So, two weeks to the Marathon and for us we should be seriously considering our diets and building up with carbs for the big day, for carbs are glycogen and glycogen is fuel. Which carbs are best for us though – well at least 50 % of the carbs we eat should be whole grain because they are full of fibre. Whole grains are those where the entire grain including the bran, the germ and the endosperm is whole. It is within the whole grain that you find nutritious B – vitamins, iron, magnesium, selenium and fibre. When whole grains are milled into refined grains, the bran and the germ, and the nutrients they contain, are lost. Lots of refined carbs are fortified to add back some of the nutrients, but you can’t add back all the fibre. We, as runners, need more than the average amount of carbs and about 60 % of our diets should be in that form, and all carbs can play a role in a healthy diet. It would be wrong to classify carbs as good or bad, it’s just that whole grains have more fibre, so they take longer to break down, while refined or processed grains have little or no fibre and are quickly and easily broken down and used for energy. That means that both types serve a purpose.
Before a long run you want to take in carbs such as whole grains and whole fruits because they offer slow burning energy. We should be eating about one and a half to two hours before the long run. It’s a bit like having a drip in your arm, slowly letting sugar into your blood stream. If you eat frosted flakes before a long run, instead of porridge, your blood sugar shoots up, then down, and you don’t have a reservoir of energy. Of course, eating the right balance of different types of carbs means you have to be able to identify the types of carbs you’re eating. For instance, brown isn’t always a good indication of something being whole grain. Read the labels – take bread, the first ingredient should be whole grain – like cracked wheat or wheat flour and it should have 3 to 5 grams of fibre per serving. Products that list simple sugars – such as high-fructose corn syrup – near the top of the ingredients will not offer the same slow burning energy of a whole grain, unprocessed food.
So, find a balance – there’s no reason not to eat some refined carbs as long as you make sure to take plenty of whole grain carbs too. Eat loads of fruit, vegetables and whole grains and you’ll have a nutrient rich diet that’ll keep you running well.
Which are best for you then – try these : whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, wheat germ, brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, beans, such as pinto beans or black eyed peas, bran cereal, rye, whole wheat or multigrain bread. And, they’re all much tastier and you can run to your heart’s content.