As a running dietitian (or a dietitian who runs), of course I can’t overlook the nutritional component of training. I wrote about nutrition here http://eatwellgetstrong.com/blog/?p=677, and included a recipe for the most amazing waffles. I hope you’ve had an opportunity to try them – did I mention they’re amazing?
At this point in a half marathon training program (7-10 days out from the actual race day), tapering begins. Tapering is a fancy way of saying “Cut back on your training.” It may sound counterintuitive, but cutting back on the mileage and number of training days you’ve been doing allows the body to rebuild muscle and energy reserves – two things definitely needed on race day.
From a nutrition perspective, it makes sense to eat well THROUGHOUT your training, but especially in the last 1-2 weeks, loading up on high quality food is a good strategy, and it certainly won’t hurt!
Focus on lots of fresh fruits and vegetables for antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Lean protein, both plant-based (beans, soy, nuts) and healthy animal choices (eggs, lean red meat, fish, chicken and turkey) provides amino acids and iron. Grains (preferably whole wheat) contribute critical carbohydrate, B vitamins and iron. Healthy fats like those found in olive and canola oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, and fatty fish keep you full, help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and may help reduce inflammation. And don’t forget sources of calcium, from both plants AND animals; soy or cow’s milk, cheese, broccoli, yogurt, navy beans and almonds are just a handful of options.
It’s not a good idea to try a new food or drink the day before or day of your race – you don’t know how your body will react, and this is definitely not the time to find out!
In an effort to help you load up on quality, nutritious food, I’m sharing a delicious tempeh dish that I prepared last night. If you’re not familiar with tempeh (a fermented soybean cake that tastes so much better than it sounds), here’s a light-hearted overview (and a recipe that looks delicious); http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-kanner/meatless-monday-the-joy-t_b_673162.html. And if you just can’t summon the wherewithal to try tempeh, simply substitute chicken, shrimp or lean beef.
My made-up recipe:
Sautéed Tempeh and Veggies With Quinoa and Peanut Sauce
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon canola or olive oil
2 packages tempeh, diced
1/2, 10 oz. bag fresh baby spinach
1/2 lb. button mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch green onions, sliced
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup water
1. In a large skillet (I like to use cast iron) over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the tempeh and let cook until it begins to brown on one side. Toss it about to brown on a couple of sides (to brown all sides of each piece you’d be at this step forever – do the best you can). The tempeh will quickly absorb the oil; to prevent it from sticking and to add another layer of flavor, stir the soy sauce into the water and add to the skillet.
2. Let the tempeh cook, stirring every now and again, until it absorbs all of the soy sauce & water mixture.
3. Once the tempeh has absorbed the liquid, transfer it to a bowl and set aside. Add 1 teaspoon additional oil, and sauté the green onion for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they begin to brown. Add the baby spinach (no need to chop, just add the whole leaves) and sauté the whole thing together for just a minute or two, or until the spinach begins to wilt. Don’t overcook or the spinach will be soggy.
4. Serve the veggies and tempeh over cooked, hot quinoa, rice, or a mixture of both. (Why this strategy? We had leftover rice in the fridge, but not quite enough, so I started a pan of quinoa while the tempeh was cooking. We combined the quinoa and rice – nice way to add different texture.) Don’t know quinoa? Try this: http://www.cookinglight.com/food/recipe-finder/cooking-with-quinoa-00412000073996/
5. And finally, we had peanut sauce left over from a tofu dish we’d prepared a couple of evenings prior http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2013/03/peanut-sauce. Since tempeh and peanut sauce are simply made for each other, I drizzled it over everything – heaven! My two cents, cut back a little on the amount of ginger called for; although I love it, I felt it was a bit overwhelming.