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Eat and run 

Simon Thibault seeks out some dietary advice for those who are in training for the Bluenose Marathon.

click to enlarge Tara MacDonald is gearing up for a half-marathon. - RILEY SMITH
  • Tara MacDonald is gearing up for a half-marathon.
  • Riley Smith

During next weekend's Blue Nose Marathon, runners will gather to do everything from five-kilometre jaunts to full-fledged marathons. During their runs, they will burn off loads of calories. But what awaits their hungry bellies once they have finished? And what do they eat in the days leading up to the race?

Anna Threadcraft is a clinical dietician at Capital Health. She also works with Dalhousie's basketball and swim teams. Among her responsibilities is making sure that her athletes know what to eat, but also when to eat. "The basic principle for healthy eating is to eat routinely," she says. "It's important to start off with breakfast within one hour of waking and then eat every three to four hours thereafter to promote normal blood sugar level. Breakfast allows your body to get a jumpstart of fuel to push you through the day and power your brain up. It also tends to impact people's food choices through the rest of the day if they eat well first thing and may also prevent late-night snacking."

Speaking of snacks, Threadcraft says they're fine, as long as you stick to healthy choices. "It also helps to prevent the 'I'm so hungry I could eat a horse' stage that often comes when we skip them," she says.

But part of eating properly is not only knowing when to eat, but also what to eat. The best way to do that is to listen to your body. Tara MacDonald has learned to pay attention. "I don't eat pasta, or rice or oats because I know those things don't work well in my body for running," she says. "When I eat those things I feel sluggish."

Knowing what foods to avoid is especially important on the day of the event. "Any foods with a high amount of fibre can be an unfortunate choice," says Threadcraft. "Fibre has been known to cause, shall we say, 'gut distress' if eaten in excess. Fibre also absorbs fluid as it moves through the digestive tract, which may increase your chances of dehydration since fluid is lost during exercise."

Stick to your typical routine as much as possible, she says. "When it comes to racing and trying new foods on the actual day, if in doubt, leave it out."

It's advice MacDonald plans on listening to. "The morning of the run," she says,  "I'll probably have toast with peanut butter, or two small wraps of peanut butter and jam to give me a boost."

MacDonald plans on doing a half-marathon in this year's Blue Nose. She's been gearing up for it by fueling her body with what she feels works best for her. "For meat, I eat lean meats, like turkey or lean steak. Potatoes are my main carb," she says. The irony that potatoes, and not bread, are her main carbs doesn't escape her---MacDonald is part-owner of Two If By Sea, known for its ginormous butter-laden croissants.

As for after the main event, Threadcraft states that it's just as important to stay nourished and hydrated after running. "Having a balanced snack within 20 minutes after a 60-minute workout is essential for muscle rebuilding," she says. "For all activities under 60 minutes, hydrate with water before and after. For any events lasting longer than 60 minutes, make sure to include a fluid that contains electrolytes."

MacDonald agrees, though she plans on treating herself after the half-marathon. "After, I'll spoil myself with pizza," she says.

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