Some long distance runners and endurance athletes are so conscientious about their race day routines that they enlist people like Heather Fink to create a diet plan to take them from training through the last mile of the course and recovery. Fink is a sports consultant and dietitian at IU Health Sports Performance. With eighteen marathons to her credit, she enjoys helping endurance athletes prepare for their races with solid nutrition plans and on-the-fly strategies to cope with unexpected difficulties during a race.
In an era when food allergies, intolerances and tastes run the gamut, Fink says no two daily nutrition plans look the same––and fortunately, they don’t have to. “Your nutrition plan should be based on your food preferences, health risks and individual goals,” Fink says. “I try to get people focused on eating whole foods such as meats, beans, nuts, fruits, vegetables and grains.” The biggest obstacle most of her clients have to a healthy diet is the lack of cooking skills and dedicated preparation time.
As a practical matter, she sees no reason that processed foods should be banished, as long as they aren’t consumed as often as they are in a typical American diet. The inevitable question Fink hears most from athletes: “Which nutrition bars, shakes, drink mixes and supplements should I take?” She answers that question with one of her own: “Is there a real food that might serve you just as well for less money?”
Fink also urges athletes to stay hydrated. Although fluid requirements can vary dramatically from one person to the next, Fink says most runners need to consume 24 to 48 ounces of fluid per hour. “In a short 45-minute workout, many people wouldn’t notice the negative ramifications of dehydration,” Fink says. “In a two or three hour race, they are absolutely going to notice. They may feel so horrible that they can’t finish.”
Runners who neglect their race day nutrition and fluid intake can pay a steep price. Muscle cramps, swelling, low blood sugar, sodium loss or more severe health conditions can result when athletes fail to take their bodies' requirements seriously.
Whether you’re an experienced endurance athlete or approaching your first half-marathon, contact Heather at (317) 848-5867 for a nutrition plan that’s customized for your needs.