Nutrition and Running - Yes, it Does Matter
Think of your body like a big mug for a moment. In that mug goes your commute, your job, your family dynamics, your friendships, your sleep patterns, your mental state, your exercise habits, and of course, all of the stress that goes along with these things. The final thing that gets tossed into the mug are your eating habits. Now, all of the positive things help to reduce the total amount of stuff in the mug, and the negative ones take up more space and push things closer to the top. If we have too many negative things and not enough positive ones, it’s easy to see that the mug can start to overflow. It’s often in this state that we experience injury, overtraining, or deteriorating mental health.
Some of these things are hard to control. Being stuck in traffic or having a stressful commute isn’t something you can do much about. Neither is a strict work deadline that forces you to work overtime. However, we can control things like sleep and nutrition. While at TRP we don’t encourage any type of specific diet (you have to do what works for you, same as running ;) ), we do promote choosing whole foods as well as eating a variety of foods and not cutting out a particular food group unless you truly need to and have worked with an appropriate practitioner. We believe in a sustainable, low-rules way of eating that supports your body in doing what it needs, is enjoyable, and feels good.
In general, anyone who is training for longer distances absolutely needs to be eating more quality food to supplement the excessive calories that are burned during running as well as support recovery and immune function. Concepts like “teaching your body to be fat adapted” are still relatively unproven and may potentially even decrease performance except for in a handful of cases (like folks training for VERY long distances such as ultra-marathons or runs spanning several days (1, 2). If you eat plant-based or vegan, you also need to be sure that you are getting enough protein and trace minerals to prevent against things like stress fracture. Further, if you’re on medication, it’s important to recognize if there is an effect of this on your body’s ability to recoup from training stress. Again - unless you have a medical condition preventing you from eating something, more variety in your diet is what we recommend. And if you do have a restriction - we’d definitely suggest consulting with a professional to be sure you can fill your cup with what you need, regardless of your running goals.
Sometimes, we’ll be working with a client who just doesn’t seem to be getting better, or is experiencing recurring injuries that trigger our physio Spidey Senses that something is a little “off”. This is a flag for us to consider referring to a nutritionist, or at least to have a chat about the other life things and stressors that are going into their Body Mug. Remember - the mug can only hold so much! With this in mind, it’s no surprise that we tend to see higher numbers of injuries during stressful life times, like this study that showed dancers were more likely to have leg injuries during periods of higher life stress. Wild, right?
Knowing all of this, what can you do? Well, first and foremost, it’s very important to recognize that we can only do so much at once. If you’re feeling tired, depleted, and generally low, you might want to take a look at creating a bit more space in your life and decreasing your cup overflow a little. Secondly, be sure you are eating enough and choosing good quality foods. It’s important to have some snacks throughout the day to keep your blood sugar stable and your immune system supported. To give you some ideas, we consulted with our friend Jessica Dalliday from The Healthy Sweet Potato to see what her favourite post-run protein snack recipe is. Thanks Jess for sharing your delicious Dark Chocolate Protein Balls recipe with us - we can’t wait to try these out!
Dark Chocolate Protein Balls by The Healthy Sweet Potato
1 cup pitted Medjool dates (the fresher the better)
1 scoop (~1/4 cup) of chocolate protein powder (I used Sunwarrior warrior blend)
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup hemp heart seeds (optional)
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder (can use regular cocoa powder)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup coconut oil
Almond milk as needed
In a large food processor, pulse the almonds until they are ground, almost like a flour but not until they are a paste.
Add all other ingredients except almond milk and process on high for 30s-1 minute.
Taste and adjust salt if needed. If they’re too dry add almond milk, 1 tbsp at a time. If too wet add a bit more cocoa powder or protein powder and pulse for 10 more seconds.
Scoop mixture out of the food processor into a large bowl. Wet hands and roll mixture into 10-12 balls.
Store protein balls in air-tight container in the refrigerator or freezer for 1 month.
Original recipe by Jessica Dalliday can be found on her blog here.
Did you give these a try? We’d love to see! Give us an Insta shout out to @the_running_physio and @thehealthysweetpotato.