Get in shape, train for races by exercising, eating healthy

The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer and the races are becoming more numerous. With the Cowtown Marathon last weekend, soon all weekends will quickly be filling up with one mile walks, 5Ks, 10Ks, half and full marathons.

In order to run these races, you train for weeks, even months to get in shape. But good nutrition training is just as important as physical activity when it comes to performance. Here are some tips to train nutritionally before, during and after race day to help you maximize your potential for a run.

In the article “Maintain Your Lean, Mean Racing Machine” on Active.com, Gale Bernhardt recommends you see your diet and nutrition as a long-term plan, not just a way to quickly drop a few pounds. She says in the article, “Solid nutrition builds a healthy body.”

Bernhardt also writes while eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean protein are the building blocks of a healthy diet, you should not eliminate the things you love. Aim for eating 80 percent nutritionally dense foods and 20 percent treats. Also find a nutrition strategy that fits your schedule, lifestyle and body.

Pre-Workout: Kate Bailey, a senior nutrition major, recommends eating about 20 to 45 minutes before working out in order to prevent dizziness while boosting energy. Snack suggestions include a quarter to a half of a granola or sports bar, a quarter cup dry cereal, piece of toast or other 75 to 120 calorie snacks.

Post-Workout: Bailey says to eat 15 to 30 minutes after a workout to replenish glycogen – the body’s fuel source – as well as to provide muscles with nutrients necessary for repair and growth. Snack ideas include one to two hard boiled egg whites, 8 oz. skim milk, rice cakes or other 100-calorie snacks.

Race Day: Matt Fitzgerald from Active.com shares a plan to optimize race performance. The closer your pre-race meal falls to the race start, the smaller it must be. If you’re able to eat four hours out, you can safely consume up to 1,000 calories. If you eat just two hours before the start, eat a smaller meal of 300 to 400 calories. He states at least 80 percent of the calories you consume in your pre-race meal should come from carbohydrates. Keep protein and especially fat and fiber consumption low. Recommended foods include a bagel, banana, oatmeal, energy bars or meal replacement shakes.

These eating tips can help you improve your race performance, workout results, weight loss or dietary habits. And do not forget about hydration. For most workouts, just stick to water. Flavored sports drinks can add 25 to 200 calories, depending on brand and size.

Kristina Keilson is a senior nutrition major from The Woodlands.