Fall is here, the leaves are changing, the weather is changing and most likely so is your training schedule. As runners, we tend to be very disciplined with our training schedules – starting with our base training, then kicking things up a notch with long runs and hill training, then tapering and finally, putting it all out there on race day.
So why do we so easily neglect putting that amount of attention to our nutrition, especially once the season is done? Having worked with hundreds of runners, I know many do not understand the impact nutrition has on our performance and recovery. Probably because our bodies are so resilient and continue to perform despite the nutritional abuse we put them through. So if you did not achieve all the PB’s you hoped for this past season, maybe you need to look at your nutritional “fitness” over the fall and winter. Why now, you may ask?
Firstly, for most of us our training schedules decrease over the fall and winter. We are not running as much or as hard. If you do not decrease your calorie intake accordingly you could find those extra pounds easily creeping on and not as easy to get rid of come spring. In addition, besides during intense training, fall and winter are when our immune systems tend to be most vulnerable and compromised. It is so important to be fueling our bodies with an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. The best sources of course being, primarily vegetables (and some fruit, but in limited amounts). Keeping on the theme of nutrition periodization, choose produce that is seasonal and ideally local to ensure you are getting the best nutritional density in your food.
So what would that include right now?
Pumpkin, green peas, turnips, beets are all good till late October and even December. However, these are all starchy vegetables so I would recommend you limit their intake based on your activity level and eat them either earlier in the day or immediately after a workout for best utilization by your body.
Non-starchy vegetables that you can truly indulge on:
Green and yellow beans
Onions and garlic
Grill, stir-fry, roast or eat raw. You definitely want a mix of cooked and raw vegetables as some nutrients are better digested and absorbed when cooked. For example cooking boosts the amount of lycopene in tomatoes, more carotenoids are absorbed when carrots are cooked and the calcium and magnesium found in leafy greens are also more readily absorbed if these vegetables are cooked.
When cooking vegetables, to preserve as many nutrients as possible cook them in small amounts of water and reuse the water for soups and sauces, avoid thawing frozen vegetables before cooking, cut produce into larger pieces to reduce the surface area exposed to heat and water and the lower the cooking temperature the better.
Another way to increase the absorption of nutrients is to combine certain foods together. Here are a few examples – vitamin C and iron, broccoli and tomatoes, endive and edamame. In addition, be creative and try and get as much colour and variety as possible to give yourself the greatest range of nutrients. Fruits that are seasonal this time of year include nectarines, watermelon, pears, cranberries, apples and grapes. Keep in mind that fruit, although extremely nutritious, is generally high in sugar so limit the amount that you have. I usually tell my clients to limit their fruit intake to a maximum of 3 servings per day.
My advice…..head into the fall with as strong a nutritional strategy as you do a training strategy and you will arrive at spring, ready to run like never before.
Have a nutrition question for Lauren? Email us!
About Lauren Jawno
Dynamic professional speaker, Lauren Jawno is the Author of Change4Good: The Ten Essentials for Food, Fitness and the Good Life. She is also a certified holistic nutritionist, fitness trainer and wellness coach. With nearly 15 years of professional experience, Lauren’s thriving practice provides a ‘whole life’ approach to wellness – based on relevant, cutting-edge research and information.