Day-to-day, I maintain a low GI-diet. It's easy to do online searches to find out the GI of foods. When I find a new recipe, the first thing I do is remove all references to vegetable oil and sugar (e.g., fry the onion in a tbsp of oil). If the recipe appears impossible to make without such an oil or sugar, it's probably not worth it to me and I'll find a better recipe. Simply switching to a low GI daily diet and removing "bad fats" in this way allowed me to drop over 1 kg of weight without limiting food consumption/leaving myself hungry/dieting. Once my diet (as in daily nutrition) and weight was stable, I started to include "good fats" such as Udo's Oil, walnuts and almonds, chia, and avocados (omega 3s) and adjusted the carbohydrate portion of my diet down accordingly (because you get more calories from a gram of fat than from a gram of carb/protein - more than double!).
I consume multiple serves of fresh fruit and raw veggies every day. As needed, I keep little reminder lists on the fridge of foods that are high in iron, calcium, vitamin C, omegas, and the like. I gave up on multi-vitamins in favour of a very good diet.
I've been various versions of vegetarian since the mid 1990s, slowly and consciously removing more animal products from my diet when it felt "right" for me (combination of health, environmental, and ethical reasons at different times). Since December 2016, I've been vegan. If that word conjures up some political, emotional reactions as you read it, just call it "whole foods, plant based." :)
I don't follow the old, traditional 5 day carb-loading programmes. I think all that's going to do is cause me to gain weight (especially when coupled with a taper). I don't need to carry another kilo around come race day. This style of multi-day carb-loading is really losing the support of research.
I do, however, follow an alternate carb-loading programme researched/developed at The University of Western Australia that involves carb-loading only the day before the event, after a short sprint. And still, I don't eat to excess/discomfort and don't specifically count how many carbs I'm taking in. I just make sure I'm topped up all day and never go hungry. I limit fresh fruit and veggies (because of the fibre) in that last day because they do seem to negatively affect a lot of runners and the reality is that they are not necessary the day before. So it doesn't hurt to avoid them. The morning of a race, I don't eat within about 3 hours. Muscle glycogen, the fuel recruited from your body when you start racing, is left intact overnight (that's what you've carefully been tending to in your recovery fueling after your long runs for the past three months, right?!). Only your liver glycogen is low the morning of the race - that's the bit you used while sleeping to mostly keep your brain alive. If I feel hungry in the morning, I'll eat a maximum of 100 cals about 5 minutes before the start - just to get rid of the empty or "sloshy" feeling in my stomach.
It's no secret that I'm a fan of Hammer Nutrition products. I had read their information and the science made sense. I was trying to use "real" food that would give the same end product, but it was complicated. I often felt sick and didn't know which food to blame (or combination thereof). I used some other fuels with some good success, but they do have more simple sugar in them (and no protein) and I didn't think they would be as suitable for races edging over 6 hours. I didn't want the highs and lows of simple sugar running. So I found switching to the Hammer fuels made racing much easier - no more trying to guess what to mix and match and how to get my protein as well for the longer events.
Regardless of what you choose - a brand name fuel or a mixture of "real" food, I think it's important to keep a few things in mind:
- get your calories right - many people overfuel and the nausea that occurs is due to the body's inability to digest all that food. Most of your blood is going to your working leg muscles and to cooling you. A bit needs to get to your brain. That leaves only a little for your stomach. You can't put in what you're burning. There must be a deficit. The harder you're working, the less you'll be able to digest.
- avoid anything with fat, fibre, and preservatives. These are too hard to digest and not useful as race fuel.
- use complex carbs, adding a touch of protein for ultra length events. Avoid simple sugars, except perhaps towards the very end of a race. Once my body gets its hands on simple sugars, it seems like that's all it wants and it's hard to keep energy stable. They burn too quickly, creating peaks and lows.
Post-Race Nutrition/Recovery Food
Post-race or after a long run (anything over about 1.5 -2 hours), I am sure to have protein and carb available for consumption within 30 minutes. I follow the 1:3 ratio for recovery and include 15 - 20 grams of protein. I also pack some high antioxidant foods into my diet over the next few days after a long race.
Click here for an irreverent article on calorie counting and nutrition generally (caution - contains a lot of swear words!)