Many of us struggle with properly fueling our body for performance and daily life, or have struggled with this in the past. I can honestly say I am one of those females. For years, I lived by the mentality of less food + more miles, along with eating super clean and restricting certain foods for fear of “getting fat.” I would run day in and day out and not knowingly under fuel, but couldn’t figure out why I was always so tired, cranky, and sore. I was prone to injury and spent endless hours and dollars on physical therapy, massage therapy, and acupuncture until one day someone had the courage to ask me, “what does your diet look like?” “Perhaps you’re underfueling and not giving your body the proper nutrients it needs for performance and recovery.” Honestly, I took offense! “Seriously, I’m super healthy and eat super clean so I can run well and look a certain way.”
After lots of internal reflection, therapy, and accepting the truth that I was under fueling and too restrictive, I began to make changes. Small changes in my fueling and everyday nutrition, made a huge impact in my performance, overall health, and energy over time. This was also the catalyst for a career change, and led me to go back to school for sports nutrition.
There is so much temptation to try all of the latest and greatest fad diets or ways of eating, that we become overwhelmed and confused! “If my friend is following this way of eating, crushing her goals and looks a certain way, certainly I will get the same results by following what she’s doing.” Right? I’m sorry to say but this is not accurate! We are all unique and have a different biochemical makeup. Our bodies respond and adapt to certain types of foods and ways of training differently.
Often, diet trends and fads lead to restriction, which leads to underfueling our workouts, sets us up for injury and hormonal imbalances to name a few. When you don’t give your body the fuel it needs, systems in the body can become sluggish and even shut down. The way you fuel your body has a direct impact on your performance and recovery. As an endurance athlete, we often need more fuel than others.
Under-fueling can affect everyone differently. If you suspect you might be underfueling, ask yourself a few questions:
- How do I feel during my runs? Do I have speed, power and endurance or am I constantly falling short of my pace and goals?
- How do I feel after my runs? Am I tired, moody, sore or have brain fog?
- Do I find myself injury prone and does it seem like I’m constantly sore and achy?
- How is my sleep quality?
- Do I feel anxious and irritable?
- Do I often get muscle cramps and GI distress?
If you answered yes to a few of these questions, it could mean it’s time to take a look at your overall nutrition and fueling strategy. I encourage you to focus on pre and post workout fuel, along with 3 balanced meals per day, and a few nutrient rich snacks.
Tips to increase calories to prevent underfueling:
- Include add-ons to meals and snacks – nuts in yogurt or salads, coconut oil in smoothies, avocado to anything!
- Have a protein rich evening snack. This will support sleep and recovery.
- Add fuel during runs, long and short.
- Eat every 2-3 hours instead of eating larger portions at regular meals.
- Stop skipping breakfast even if you run early in the morning. Have a pre-run snack followed by a post-run real breakfast including protein, carbs and fat!
Oftentimes when we’re under-fueled, if we boost our caloric intake slightly each day it will make a big difference in performance, recovery, energy and overall health. If you’re struggling in this area and not sure how to break free from underfueling or restriction, I’d love to help!