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Nutrient Timing: Part 4 - The Other 24/7
Part 4: The Other 24/7
by Tom Jordan MS, RD
As much as I’ve highlighted the importance of timing the correct amount and type of nutrients to support optimal performance and recovery, our overall diet and lifestyle is going to be the primary indicators of how healthy we are—and subsequently how well we can manage to stay injury free, avoid burnout, and keep getting better.
Several times a week I’m asked “which is the best diet out there?” I cringe every time I hear this, because while there may be some merit to diets such as Paleo, Raw Food, Gluten-Free, Blood Type, (the list goes on)…. The major flaw in all of these is that they are generally short lived. People generally try a diet, continue it successfully until it gets old, then relapse right back into their previous behaviors.
Our body functions like an automobile. The higher the performance the engine the higher the octane of fuel is needed to function maximally. Food is fuel. Poor nutritional choices result in sluggish performance. Low grade fuel clogs fuel lines and carbons cylinders. Low grade food choices can clog arteries (fuel lines) and lower muscle performance.
Rather than focusing on tricks or tips such as “don’t eat anything white,” here are a few fundamental nutrition concepts to live by.
1) Focus on Lean Proteins – if you’re following the tips in parts 1-3 of this series, you may have noticed by now that we’ve been a little high on carbohydrates. This is correct, in that we want to get carbs when we’re most metabolically active, however to balance this out try to focus on lean proteins at every meal during the non-workout portion of your day. This is relatively easy for Lunch and Dinner (Chicken and Turkey without the skin, lean cuts of beef and pork, Fish, Seafood, etc.), breakfast is generally the key here. Try opting out of the standard carb load breakfast (bagel, cereal, oatmeal, etc) and try an egg white breakfast sandwich, or a veggie omelet, or even a protein smoothie. Higher protein intake in the morning has been shown to curb hunger later in the day—plus your recovering muscles have been fasting for 8-12 hours and are looking for some protein.
2) Get Fat – Healthy fat that is! Again, your pre-during-post workout routine is very low in fat, which can be very good for health, injury prevent, hormone balance, and recovery. Opt for healthy fats like walnuts and almonds, avocadoes, flax seed, chia seeds, olive oil, and walnut oil. On the flip side avoid inflammatory fats (from red meat and processed foods) as much as you can. While healthy fats have numerous health promoting effects, these “bad fats” not only cause inflammation, but clog our arteries and lead to cardiovascular disease—even for runners!
3) Color Up- The recommended number of fruits and veggies per day is 5-9 servings. In reality, people following the “S.A.D. Diet” (Standard American Diet) consume an average of less than 3. Now that’s pretty S.A.D.! 5-9 might sound like a daunting task, but consider a serving as ½ cup of cooked vegetables, or 1 cup of fresh fruit or veggies. While there are 28 essential vitamins and minerals that the human body needs, scientists have identified thousands of “phytochemicals” found in fruits and veggies that promote health and protect our cells. With a little bit of planning, 5-9 servings is definitely manageable. A veggie omelet in the morning, an apple as a snack, carrot sticks with lunch, blueberries with your walnuts in the afternoon, and some steamed broccoli at night… the servings add up fast!
In general, I recommend following an eating plan consisting of 25-30% Fat / 40-45% Carb / 25-30% Protein. Since we’re getting a good portion of our carbs before/during/after our workout, placing emphasis on lean proteins, healthy fats, and lots of non-starchy veggies during the rest of the day will be the perfect mix to your overall nutrient timing plan. As a side effect, you’ll probably also experience more energy, better moods, clearer thinking, and better overall health in addition to the improvements you’ll see to your running.
As always, I recommend working with a Registered Dietitian to help design a meal plan specific to your calorie needs, food preferences, and schedule—but these tips should be enough to get you started and making some easy sustainable changes to your regular nutrition plan.
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