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Six Easy Ways to Maintain a Training Diet

Of all the marathon tips we can offer, here’s an easy one: Getting the nutrition you need doesn’t need to be complicated.

As sports dietician and Six Star finisher Meghann Featherstun will tell you, finding just 30 minutes to prepare ingredients over the weekend makes it easier to organize meals throughout the week.

The key to her wins? Smart planning and recognizing that, as she says, “Daily nutrition is the foundation to success.” Here she shares six running-related nutrition hacks that keep her going — and thriving.

1. Keep Staples on Hand

Even a mostly empty fridge should be stocked with some basics. It just makes it easier to whip up last-minute meals, as Featherstun tells her clients. She gives two prime examples: eggs and avocados, which have a longer shelf life and can even be combined on a piece of hearty sourdough bread. “If all else fails, have ingredients that you can throw together to make a sandwich,” she says.

2. Make it Easy to Find Your Fuel

Even on shorter runs, Featherstun prioritizes nutrition. For her, that means having what she needs in the pantry or freezer. “If you’re doing a long run, find something that’s shelf-stable, like a granola bar or even a loaf of bread,” she says.

It goes hand in hand with her advice about always having staples available. And she offers another tip to put quick carbs to use for you: Keep bagels in the freezer that can be reheated in a pinch to help fuel your run.

Meanwhile, don’t limit your planning to food. Hydration is fuel, too, and electrolyte drinks make it easy.  

3. Prep the Snacks

Even if your meals are on point, you’ll likely need snacks when you are training for a marathon. The goal of snacking is to make it to your next meal without being famished and to provide your body with the energy it needs for training and recovery.

When you’re hungry, you often want the convenience of a snack, but you’ll have to plan ahead for something that’s balanced with the protein and carbs your body needs.

Featherstun’s favorite snack to toss together? Energy bites, made quickly by tossing dates, nuts and a few other healthy ingredients together in a food processor.

4. Space Out Your Protein

Eating lean protein — including chicken or turkey — throughout the day can make it easier to feel full while maintaining muscle, Featherstun explains. Try eating some protein as a part of almost every meal rather than a larger portion for dinner. “Especially if you’re over 40 and want to maintain muscle mass, we have to eat more protein at each meal,” she says.

Need a satisfying breakfast? Featherstun has a hack for that: make-ahead breakfast burritos with beans, cheddar cheese, eggs and veggies. The burritos can be stored in the fridge or freezer and warmed up as needed in the microwave.

The beauty of a burrito, she adds, is that it’s easy to customize. Adding potatoes or tweaking the amounts of each ingredient is no problem. You can load up on protein or go higher-carb during days where you’re running long distances.

5. Plan, But Don’t Waste Time with Meticulous Details

Rather than prepping entire meals on Sundays, Featherstun pre-makes ingredients that she can mix and match throughout the week. Maybe it’s shredded chicken that she can add to the top of a salad, roll up into a burrito for her daughter or toss on top of pre-cooked rice.

“It’s all about having those premade higher-protein or higher-carb items,” she said. This can also help reduce the fatigue of eating the same prepped foods again and again. It’s better to make your nutrition needs things to look forward to.

6. Mix It Up

No matter the recipe, making the same thing can get boring. Rather than following a routine, Featherstun stresses the importance of spontaneity when it comes to daily meals and snacks.

For many of us, it’s essential to enjoy the process of customizing our nutrition, not just the result. For her after-run fuel, Featherstun is known to blend a variety of protein and carbs together for a shower shake — which she quite literally drinks in the shower.

“We need to make it fun and easy for us to throw together,” she says. “When it gets boring, we’re not going to do it.”

For more training and nutrition tips from leading experts, as well as inspiring stories from runners who have benefited from Abbott technologies, visit Abbott’s new marathon hub.

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