Spring Training Series: Skylar’s Take on Nutrition Tips to Properly Fuel Your Training
Spring racing season has kicked off! We’ve tapped into our community of athletes to bring you inspiration and advice in our Spring Training Series. Hear from instructors and riders on topics ranging from nutrition to mental motivation—all to give you a major dose of fitspo (whether you want to tackle an Ironman or that 5:45 am spin class).
Skylar’s Take on Nutrition Tips to Properly Fuel Your Training
It’s safe to say that Skylar’s competitive nature in sports began early on. From Kindergarten through 3rd grade, she came in first place in the PE class warm up, which included one large loop around the school track—with the exception of one day (when she stopped to put a shoe back on that had fallen off…bad choice). This was marked in her memory as the worst day of school. An avid runner today, Skylar has completed several half- and full marathons including the Boston, NYC, Chicago, and Marine Corps Marathon. We want to know how our fierce Ascend instructor fuels herself for all these miles, so we’re turning to Skylar to give us her take on nutrition for marathon training.
Let’s get right to it! What are your top nutrition tips for marathon training?
Marathon training is not about eating a lot—it’s about eating a lot of nutritious foods. Some people think that if you run or exercise a lot, you can eat whatever you want. In marathon training, what you eat can impact your workouts in a very meaningful way. I have learned that it's important to be very methodical about eating well more often rather than just eating a lot of food. You really should limit (not cut out) the sweets or things that are indulgent in your diet and really focus on eating as well as possible. That being said, marathon training is not the time to try to lose weight or "diet." It can sometimes be hard to stay motivated to eat healthy all the time (which is why I don't restrict certain foods I really like), but it really impacts how you feel when you run, so it's really important to eat high quality foods and foods with a lot of nutrients that you get a lot of bang for your buck. For example, I focus on eating foods that might not be my favorite but have a lot of health benefits (grass-fed meats, sardines, salmon, brown rice, nut butters).
How do you fuel up for long runs?
I honestly don't do many long runs. But when I do, or if I have a longer or really hard workout coming up, I focus on my nutrition the day before, rather than the day of. We hear all the time how carbs will make you fat, or make you feel groggy...blah blah blah. If you want to perform well as an endurance athlete, you need carbs—and a lot of them. I think where people go wrong, is they exercise a lot and then eat whatever they want. The day before, I try to eat more carbs than I might normally. So I don't go crazy, but I might swap a salad with protein (it does have carbs, but not as much bang for your buck) for a huge bowl of brown rice with some veggies. I also am a big fan of a banana with nut butter. Drinking enough water is something I practice ALL of the time and I almost always get around 100 oz of water per day. The day of a long run or really hard/long workout, I usually run in the morning and am not THAT hungry. I will usually have something very small, like a banana or LÄRABAR, but the last thing you want to happen when you're trying to run is to have to use the bathroom all the time, or feel full. I focus on eating immediately after my run to refuel and I use the food from the 24 hours prior to the long run to fuel it.
What are your favorite post- training foods (meals or snacks)?
To be honest, I am NEVER hungry after a long run. Ever. But, I've learned the hard way that if you do not eat pretty immediately after a really long run or hard workout (I would say about 30 min max), your recovery is dramatically affected and you will probably be very sore. Over the years, I have learned how to force myself to eat something right after a race or really long run. I usually eat fruit and a protein bar and always pack a LÄRABAR in my bag that I pickup, or in my car after a long run and eat that right away. When I get home, or can get a real meal I eat something pretty simple that won't upset my stomach. It's funny, you think the longer the race the hungrier you'll be, but it's actually the opposite. The longer I run, the more stressed my stomach is and I'm less hungry. But again, I've learned that I need to eat SOMETHING immediately after and it won't be pleasant, but I'll be happy the next week when I'm able to function. And then I will have a more solid meal in a little while when I can handle it. I don't really have a favorite post-race meal because my appetite hasn't come back yet.
Some people have specific foods they like to eat surrounding the actual race. What is your typical “go-to” for:
- Dinner the night before: Brown rice, 1 whole avocado, 1 LÄRABAR
- Breakfast: 1 banana, 1 l LÄRABAR, a few sips of Gatorade and I take 1 gel before the race and about 2 during a marathon
- Post race: lots of Gatorade and water + several LÄRABARS (and then a real meal later—again, I usually just eat something healthy but I don't care what it is because nothing is appetizing and I don't crave anything)
How does Ascend compliment your race-training program?
Ascend compliments running in so many ways. First, you can be a world-class athlete and cycling will always be hard because your "peak" zone will just get more and more difficult. Your VO2 max will always increase because you can literally always add more resistance, or push faster through a heavier load of resistance, so you can always improve your anaerobic ability. Second, a killer workout on the bike means my legs feel like s***....but in the best way. Cycling helps build muscles that support your muscles during running. I found that since I started cycling, I became a better runner for both of those reasons—when you run, you will sometimes breathe heavy, which you also do when you cycle, and you also have stronger legs. Lastly, teaching at Ascend is incredibly challenging because of the people who ride with me. When I teach I actually feel pressure to work harder, because as a rider, I am motivated when I can tell the instructor is really working too.
Because the workouts can be so difficult, it makes me take some days off from running, which is good for me. When I over-do it on the running, I find myself injured. So Ascend allows me to push myself incredibly hard and feel like I am getting such a tough workout, get a good endorphin high, and tone back from running 8 days a week.
Blogpost written by Ascend content expert, Ashley Hart.