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Story added: 18th February 2020
In the first of this monthly series, Andrea Carroll Langan – a sports nutritionist and Run Norwich participant – shares a few tips on embracing simple dietary strategies to support your body (and mind!) as you start to think about training.
As a lucky runner or runner to be, you’ve clinched that spot on the start line at this year’s Run Norwich, and – perhaps – you’re planning to get started on the training over the next month or so…
To enjoy the fullest benefit of running both in terms of fun and ease, it’s handy to contemplate not only the outer mechanics but also our internal nutritional requirements.
With January, and all its links to cutting things out, now a distant memory (phew!), let’s chat about the dietary tweaks you can make and some options that can be added in to promote an underlying foundation of health. These can then be built upon as we progress towards the run date. Small positive changes can make a big difference to wellbeing and ultimately running performance, so if something below resonates and it’s doable for you, why not start to factor it in like you might do run sessions in a new training plan?
Running is an impressive feat for your body – all 206 bones, 360 joints, ligaments and blood vessels working together in harmony. When you’re ready to go and start building up fitness, it’s likely your nutritional requirements may increase. Avoid wasting precious energy and nutrients detoxing from too many processed foods. Instead, build on the feel good factor as you tally up the athletic achievements and enjoy healthy staples which pack a nutrient punch, rather than empty calories.
Aim to base the majority of diet on whole foods that don’t require a lengthy food label such as fish, chicken, pulses, wholegrains, natural yoghurt and vegetables. If time is short, a slow cooker for winter stews or soups is a great investment as are freezer pots for bulk cooking. Perhaps jot down which foods seem to benefit energy levels to personalise the approach.
Complex carbohydrates will help fuel your running (or even a long afternoon at work!) by providing a slow release of glucose into the blood stream which promotes a steady stream of energy. In contrast refined carbs like white bread can send blood sugar levels soaring with a subsequent dip that might be badly timed and leave you feeling depleted of vitality and low in motivation. Making a few simple swaps like white bread for wholegrain or white rice for brown rice/quinoa could be a realistic, achievable first step for some of you.
Wholegrains e.g. brown rice or oats, sweet potatoes, fruits and vegetables can be a useful part of a pre-exercise meal eaten at least 2 hours in advance. You could then grab a banana as a top up fuel perhaps 45 minutes before you get started. The key here is to tweak your individual preferences and goals in the early days. You’ll then know how to support your digestion and energy levels when you’re ready for a bit more running.
It’s easy to overlook hydration when life is busy, but many people actually start a working day dehydrated – even in these colder months. Being even slightly dehydrated can leave you feeling sluggish and more lethargic. Adequate hydration is important for supporting so many processes including cognitive function e.g. concentration and decision making (including: “to run or not to run!?”).
Starting the day with a large glass of water, then including a fruit and/or vegetable, which contain high levels of natural fluid with breakfast, is effective and simple. Fluids should be consumed periodically throughout the day, mainly from water, herbal teas, or very diluted fruit juice. Daily fluid requirements are very individual and vary depending on age, gender, and level of physical activity. Monitor your urine – have a peek down and check! If it looks pale yellow like straw from our beautiful fields nearby, that’s all good. If it looks like apple juice it’s time to drink up.
I’ll be back with more on running hydration later in the year, but for now aim for optimal fluid levels. Any positive enhancements you can make now will hopefully have bedded in and become good habits by the time training ramps up in the hotter months.
Name: Andrea Carroll Langan (MSc mBANT CNHC reg)
Occupation: Sports nutritionist specialising in optimising health and/ or performance primarily through workshops in schools, clubs and the community.
Run Norwich experience: 2015 and 2017
Find out more: www.healthembrace.co.uk
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