Have you ever thought of your body as your vehicle that will transport you through life? Have you heard of the statement "garbage in, garbage out"? Just like our motorized vehicles that we drive every day, our bodies need quality fuel to ensure quality performance. In the past 20-30 years the health of our nation has severely declined and chronic disease is at epidemic levels. As runners and athletes we are not protected from illness just because we exercise. What we eat and nourish our bodies with is extremely important not only for our overall health and wellbeing but also the enhancement of our running activities.
Whether you are a recreational runner or very active in the sport, everyone needs the proper fuel. You will also find that if you are consistent in eating healthy that your body will thrive. Eating healthy right before a race or right after a race is fantastic, but what counts even more is all the days prior when you are putting in your training miles. You need the right fuel to keep your energy levels up, to build muscle strength and endurance and to help your body recover from exercise.
Running can also be very stressful on our nervous system and by eating foods that support a healthy nervous system you can naturally assist in protecting your body and aid in recovery. Going back to the car analogy, our central nervous system is our engine and when not taken care off will break down. We can also have muscle breakdown and fatigue and that would be similar to our car running out of gas.
The million dollar question is, "What is the proper fuel?" There are so many points of view on what runners should or should not be eating before a run, during a run and after a run. Because we are all individuals with individual needs it makes it even more difficult to come up with the perfect formula. Another factor is that our bodies change from day to day, month to month and year to year. Men and women also have different needs due to hormonal differences. There is no one eating program that will meet everyone's individual needs.
There are so many opinions when it comes to what is the proper ratio of carbohydrates, proteins and fats to enhance performance. It is a science so there will always be new ideas, studies and programs available. The best place to start if you are just beginning the journey of eating healthier and paying attention to promoting better health through food is with the basics. Getting back to eating whole real fresh foods, eating smaller portions, eating when you are hungry and eating the same foods often.
Every morsel of food we put into our body sends a message to our cells and to our nervous system. When we eat high quality meals with high quality ingredients we are feeding our bodies what they need and in turn we will be rewarded with high quality performance.
We have become a society of convenience when it comes to our food sources and most of the time those food sources are not offering us quality ingredients. As a society we eat out often, we are not preparing fresh home cooked meals and it is now well documented that after years of eating processed, fast and convenient type foods our physical and emotional health will suffer.
To enhance performance, meeting with a trained professional in Sports Nutrition is a great option if you feel that you need that type of support. If you are just starting to change your eating habits and your lifestyle and want to enhance your running or any exercise experience, then here are a few of my suggestions. They are easy to follow, you can start them right away and they will help you achieve better health in all areas of your life.
1. Cook at home using fresh ingredients. The more real food you eat the better you will feel and the more energy you will have. Your body recognizes those foods and will digest them properly. Our immune system and our nervous system depend on a healthy digestive system. They are all connected and only by eating real food can you achieve the proper balance.
2. Eat the same healthy foods daily. Our bodies prefer consistency in our food choices. We have become a society of more is better but our bodies do not feel that way. Our bodies like boring; it is our minds that want variety.
3. Educate yourself on where your food is coming from, how it is grown, what chemicals are added to packaged foods and about the health effects. Knowledge is power when it comes to our health and it is our personal responsibility to educate ourselves.
4. When looking at food labels if you see an ingredient that you do not recognize then it is likely that your body will not recognize it either. Smartphones come in handy for looking up ingredients right on the spot. Watch out for extra sugars that are hidden in the labeling. Anything that ends in OSE is sugar and the only sugar we should be consuming is from natural sources.
5. Buyer beware! The food industry knows how to manipulate our emotions with words like fat free, sugar free, and gluten free. NOTHING is FREE, this is where knowledge is power. Chances are if you are eating a processed food from a package or can and it is FREE of certain ingredients there will be other ingredients added to the mix that might be harmful in other ways to our bodies.
6. Journal your nutrition. Pay attention to the signals your body will give you. Headaches, allergies, skin irritations, chronic pain are just a few ways your body is telling you something is wrong. There is nothing wrong with seeking medical advice, but at the same time if you are paying attention to the foods you are eating then you might just see a pattern and will have more information to solve the problem.
7. Eating for your specific needs. Now that we are aware of food sensitives and allergies, some of which can cause us severe consequences, we need to be prepared with the right foods at all times. If you are going to races, then you will need to provide yourself with your own snacks to fuel your body. I know many people who cannot eat gluten so they cannot eat packaged bars. Also, may people are dairy free and cannot enjoy chocolate milk at a race. There are alternatives out there and this is where getting some guided help can be important. If you think that you need to find alternatives from the usual foods you see at races then there is nothing wrong in getting some help. Fueling your body with food that will irritate your stomach will not help you reach your goals or the finish line.
8. Running and exercising is not a free ride to eat whatever you want. It won't protect you from illness and if you are on a weight loss journey it is not the only source for taking the weight off. In the beginning you will see weight loss because you are adding in an activity that you weren't doing before, but don't be fooled; what you eat plays a huge role in the continued loss as well as the quality of your training. When it comes to illness have you ever heard the term skinny fat? There are many people who appear to be very lean and healthy on the outside but their insides tell a different story. The best way to protect the inside is by practicing a healthy lifestyle.
Never underestimate the power of what is on your plate. Your health is the one area of your life you have complete control over. Your genetics are what you are born with but how you live your life and how you take care of your body can determine the quality of the life you live.
**Leslie is a certified health and wellness coach with a private practice here in Myrtle Beach. Leslie works with busy professionals who want to change their lifestyle through a holistic approach. She assists her clients with weight loss, food cravings, managing stress and increasing energy. With over 25 years in the health and wellness industry, Leslie brings her own life experience along with her practical experience to help her clients achieve and maintain a healthy balanced lifestyle.
Leslie is a graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and she is also accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. She most recently included into her business a healthy meal service program so she can provide fresh and healthy meals to busy professionals who don't have the time to cook at home. Leslie took up running a few years ago and completed her first full marathon this past February. She is now hooked and finally considers herself a "runner."
You can contact Leslie for a complimentary wellness strategy session through her website www.thebewellcoach.com.