Whether it’s a long run as part of your training, or a light week in preparation for the big race, good nutrition is key for optimal athletic performance. Eating a variety of foods from all Five Food Groups will help you get adequate fuel, in addition to essential nutrients.
One of our Endurance Race Series Dairy Ambassadors, Molly, is also a registered dietitian, and recommends “eating an overall balanced diet with whole foods that are nutrient-dense, limiting processed foods, and [eating] a lot of fruits and vegetables.” Molly enjoys fruits and vegetables and makes them a focus of her meals and snacks – putting them in soups or mixed dishes or eating them on the side. She emphasizes choosing whole grains, whether it’s brown rice, tortillas, or bread. For protein, she enjoys beans, nut butters, and eggs, and for her dairy, she acknowledges that she loves cheese (but mindfully watches portion sizes).
While balance is key for all athletes, our Dairy Ambassadors Molly and Kari share a few additional tips and tricks for eating for peak performance.
- Start your morning right. Kari focuses on getting a good blend of carbs and protein to start her day, so she’s fueled and ready for whatever the day brings. “I typically have eggs and toast, steel cut oatmeal with a scoop of peanut butter, or yogurt for breakfast.” One of Molly’s favorite recipes is this Yogurt Parfait from Cooking Matters – a great blend of carbs and protein to fuel your morning.
- Snack smart. “For snacks, I always try to keep healthy options at my desk,” states Kari. “My favorite go-to [snacks] are a handful of nuts – preferably a mix of pistachios, cashews and peanuts. I also love cheese and dried fruit!”
- Listen to your hunger cues. Molly acknowledges that “as a runner, you do need more energy and calories than the average person and at times it might seem like you are eating a lot. You shouldn’t go crazy and eat everything in sight, but I am big on the idea of listening to your hunger cues – eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are full.”
- Fuel up before the big race. While some athletes see success with increasing carbohydrate intake in anticipation of a big race, as an experienced endurance athlete, Kari shared that she is not a fan of “carb-loading” but instead she tries to eat a healthy, balanced meal the night before a race. “My favorite pre-race meal is beef, potato with sour cream and a veggie like green beans.” Perhaps the bottom line is that every athlete has to figure out what works best for them.
- Refuel. Molly states that after long runs she tries to “refuel with a meal, or at least a snack that has carbohydrates and protein.” For that reason, Kari’s “go to” after a race is always chocolate milk stating, “it replenishes both my carbs and much-needed protein for my muscles.” Post-race, Kari also enjoys what she’s fondly named, the Chunky Monkey Smoothie. We hope you enjoy it too!
Chunky Monkey Smoothie
Perfect for your post-race re-fuel
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
- 1tsp honey
- handful of ice cubes
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder
- 1 tsp chia seeds
Disclaimer: Both Molly and Kari are being compensated as dairy ambassadors for Western Dairy Association, but their opinions and training ideas are their own.