Macronutrients: Fats

The last of our big three macronutrients are the fats. Fats provide essential vitamins, make up your hormones and provide energy when carbohydrates run low. They are an essential part of a healthy diet, but like carbohydrates, not all fats are created equal.

There are two main types of fats: Saturated and unsaturated. High consumption of saturated fats is linked to heart disease and other health problems1. Saturated fats are usually found in animal products (red meat, bacon, cheese, butter, etc.) and anything deep fried. They are also used in baking (cakes, cookies, pastry) and confectionary (chocolate). The NHS currently recommends we get less than 10% of our calories from saturated fats. If you eat 200kcal per day, that’s less than 20g of saturated fats.

Unsaturated fats come from nuts, seeds, avocados, plant oils, and oily fish. Unsaturated fats have the opposite effect: Eating more unsaturated fats tends to lower cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart disease, increase weight loss, and improve skin condition. In particular, Omega 3 fatty acids (found in oily fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds) can lower inflammation and speed recovery from exercise2.

The current government guidelines are for a relatively low-fat diet – only 22-30% of calories should come from fat. Conversely, people on high fat, low carbohydrate diets often end up consuming 50-75% of their energy from fats. Fats are the most calorific nutrient – 9kcal of energy per gram, compared with just 4 kcal per gram for protein or carbohydrate. Even if you are having healthy fats, you still need to keep an eye on portion sizes. A standard portion size of nuts is only 30g, but has about 180kcal (depending on the nut).

For most athletes, fats are an afterthought – they make sure they are getting enough protein and carbohydrates, and fats are just something that comes with those other foods. However, getting the right amount and types of fat can really take your diet to the next level.

 

REFERENCES

1. Sacks, F. et al. 2017. Dietary fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2017 Jul 18;136(3): e1-e23. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000510

2. Gammone, M.A. et al. 2018. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Benefits and Endpoints in Sport. Nutrients. 2018 Dec 27;11(1):46.doi: 10.3390/nu11010046.

Macronutrients: Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the body’s main energy source. All carbohydrates come from plants but not all are created equal. There are two categories: Simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Understanding the difference between these two is essential for optimal health, performance, and energy levels.

Simple carbohydrates are mostly sugars (such as white sugar, honey, syrup, candy, etc.) and highly refined carbohydrates from grains (such as white flour, white rice, white bread, sugary cereals, etc.). Simple carbohydrates are digested very quickly, leading to an energy boost within minutes, usually followed by a crash.

In contrast, complex carbohydrates have some protein and fibre. They take longer to digest, which means their energy is released slowly over several hours. They also contain many essential vitamins and minerals. As such, foods like beans, lentils, oats, wholemeal bread, brown rice, wholewheat pasta, and other whole grains (like quinoa) should form a large part of most people’s diets.

There are few guidelines for the minimum required carbohydrate for a sedentary person. However, most athletes need at least 3 to 5g of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight per day1. Endurance or team sport athletes averaging an hour of exercise a day need 5 to 7g/Kg/day, and up to 12g/Kg/day if they are in heavy training (for example, cycling 6 hours a day)2.

Regardless of sport, these requirements depend on the training the athlete has that day. You may only need 3g/Kg/day of carbohydrates on a rest day, but 7g/Kg/day on a day when you do a two hour long run.

As with most things, the key is to get the right types of carbohydrates, at the right time, in the right amounts.  Next week we’ll look at how to use the different types of carbohydrates to improve performance.

REFERENCES

1. Thomas, D.T., Erdman, K. and Burke, L. 2016. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017 Jan;117(1):146. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2016.11.008.

2. Vitale, K. and Getzin, A. 2019. Nutrition and Supplement Update for the Endurance Athlete: Review and Recommendations. Nutrients. 2019 Jun; 11(6): 1289. doi: 10.3390/nu11061289

Macronutrients: Protein

All foods are made up of the three macronutrients: Protein, carbohydrates, and fats. These are the things we need in relatively large quantities to be healthy, hence the term “macro”.  They are also sources of energy, with protein and carbohydrates providing 4 kcal of energy per gram and fats 9 kcal per gram (alcohol provides 7 kcal of energy but as it is not a necessity, is not a macronutrient).

For all the hype about fats and carbohydrates, the first thing to get right in any eating plan is the amount of protein in your diet. Protein is necessary to grow and repair muscles, and the more muscles you have, the more calories you burn at rest. Protein is also the most satiating of the macronutrients – it makes you feel full, which makes it easier to eat less and reduces cravings for sweet treats. This is why eating more protein can help with weight loss.

The current guidelines are 0.6g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day for a sedentary person. However, endurance athletes need 1.2 to 1.4g/Kg/day to recover properly, and those looking to gain muscle mass need 1.5 to 2.0g/Kg/day1. Many athletes in power sports actually eat far more than this, but research has shown that the ideal amount of protein for maximising strength gains is 1.6g/Kg/day. There is some evidence that protein intakes of 2.3 to 3.0 g/Kg/day may help maintain muscle mass when seriously cutting calories1.

Eating too much protein is not usually harmful to health, as most people just pee out the extra. But it is expensive and can very hard to keep up. If you weigh 100Kg and are looking to gain muscle mass and lose body fat, you’ll be looking at more than 200g of protein per day. That’s over 700g of cooked chicken breast! Of course, we get protein from lots of different foods, including many plant foods. But deciding you need more than that is going to make your life difficult, even with supplements (protein shakes, protein bars, etc.).

Most athletes can meet their protein needs by having protein dense foods at every meal and snack. This could be eggs at breakfast, a tuna or chicken sandwich for lunch, Greek yoghurt with nuts and berries as a snack, and tofu stir fry for dinner. That being said, the convenience of protein shakes can make them the best choice after a hard workout. Optimal nutrition is all about what works for you.

 

1. Ralf, J. et al. 2017. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Protein and Exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr.2017; 14: 20. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8

How to measure progress

I come from a family of people who struggle with their weight. In fact, three out of four of my grandparents developed type II diabetes. So I know I need to be careful when I gain weight, as genetically I am holding a loaded gun (“Genetics may load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger”). What’s more, Coeliacs who are diagnosed late in life often put on weight rapidly after years of essentially starving.

However, I am not a scale obsessive. I learned early on that it is not body weight that matters so much as measurements and body fat. It is absolutely possible to gain muscle mass, and therefore weight, but lose body fat. You may weigh more but fit into a smaller size! For over 13 years I have measured myself on the first day of every month, using a tailor’s tape measure. I stick to the basics of bust, waist and hips, plus mid-thigh, as I carry my weight on my legs.

Eight years ago I bought my first bioelectric impedance scale – it measures body fat and muscle mass as well as weight using a small electric current. According to the American Council on Exercise, anything below 30% is considered normal for a woman, and anything below 20% is normal for a man. Most athletes have body fat percentages below 15% for men and 25% for women, depending on the sport – obviously endurance sports require a leaner physique than something like hammer throwing! Having said that, these scales are far from perfect (see The Problem with Body Composition Scales) so you have to take these percentages with a pinch of salt.

If a scale is all you have,  you want to weigh yourself once a week, always on the same day. The best time is first thing in morning after you have been to the bathroom, but before you have dressed or had anything to eat. As you breathe out water vapour as you sleep, you will always wake up dehydrated. Then as you eat and drink throughout the day, you re-hydrate. This is why you weigh more at the end of the day than at the start. Your end of day weight is also affected by what you had to eat that day, how much exercise you did, and your bowel movements. Obviously, what you eat and how much you exercise can vary a lot from day to day, which is why weighing yourself once a week works best for consistency. Note also that most women weigh more the week before their period than at other times in their cycle.

If you are trying to lose fat and gain muscle, you need to measure the right things at the right time!

Eating for a Marathon: Eating Enough

One of the most common issues I see as sports nutritionist is athletes not eating enough. Strangely, it doesn’t seem to matter if they are trying to lose, gain or maintain their weight. And more often than not, it is completely inadvertent. Training increases but the athlete keeps eating the same amount as before. Or they follow the recommended portion sizes on packaging, which are for a 2000 kcal diet – when they are burning over 3000 kcal per day!

Not eating enough can lead to a syndrome known as Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) (previously known as the Female Athlete Triad). Symptoms include:

  • Irregular or missed periods in women and low testosterone in men
  • Decreased adaptation to training (you don’t progress) and decreased performance in competition, despite training harder than ever
  • Low mood and fatigue, despite getting enough sleep
  • Frequent injuries, particularly bone injuries like stress fractures
  • Frequent illnesses like colds and flu
  • Poor body composition – you can’t gain muscle mass or lose body fat

The second item on the list was of particular concern to me. My goals this year are all about performing well in the marathon – not losing body fat or looking a particular way. To set a new marathon PB, I needed to hit all my training targets. That meant I needed to eat enough to go hard in training, recover, and go hard again the next day. As my mileage and hours of training increased, so did the number of extra calories I had to consume. And it quickly became apparent just why so many of my athletes struggle to eat enough! Turns out, it can be hard to eat more than 3000kcal per day while sticking to healthy foods.

It was tempting to just add more treats to my diet. After all, junk foods – like cake or chips – taste so good because they are loaded with fat, salt and simple carbs (sugar, white flour, etc). This ramps up the calorie count. And I did sometimes have more cake or ice cream than I normally would. Problem is, these foods lack the protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that speed up recovery. So you get the calories, but not much else in the way of nutrition.

Long run days, where I would burn over 1000 extra calories, were a particular challenge. After a bit of trial and error, I did find some meals that were both nutrient and calorie dense. For example, my typical breakfast before a long run is porridge made with gluten free oats, skim milk, a small chopped apple, ground flaxseed, raisins, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Together with a large mug of tea with milk and sugar, that’s over 700Kcal and over 100g of carbs. And that fuel is a mix of both complex carbohydrates (oats), simple sugars (in the fruit) and healthy fats (from the seeds).

In the end, I used a variety of techniques to increase my calorie intake without resorting to a load of fat laden junk food. I increased the portion sizes of my usual healthy foods, which took some getting used to. In particularly, I needed enough complex carbohydrates to fuel training, like oats, sweet potatoes, quinoa, pasta, etc. If I had a particularly heavy training session, I would have a couple different carbohydrate sources in the same meal, such as butternut squash in a risotto, or a curry with both rice and naan bread. I also added more healthy fats to my diet, mostly from nuts, seeds and oily fish. And I did enjoy some higher calorie, higher fat foods like cheese (high in calcium and protein) and liver pate (high in iron, which is often low in runners).

In August I went for a second round of physiology testing, and it was all good news. My VO2 max had gone up by 6%, my lactate thresholds had shifted to higher speeds, and I was using more fats as fuel. Not to mention the new half marathon PB I also had in August. Eating enough to fuel proper hard training works!

Eating for a Marathon: Carb Loading

Part of marathon preparation is doing some shorter races in the lead up to the big day. Shorter races can be a good gauge of how your training is progressing – many people set new personal best times at shorter distances when training for a marathon. Shorter events also give you the chance to practice all your routines around racing – training the week before, your clothing choices, pacing during the race, and of course, your nutrition.

I had looked to do at least one 10K and a half marathon before my full marathon in October, but those races were cancelled. So, with the help of my husband, I did a couple of faux races. This involved getting up bright and early, going through my pre-race routines (same breakfast, warm up, etc.), driving to a park 20 minutes away (so I was less familiar with the route), and starting at exactly 9am. For the half marathon I even did a full, three day, carb loading diet – and boy, was that an eye opener!

Carbohydrates are stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. When we exercise, that glycogen is broken down for energy. The higher the intensity of the exercise, the faster you burn through your glycogen stores. In training, having slightly depleted glycogen stores is normal, and can even encourage the body to use fats as fuel (see the previous post on Using Fats as Fuel). However, in a race situation, you want all the carbs you can get to maximise performance.

Carb loading is when an athlete eats a lot of carbohydrates in the days before a race, to maximise glycogen stores. Generally speaking, you only need to do this if the race will last more than 90 minutes. There are various ways to carb load, but recent research has shown that eating at least 6g/Kg of carbohydrate, and up to 12g/Kg, in the 2-3 days leading up to the race is enough to fully top up glycogen stores1. Especially as most people are resting or training very lightly in the days leading up to their race.

This is well known and I have dispensed this advice to my athletes for years. What I didn’t realise is just how much carbohydrate that is, and how hard it is to eat that much! Especially if you are trying to keep the calorie count within reason. For example, I weigh 62 Kg so 6g/Kg is 372g of carbohydrate, so that’s my minimum target. The day before my half marathon I ate:

Breakfast: Two boiled eggs with two gluten free crumpets topped with butter and jam, a 200ml glass of pineapple juice, and a large mug of tea with milk and sugar.

Morning Snack: A mug of tea with milk and sugar and two small, gluten-free custard creams.

Lunch: Small grilled mackerel fillet with plenty of rice, steamed broccoli and carrots. Watermelon for dessert followed by a mug of tea with milk and sugar and two small, gluten-free custard creams.

Afternoon Snack: Three slices of toasted gluten free bread topped with reduced fat Brussels pate and caramelised red onion chutney, with 36g of dried apricots on the side. Two satsumas (small oranges) shortly afterwards.

Dinner: Free from spaghetti with homemade tomato sauce and a beef and lentil meatball, topped with a small amount of Parmesan cheese. Frozen yoghurt ice lolly.

In total that was 2660 kcal – at least 500kcal more than I would normally eat on a rest day. Of that, 411g was carbohydrates, including 146g of sugar – well above the recommended. That’s only 6.6g/Kg of carbs and I have to say I felt stuffed! I can’t imagine eating the amount of food an 80 Kg runner would have to take in to get above 7 or 8g/Kg of carbs. Even though, as a nutritionist, I have created menu plans that do exactly that!

You’ll notice my intake of processed foods was well above normal – I am not in the habit of having crumpets, bread and biscuits all in the same day! Part of that was trying to avoid too much fibre. We get most of our fibre from carbohydrates (wholegrains, vegetables, etc.), so carb loading can mean a big increase in fibre. Normally a high fibre diet is good, but too much fibre too close to a race can lead to gasto distress during the race. So many athletes switch to lower fibre, “white” carbs when carb loading. Hence my breakfast of crumpets rather than the usual porridge.

There was also 88g of protein (1.4g/Kg) and 73g was fats. This is a perfectly healthy amount of both but probably too much when carb loading. At the time I chose mackerel because it’s an oily fish high in Omega 3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and help with recovery. And I had pate on my toast because it’s high in iron (often low in runners) and vitamin A. However, both are high in fat and in hindsight, I’m not sure I need. I could have kept the calorie count down by choosing lower fat white fish and a lower fat, high carb toast topping (like honey or jam).

Is carb loading worth it? Yes! I had a really good half marathon, setting a new PB. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that carb loading is more complicated than even I thought (as demonstrated by the length of this post)!

 

References

1. Vitale, K. and Getzin, A. 2019. Nutrition and Supplement Update for the Endurance Athlete: Review and Recommendations. Nutrients. 2019 Jun; 11(6): 1289. doi: 10.3390/nu11061289

Eating for a Marathon: Weight Loss

Last week I talked about some of the techniques I used to encourage my body to use fats as fuel. Most people assume that burning more fat during exercise will result in weight loss.  Sadly, this is not true. To lose weight, you need a calorie deficit – to be taking in less energy than you use. No calorie deficit, no weight loss, as I experienced first hand.

Like most people, I put on a few pounds over Christmas, and on 1 January 2020 I weighed in at 65.7Kg and 30% body fat. I had lost some body fat in January and early February, but I then went to Canada for a couple of weeks for a wedding. When I got back, I weighed 65.4 Kg and 29% body fat – basically back to where I was in early January. As I got back into training, I was hoping the healthier eating and increased running would lead to fat loss.

By the first of April I was down to 64Kg. However, despite an ever increasing training regime, I stayed at 64Kg and 29% body fat. Health and aesthetic benefits aside, I had another reason for wanting to shed some weight. Studies have shown that runners are, on average, two seconds per mile faster for every pound they lose. If I lost 5lbs of fat, I should be a good 4 minutes faster over the course of a marathon.

So I decided to switch up my training and nutrition for a couple of weeks to encourage weight loss. Up to that point, I’d been eating a base of around 1800Kcal per day, then adding exercise calories on top. For example, if I burned 400Kcal on a run, I ate 2200kcal that day. From the 18th of May, I switched to a 1500kcal base. I was still adding the exercise on top, so in reality I was often getting 2000kcal per day.

To ensure I was losing fat and not muscle, I increased by protein intake – at least 1.8g/Kg per day. I did keep carbohydrates in my diet, but was much more strategic in when I had them. I tried to have higher carbohydrate meals after exercise, and lower carbohydrate meals at other times. I also kept an eye on the amount of fat in my diet, to keep the calorie count down. But it wasn’t exactly a low fat diet either. Of course, there was no alcohol and very few refined sugars (the kind you find in chocolate, cake, etc.).

I also switched up my training to further encourage fat burning. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I went for a 45 minute walk before breakfast, while on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I did an hour long fasted run. I kept my hill sprints on Monday afternoons, and my long run on Saturdays. I was up to an hour and a half on the long run, so I did have breakfast before, but I didn’t take on any carbs during the run. There were also a couple of HIIT/strength training sessions per week (as normal) and I made an effort to get 10,000 steps a day, most days of the week.

And it worked. On June first I weighed in at 61.8Kg and 26.3% body fat. In two weeks I had lost over 2kg and most of that was body fat, not muscle. However, it was not easy. I was often tired and hungry, despite a high protein and high fibre diet. And the quality of my hill reps and HIIT sessions really suffered – I just didn’t have the energy to push myself.

In some ways losing weight to get faster is a short cut. In two weeks I lost enough weight to take 4 minutes off my marathon time. It could take months to get that much from training. And it can be tempting to keep going, especially when you know you have plenty of body fat to lose (26% body fat is high for a runner). But it is a game that catches up with you in the end – as I discovered, your training really suffers.  I decided that I would get better results by hitting all my training targets, rather than chasing a lower body weight.

The good news is that on September second I was still 61.8 kg –  no more, no less. All while fuelling ever increasing amounts of training!

Please note: This is a description of my personal experience of losing body fat to meet a specific performance goal. It is not meant to be taken as a recommendation for anyone else. Using these techniques to lose weight may not be appropriate for you and your circumstances.

Eating for a Marathon: Using Fats as Fuel

As it turns out, nine months is a long time to be training for one event. So like most athletes, I do follow a periodized training plan, where different phases of training have slightly different goals. Being a sports nutritionist, I also have different nutrition goals to support my training during my different phases. And one of my first goals was to improve my body’s ability to use fats as fuel.

The Why

As a sports scientist I love data. So in January, I booked in for some physiology testing at Loughborough University. The information you get from this type of testing can then guide your training – do I need more long slow runs to build my aerobic base, or more high intensity intervals to improve VO2 max?

Aside from showing how little running fitness I had in general, the testing showed I was relatively poor at using fats for fuel, even at very low speeds. This is a particular problem for slower marathoners such as myself. See, even highly trained athletes can only store enough carbohydrates to get through 60-90 minutes of exercise. Of course, you can top up your carbohydrate stores during exercise by having energy gels or sports drinks, but most runners can only tolerate 60g of carbohydrates per hour (or less).

Based on previous experience, I will be burning at least 60Kcal per Km, which is over 2500Kcal for a whole marathon. Assuming I have enough carbs stored in my muscles for the first hour (about 550 Kcal), then take in 60g of carbs per hour (about 960 Kcal), that leaves 1000Kcal my body has to get from somewhere. If I can teach my body to use fats as a fuel over carbohydrates, then I am less likely to run out of energy before the end of the race.

The How

The easiest way to force your body to use fats as fuel is to eat a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. However, I’ve been down that road before, and I can’t say it appeals. Especially as I would have to maintain such a diet for over 9 months of training! Plus, research has shown that while high fat diets can increase time to exhaustion in endurance tests, top end sprint speed and power tend to decrease1. You wouldn’t think that matters in the marathon, especially for someone targeting four and half hours. But another result of my testing was a need to improve my VO2 max and overall running speed. That meant regular sprint intervals and faster paced training sessions. To get the most out of these sessions, I would need full carbohydrate stores.

An alternative way to encourage fat burning is to periodize your carbohydrate and fat intake2. This involves eating more carbohydrates on days with high intensity, high speed sessions, and fewer carbohydrates on rest and easy days. You can also teach your body to use fats as fuel by fasting and incorporating fasted training into your plan3. This is where you go for a run first thing in the morning before breakfast, after your usual overnight fast (about 12 hours since dinner). As you will have used up most of your carbohydrates as you sleep, your body is forced to rely on fats for fuel. It does feel harder, which is why these runs tend to be less than an hour at an easy pace.

Here’s an example of how I incorporated periodized carbohydrate intake with fasting into my training (in March, April and early May):

  • Monday: Moderate to high carbohydrate diet. Sprint interval session on hills in the afternoon.
  • Tuesday mornings: Fasted easy run before breakfast, then eat normally the rest of the day (moderate carbohydrate ~4g/kg).
  • Wednesdays: Rest day. Small, very low carbohydrate breakfast (usually a two egg cheese omelette) and fasted for the rest of the day (only water and green tea).
  • Thursday: Higher carbohydrate breakfast and lunch (more than 1g/kg carbohydrate in each meal) before a marathon pace run on Thursday afternoon. Back in March, marathon pace was a Tempo run (a pace I could only sustain for 15-20 minutes).

The Result

I would not recommend the above schedule to everyone, but it seemed to work for me. I was able to increase the pace of my long, slow runs while keeping the same effort (I use a heart rate monitor), indicating I was getting better at using fats for fuel. It did have it’s drawbacks though, which I will discuss in the next post.

When it comes to sports nutrition, I it very true that everyone is an experiment of one.

References

As always, there are many papers on this topic, but I have tried to provide open access ones.

  1. Burke et al. 2020. Adaptation to a low carbohydrate high fat diet is rapid but impairs endurance exercise metabolism and performance despite enhanced glycogen availability. https://doi.org/10.1113/JP280221
  2. Jeukendrup, A. 2017. Periodized Nutrition for Athletes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5371625/
  3. Aird, TP et al. 2018. Effects of fasted vs fed-state exercise on performance and post-exercise metabolism: A systematic review and meta-analysis. 10.1111/sms.13054

New Series! Eating for a Marathon

Warning! This is going to get personal.

I’ve been running a lot this year. Many people took up running in March, as a way to get outside and exercise while gyms were closed. However, my running journey began in December. After a difficult and disappointing 2019 (including a death in the family) I decided I needed a new big goal to refocus my training. I had run my first marathon with my husband in 2018, but bad weather and inconsistent training meant a disappointing time. So I decided 2020 was the year I would tackle 42.2 Km properly, with 9 months of dedicated training.

Many things did not go well when I rant my first marathon in October 2018. Training had been inconsistent throughout the summer months (among other things, I took a trip to Canada) and my longest run before the race was only 24 Km. On the day it was cold, pouring with rain and quite windy. Our chosen race had a very dodgy route in the middle miles, including running next to busy roads with no pavement. From 30 Km in, we started taking longer and longer walk breaks. Needless to say, it was not a good time – in either sense of the word. The one bright spot is that we did, in fact, finish the race.

Knowing the beast that awaits and the number of things that can go wrong, I’ve set several goals this time around. To start, just finishing the race without walking (except where necessary, such as at busy aid stations) would be a step up. Secondly, to set a new personal best time – so anything under five and a half hours. Thirdly, should training go well and the weather co-operate on the day, to run the marathon in less than four and half hours. This last is a significant stretch as, at the beginning of January, I couldn’t even manage 5 Km at the pace I would have to sustain for 42 Km come October.

Strangely, going into lockdown in March produced some of the most consistent training I’ve ever had. With very few fixed time commitments  sticking to my marathon training plan became a way of scheduling my days. I also had more time to focus on recovery such as stretching and foam rolling, or even taking a nap if needed. As my runs got longer, I couldn’t help wondering how anyone does serious marathon training with a full-time job.

Of course, for me, part of getting my training right was getting my nutrition right. Even after years of successfully advising a variety of endurance athletes on their nutrition, the realities of doing it for myself produced some surprising insights. This is what I will be sharing in a new series of posts. Everything from eating for training and long runs, to carb loading and weight loss. Yes, this is nutrition for runners, but much of the information will apply to anyone who is active, whatever their goals.

Sadly, like so many others, the race I had registered for in October has now been cancelled. But having come this far, I still plan to run 42.2 Km on the day as planned. As Garmin is my witness, a marathon is going to happen!

Healthy Eating on Budget

Tip 1: Have a Plan

Tip 2: Make your own meals

Tip 3: Make your own snacks

Tip 4: Choose natural, minimally processed foods

Tip 5: Learn to love your freezer

Tip 6: Make big re-usable food

Tip 7: Mind the drinks

Tip 8: Cut down on alcohol

Tip 9: Cut down on junk food

Tip 10: Eat less red and processed meat

Tip 11: Become a part-time vegetarian

Tip 12: Eat what’s in season

Tip 13: You don’t need superfoods to be healthy

Tip 14: Swap big brands for own brands

Tip 15: Avoid the grocery store

Tip 16: Be wary of supermarket offers

Healthy eating on a budget: Bringing it all together