Updated: September 25, 2015
In my decade or so working with the NHL, I learned a thing or two about endurance training, fitness performance, and most importantly, sports nutrition. DID YOU KNOW that the average aerobic mileage a professional hockey player traverses on the ice is the equivalent of running three half marathons per week? At this elite level, diet plays such an integral role in performance that our team of physical therapists needed to integrate lifestyle, hydration, sports foods and pre-therapy meals into all rehab sessions. My, is that information coming in handy now…
While many runners begin their “gut training” months before a half marathon, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival can distract and tempt even the most disciplined. By keeping these guidelines in mind, you may avoid the dreaded Porta-Potty shuffle.
1. Avoid unfamiliar foods
Most runners instinctively know this. However, the 1.3 miles of World Showcase can prove to be the undoing of any 13.1 master. In the three or four days prior to your race, you don’t want to introduce new spices and cuisines into your routine; a runner’s gastrointestinal tract tends to be quite unforgiving on race day. Tacos and Chirashizushi might just be sensational post-race tastes.
2. Watch excess fiber
How can you go wrong with fruits and vegetables?? In the 24 hours prior to your race, overloading on high fiber foods (including beans and most cruciferous vegetables) can not only lead to gaseous bloating, but too much roughage can actually be an irritant to your GI system. If you have diarrhea on the course you will be very irritated! Go easy on the salads and “healthy” options, such as the ones at Intermission Cafe.
3. Sensible carbohydrate stocking
Adequate glycogen storage is essential for meeting the physical demands of a half marathon. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for distance events and provide the glycogens that are turned into energy during your race; of these, more complex carbs will provide additional nutritional value. If tolerated, brown rice, quinoa, and sweet potatoes are good choices. Of course, everything in moderation. Best practice dictates increasing your carbohydrate loads three to four days before your race. NEVER consume large quantities of anything- including pasta- the night before. Think dead weight. (See my Top PT Tip for carb-loading.)
|One of my personal carb favorites in the Belgium Marketplace.|
If you’ve seen the myriad of chocolate milk adds geared towards runners, you know that protein is crucial for post-run recovery; supplemental protein intake allows for muscle tissue repair and promotes immune function. In the week before your half marathon, as you adjust your training intensity, you may wonder how imperative proteins are. The answer is very, as long as your choice is the lean variety. Proteins can slow down the digestive process and lead to sluggishness on race day. Reasonable portions of fish, boneless skinless chicken or turkey breast, low-fat yogurt, eggs, almonds, low-fat milk are excellent choices.
|Greek yogurt is a perfect protein choice!! (Alas, this is a 2013 selection.)|
Fats still get a bad rap, but that is a debate for another post. During the days before your event, saturated fats are certainly not your friend. Butter, high-fat cheese, and other animal products are not easily digested by the body and may slow. You. Down. That nice juicy steak that you feel you are entitled to may linger in your colon for days or weeks! Avoid beef and deep-fried foods until after your run, or your body may be forced to shunt to your stomach to aid in their digestion at the expense of your pumping leg muscles.
That leads me to my personal picks for 2015:
Best Runner Eats at Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
– Belgium waffle with berry compote (omit the whipped cream)
– Olive oil-poached salmon with fresh corn, bacon, and pepper jam (Not much bacon.)
– Chicken pot stickers
– Pescado con coco (Seared grouper, pigeon peas, and rice with coconut sauce)
– Chicken gyro with tzatziki sauce (A yogurt-based, non-spiced sauce)
– Spicy hand roll- Tuna and salmon with Kazan Volcano sauce (On the side, of course!)
– Roasted Verlasso salmon with quinoa salad and arugula chimichurri (gluten free)
– Ensalada de carrucho- Caribbean conch salad with onion, tomato and cilantro (gluten free)
– Fresh potato pancake with smoked Scottish salmon and herb sour cream (On the side!) (gluten free)
When all else fails, Tangierine Cafe is the perfect default dining location in Epcot for runners looking to follow the above guidelines 1 through 5. Of course, come November 9th, all guidelines are suspended!! Bon appetit.