Nancy, here’s a question for you. Should my calorie intake fluctuate based on how much training I'm doing? I usually do between 90 and 120 minutes a day, but sometimes I might do just a 45-minute workout. Do I cut my calorie count proportionally?
On days when you are doing less exercise you will likely want to eat just as much (or almost as much) because—
1) Your muscles are using any extra unburned calories to refuel your depleted glycogen stores from the previous days’ tiring workouts, and
2) You may be more active during the rest of your "light exercise" days. That is, observe if on your light days or rest days you decide to mow the lawn, vacuum the house, wash your car, and do lots of errands. That extra activity counts!
Your best bet is to listen to your body; it is your best calorie counter. If you are thinking about food and fighting the urge to eat, your body is saying it needs more fuel. When you eat something to resolve that hunger, observe if you--
--stop obsessing about food, and
--have interest in doing something other than fight off urges to eat.
I generally eat just as much on rest days. Sometimes by dinner I am not as hungry, so I eat a lighter dinner just because I don't want a heavy meal. I listen to my body and trust it can regulate an appropriate food intake. Perhaps you can experiment and observe ithat your body can also naturally regulate a proper intake? (It that seems too hard, you might want to meet with a sports dietitian who can help you eat intuitively. Use the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org.)
I’m training for the Boston Marathon as part of a fundraiser for the Leukemia Society. This will be my first marathon, and I’m very nervous; I’m afraid I’ll run out of energy and “hit the wall.” I know I should “carbo-load” before long training runs. Does this simply mean stuffing myself with pasta?
Stuffing yourself with pasta the night before your long runs is one way to carbo-load, but there’s another approach to consider as well. Here’s what I recommend for your training runs:
1. Cut back on your running one or two days prior to the long training run. Your muscles can store maximal amounts of glycogen only if they are given non-exercise time to do so.
2. Eat the same tried-and-true carbs you (should) have been eating as a part of your daily training diet. As you know, you can only train at your best if you fuel your muscles daily with a carbohydrate-based diet: cereal for breakfast, sandwiches made with hearty bread for lunch, pasta for dinner.
3. The night before the long run eat well, but do not eat so much you upset your digestive system and wake up feeling like a beached whale.
4. Eat adequately on morning of the long training run. This is your time to practice fueling as you might do before the marathon itself. Figure out if you prefer bagel with peanut butter, oatmeal, energy bars, cereal … this your time to experiment so you learn which foods—and how much of them—settle well and enhance your run.
5. During the long training run, maintain a steady fuel intake by drinking sports drinks, and carrying with you hard candy, twizzlers, sports gels, energy bars, dried pineapple and other forms of easy-to-digest carbohydrates. You should target about 200 to 300 calories per hour, after the first hour of running. Fueling during the event helps prevent you from “hitting the wall” and also replaces the need to stuff yourself the night before.
By practicing your fueling during your long training runs, you’ll be able to learn how to fuel on Marathon day and will have no need to worry about hitting the wall.