Facebook is full of jokes about people’s eating habits these days. We are all stuck at home with kitchens full of food. First, let’s count our blessings that we have plenty of food during this difficult time. But just because we are so blessed, doesn’t mean we need to eat it all at this particular moment.
Food is the fuel that your body needs to keep going. You can’t drive your car without gas, right? And if you put leaded gasoline or diesel in a car that needs unleaded gasoline, it won’t run properly. If you are going to be walking or running regularly (and I hope you are!), you need the right kind of fuel to keep your body moving. Unfortunately, not all food creates an equal amount of fuel. And I’m sorry to tell you that Doritos and Cheetos will only get you so far.
The building blocks of nutrition are the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Complex carbohydrates provide slow and steady fuel. Complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, whole breads and unrefined pastas, vegetables and potatoes will not produce the sharp blood sugar highs and lows that you often get with refined sugar. These highs and lows can leave you feeling depleted before the end of your run or walk or the end of your day.
Protein is essential for both tendon and muscle repair. Proteins are also essential for regulating your hormones. The more often you run or walk and the further distance you cover, the more repair work there will be for your muscles.
Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, flax seed oil, canola oil, and avocados are the healthiest fats to consume. Contrary to some points of view, you do need fat in your diet. Healthy fats helps you feel sated, which is really important. Eating healthy does not mean you need to be miserable or feel deprived. On the contrary, properly fueling your body makes you feel SO good.
Once you start running or walking long distances on a regular basis you will notice that your base metabolism starts to run a bit faster, which means that you will be burning up more calories. This is great news for those who want to shed a few pounds. Those who do not want to lose any weight will need to eat a little extra.
Nutritional snacks such as fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grain sandwiches, smoothies, nuts, eggs, yogurts, and protein or health-food bars can all help to alleviate the dreaded energy slump. Healthy snacks will also ensure that your muscles and liver are always ready for further exercise. In addition, you will have sufficient energy to get through your daily activities.
A doughnut may give you energy for five minutes (and then you crash!), but an apple with a tablespoon of nut butter can give you energy for more than an hour without the crash. From a caloric perspective, you can have almost 3 apples AND 3 tablespoons of nut butter for the same calories as a doughnut. Try eating all that in one sitting! I bet you can’t even do it! So, instead of five minutes of energy, you could get more than three hours of energy for the same calories while still avoiding the dreaded sugar crash.
Eating smaller meals more often will also keep your blood sugar level steady and your metabolism running high. I prefer to have 3 small meals and 2 snacks a day rather than 3 bigger meals spread farther apart throughout the day. This way I have something to eat approximately every 2-3 hours during the day. I find the consistency of eating every 2-3 hours, even if it’s only a small amount, really helps me perform better not only physically, but also mentally. So, don’t social distance from the refrigerator. Food is your friend. Just make sure your refrigerator is stocked with the kind of fuel that will keep you going instead of the kind that drags you down.