Creative meals – beyond pasta! – to fuel you up for a long run or race. – By Jessica Migala
It’s the day before a long run or race. What’s for dinner? Chances are you’re thinking pasta – a high-carb staple for runners. “Eating ample carbs stocks your muscles with glycogen,” says sports dietician Lauren Antonucci, “so you get the max available energy for your run.”
But pasta isn’t the only food that provides that energy. From root veggies to rice to other grains, plenty of foods fit the bill. The key is to make sure your pre-run choice is also low in fat and fibre, which will keep your gut happy, says Antonucci. These tasty options do the trick.
Pizza + Chicken
Here’s the time when you want a thicker, chewier dough rather than thin and crispy. If you’re making it at home, pick up pre-made white dough (skip multigrain today) from the supermarket. Spread with tomato sauce and a sprinkle of cheese. Top with a little cooked chicken and a few veggie slices. Final tip: skip the side salad, says registered dietician Monique Ryan, author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes, 3rd Edition. You don’t want to go fibre-crazy today.
Rice Bowl + Veggies + Fish or Tofu
Start with a hefty portion of rice, says Ryan (she suggests using up to two to three cups as the base of your meal). Normally, she’d recommend whole-grain varieties for more fibre and nutrients, but you want quick-digesting white rice when prepping for a big run. Top with a small amount of veggies and a few lean strips of low-fat protein, such as fish or tofu. Drizzle tamari (a type of soya sauce) on top to supply your body with sodium, a necessary electrolyte.
Stack of Pancakes + Syrup + Eggs
Breakfast for dinner? Why not – if you’re travelling for a race, it’s totally acceptable to stop for pancakes. A stack is a great source of carbs (one 15-centimetre pancake offers 22 grams), and you can pair it with one or two eggs for protein. Opt for non-whole-grain pancakes to keep fibre low, and stick to one knob of butter, max, to keep fat in check. Top with strawberries and maple syrup for added carbs, says Antonucci.
Potato + Cottage Cheese + Salsa
Bake your favourite potato – standard or sweet – as the base. (The bigger the spud, the better.) Both types offer a similar amount of carbs and potassium. Add low-fat toppings like cottage cheese for protein, salsa for taste, and some easy-to-digest veggies, such as spinach. While beans may be a good source of carbs and a popular tater topper, skip them unless you know your stomach can handle it pre-race. (Most people’s can’t, warns Ryan.)
Quinoa + Veggie Salad
“Quinoa is great to carb-load with because it has protein,” says Ryan, “but it’s easy on the stomach.” It’s also a good source of iron, needed to ferry oxygen to muscles. A study in the Journal of Nutrition shows that when women with low iron increase their intake, they experience a boost in exercise performance. Toss two cups cooked quinoa with chicken or tofu and some cooked veggies (tomatoes, green beans), which are easier to digest than raw. Lightly drizzle with dressing to add flavour while limiting fat.
Beef and Barley Soup + Turkey Sub
Soup is easy to digest and contains a good amount of sodium. “Barley is a whole grain that’s not super-high in fibre,” says Antonucci. As for a sandwich, aim for the opposite of what you’d normally eat. Rather than one thick with meat and thin on bread, go for the big sub-style rolls with just 85 grams of turkey (it will look tiny), a smear of hummus, and a slice of avocado and tomato, she says.
Snack on This!
Packs 27 grams of carbs and a bonus 12 per cent of your daily potassium.
Smear with jam and honey (high in antioxidants!) for even more quick carbs, says Ryan.
Larger grain-based bars can pack around 45 grams of carbs – and you can eat them on the go.
Cracker-type biscuits and pretzels: “They may be low in nutritional value, but these are packed with easy-to-digest carbs,” says Antonucci. “Plus, if you have kids, you probably already carry some of these
These tend to be higher in natural sugars, thus packing more carbs per portion, says Ryan. She likes mango and pawpaw – both are excellent sources of vitamin A.