want to ensure that the foods I’m eating help me get the most out of my training, though.

  • Pre-workout nutrition: As I said above, this is going to be essential. I’m going to aim to do my long runs at 7am, since that is when the race is, and before runs up to 6 miles I plan to eat a banana ~30 minutes before running. Once I go longer, I am going to try out two options:

a) Increase my snack so that I have a good mix of carbs + proteins (banana + nut butter, toast + nut butter, fruit + yogurt, etc.)

b) Wake up at ~5:30 and eat a small breakfast: apple + nut butter and a glass of 1% milk (this is what I have been eating one hour before track practice!

latteSometimes I bribe myself to go to practice with a latte before getting on the bus.

  • Post-workout nutrition: I’m thinking a smoothie is my best bet here. I can throw a banana, nut butter, chia seeds, and some milk into a blender and call it good for a while. Easy on the stomach but full of nutrients. Like I said, I’ve been forcing myself to eat right after runs – aka chewing solid food is not very appetizing to me immediately after exercising. I also don’t love the idea of sugar-filled chocolate milk. Then, whenever I get hungry, I will eat a balanced meal in accordance with the above!
  • Track practice: This one is a little different since everything has to be portable. One hour before track I like to have a huge apple, some nut butter and 1 cup of 1% milk in the form of two american mistos. Easy peasy. It’s the snack after running that has been posing a challenge. I’ve tried everything from almonds + raisins to a frozen smoothie (fail) to bars, both homemade and prepackaged. Since eating right after running is pretty unappetizing to me, my favourites have been homemade bars and my Cookie Dough Bites. Amanda’s Protein Granola Bars have been a saving grace as well!

energybites2

Goal #3: STAY HEALTHY. This is really goal #1 but it’s down here for organization’s sake. Do not mess with my anal retentiveness. Preventing injuries will remain a priority and I will be doing this BY… (drumroll please.)

  • Fifteen minutes of foam rolling + stretching after EVERY RUN. Yep. Even those little easy peasy 3 mile runs on the ‘mill get the red-carpet treatment. I always notice WAY reduced soreness when I do this after a run, so even if it means waking up at an ungodly hour, this needs to happen on the regular.
  • Icing after long runs. I know for a fact that this helps my knees, and so plan to do this at least once a week after my weekend long runs. I’m thinking it will be about 15 minutes.
  • Proper warmup + cooldown. I should be shot. I NEVER do this. EVER. I literally go from a standstill to sprinting at 9+mph, and running so fast I’m about to fall off the treadmill to laying on the ground. It’s beyond bad and something I really need to work on. I always get in the mindset of: I’m tired and don’t feel like running extra. But in reality, spending 5-10 minutes progressively increasing/decreasing speed at the beginning and end of a run, progressively, will pay off in gold.
  • Regular strength training. I have a minimum of 2 full-body circuit training sessions per week, but ideally I will get three. They won’t be intense, hour-long cardio-filled ones. They will very likely be 20-30 minute circuits done with our 10lb dumbbells in my bedroom. Since I will be running so much, I want them to be relatively low-intensity but help me to build necessary strength and stability!

heads shoulders knees and toesI love this one because you can modify it according to how hard you want to work out. 

WOW was this ever a novel. I did promise a detailed post, though, and didn’t want to leave anything out! A post saying “Eat a lot and stretch” would have been remarkably unhelpful and, in my opinion, useless. So I really hope that you found this interesting and valuable!

#1 tip to stay healthy during training? 

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3 thoughts on “Half Marathon Nutrition & Recovery Plan

  1. Its so good that you are thinking the nutrition aspect through so thoroughly..and so important. I needed to read this 4 years ago! Better late than never right!? My apetite tends to dissapear as well after intense exercise..I have it stamped in my memory – long riding lessons followed by no fuel because I didn’t feel like it.
    Arrgh yes!..Can I shoot you? Standstill to sprinting sounds terrible. And then laying down!?! Good grief 😉
    As long as you make sure to rest your body when it needs it I’m sure you’ll be good to go 🙂

  2. Pingback: Where the (Running) Magic Happens

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