Welcome to my plate! As a dedicated runner, outdoor enthusiast and cross-training advocate, eating for performance is as crucial to my training as putting in the miles. The kitchen is my playground, and my background in holistic and culinary nutrition inspires and informs me. I love finding innovative ways to integrate seasonal ingredients and nutrition research into meals custom-tailored to meet my training goals. “On the Athlete’s Plate” will give you a candid look at what I put on my plate, as an athlete and nutritionist.
Fast becoming one of Vancouver’s iconic road races, the Lululemon SeaWheeze Half Marathon attracts runners from all over the globe. It’s no mystery why, as this race is filled with the best of Vancouver’s Seawall, innovative cheer stations (think mermaids, yogis and stand-up paddlers), iconic race swag, and motivating pace “beavers” (pace runners). This will be my third SeaWheeze, and 15th half marathon.
I have been training hard for the past 12 weeks to break my 1 hour 40 minute previous personal best time in the half marathon. Heat and humidity is always a challenge for summer races, and August in Vancouver is no exception. My day-before-the-race nutrition plan has become essential to performing well on the big day. Remember, being proactive to include specific foods and fluids as part of your training preparation can go a long way in fueling your personal best. If your race isn’t this weekend I recommend trying out your pre-race day meals the day before a longer training run.
Here’s a look onto my plate, and how I fuel the day before racing a half marathon:
I start the day with 2 pieces of sprouted grain toast, spread with a generous amount of coconut oil for complex carbohydrates and sustained energy from fat. I pair this with a blended smoothie, rich in whole food sources of iron (1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons goji berries, 2 tablespoons hemp seeds and a ¼ cup of cooked quinoa), with vitamin C for enhanced absorption (fresh squeezed orange juice), and half a frozen banana. Being a female athlete and vegetarian, I am at risk for an iron deficiency. Iron plays a crucial role in the formation of hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying component of red blood cells. This is what supports circulation, and especially carrying oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the cells, tissues and organs in the body.
A theme throughout the day is hydration. I will drink at least 2 liters of water through the day, and like to add fresh pressed juices, electrolytes, kombucha, and non-caffeinated tea for variety. Today’s juice is a cucumber, spirulina, ginger and apple combination, which will supply me with chlorophyll, and minerals like silicon (in cucumber) which plays a role in maintaining healthy tissue, such as nails, skin and connective tissue.
I consider lunch time, the day before race day, to be one of the crucial times for carbo-loading. This is because you have ample time to digest a larger meal, without needing to go to bed shortly after (as you would at dinner). This is a good meal to practice eating mindfully, chewing thoroughly, not rushing, or distracting yourself with TV or social media. By shifting the body into “rest and digest” mode, you will naturally help aid in digestion.
I make up a salad plate with a colorful medley of (raw) vegetables, plant-based protein (marinated tofu and pumpkin seeds), and a hearty portion of starchy carbohydrates. This could be a baked sweet potato or yam, beets, rutabaga, or today’s choice: potatoes, garnished with vegan sour cream, sauerkraut, and a grainy mustard. I add a Vega Sport Protein Bar as my healthy indulgence, which adds 15 grams of protein and 30 grams of functional carbohydrates to my meal. I am loaded up!
Snack time in the afternoon is a good time to take a moment and relax, and visualize your race. I like to review the course map to study where I’ll find aid stations, hills, and major landmarks. I envision what positive mantra I will remind myself of as I encounter any challenging sections of the course. Today I snacked on a handful of grapes and ½ cup of almond yogurt mixed with ½ scoop of Vega Sport Performance Protein Vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon. It tastes like cake batter! Vega Sport Performance Protein contains branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) which can help preserve muscle tissue. Amino acids are used in the body over several days, so even though I am not training or racing today, their intake will be useful tomorrow!
Dinner on the night before race day is typically most runner’s carb heavy meal. I focus on portion control during this meal, as I don’t want to go to bed stuffed, or bloated and sluggish. I’ve found this interferes with my quality of sleep, and I’ll wake up less refreshed. Some of my go-to race prep dinners include 1 1/2 cups (approximately 60 grams of carbohydrates) of noodles, pasta, grain salads, sweet potato (baked whole, or as fries), gnocchi (made from potato), or tonight’s choice: dairy-free risotto. I used a garnish of sautéed fennel and onions which contain food sources of chondroitin sulfate, an important nutrient for joint tissue.
I make up a batch of (booze-free) kombucha sangria. Mix 2 cups of kombucha with ½ cup of tart cherry juice (an antioxidant-rich natural sleep aid).Then I steep ½ orange, diced and ½ apple, diced in the liquid for about an hour, and add a pinch of cinnamon before serving. It makes a great mocktail to sip on while I make my race day playlist and lay out my running gear for the morning.
The last part of my race prep routine, includes a good long soak in an Epsom salt bath. Epsom salts contain magnesium which is absorbed through the skin for muscle and nervous tissue health. I find it’s helpful for reducing lingering inflammation in my body, and loosens my muscles up well for a bit of foam rolling before I head to bed. Foam rolling also helps me relax, and improve my range of motion for the morning. The very last thing I do is prep a water bottle for beside the bed with Vega Sport Electrolyte Hydrator. I’ll drink this first thing on race morning, so I start the day hydrated.
With dreams of a sub 1:40 goal time in my head, it’s off to sleep before a long awaited race morning.
Look for Vega fuel and cheer squads at Aid Stations at the 2014 Lululemon SeaWheeze in Vancouver.