Food as Fuel

When I began training for my century ride with Team in Training last January, I started to look at food beyond taste and calories and started looking at food as fuel. Through advice from coaches, lots of reading, and trial and error, I began to learn what my body needed to make it through 8 hour training rides. This was a lesson learned out of necessity – if my body was not properly fueled I would “bonk” and not be able to finish a ride. Luckily I never experienced bonking, but had several teammates who had.

To this day, whether when I am running or in everyday life, I try to continue to look at food as fuel. I think about what my body needs and get those nutrients from the best possible food sources. I have learned that carb loading is not all there is to fueling an athlete. Quality protein, fat and whole grains are equally important.

Beyond the details of how much and when, I have learned the importance of fueling not only for physical activity, but everyday life. Last Friday morning I was in a rush to get out the door to work and only grabbed an apple to eat in the car. Normally I eat a big breakfast, so by 9 AM my body was punishing me with nausea and a splitting headache. Thank you, body – lesson learned!

At every meal and snack I try to have a combination of carbs, protein and fat. We have all heard the philosophy of dividing our plate up like a clock with the main portion being vegetables. In the most recent issue of Runner’s World, they broke the plate into more detailed groupings than I have seen in the past and I thought it was a great illustration for both elite athletes and weekend warriors. Here is the breakdown:

Protein: 15 minutes
Grains and Starches: 15 minutes
Vegetables: 15-20 minutes
Fruit: 10 minutes
Healthy Fats: 2 minutes or less

I think this is great because it stresses that vegetables, grains and protein are all equally important and nothing is off limits! Try this approach next time you load up your plate!


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