I am a disciplined eater and always have been. Even since my retirement from competitive running, I still eat the same kind of diet that I did when training hard.
In saying that I like to keep things simple. Growing up on a farm we were self sufficient. We had our own meat, chickens, lamb, eggs, milk, vegetables and some fruit. I felt this good diet help build up my immune system and this kept me healthy and strong for the long endurance training and racing that I did.
I have a routine, and the same go-to foods that make it onto my shopping list every week! This might sound boring – but I know my body very well, and I know the foods that fuel it properly. Eating junk food makes me feel awful, and impact my energy levels and my mood. Who needs that? I’d prefer to fuel myself with the foods that do good for me and make me feel good.
So what’s a typical day’s meal plan look like?
First thing in the morning I have a glass of warm water with freshly squeezed lemon, lime and orange. This is a cleansing and refreshing drink and also great for energy before running.
I follow this with some fruit. I eat most of my fruit in the morning and always before food. It’s not good to eat fruit after food as it causes fermentation in the stomach.
I’m a big believer in porridge oats and have been since I was a child. I was not crazy about it then but now oatmeal is my staple breakfast food. I jazz it up a little with a handful of nuts, which might be walnuts or chopped almonds, and then I flavour it with maple syrup. Oats are a slow release carbohydrate and are fantastic before training and racing.
I have never been a fan of tea or coffee as it is not good for our joints. I like to drink herbal teas, like lemon and ginger or camomile.
I typically run in the morning, after the children have left for school, and before I go to visit any of my business partners for a lunchtime Fit For Business training program. Before running, I hydrate with at least a pint of water – sometimes warm, and sometimes cold – depending on the weather. In recent months, I add a scoop of Heart Essentials, which is an Irish made supplement from Health Essentials, that has nitric oxide and l-arginine, in it, along with lots of other vitamins and minerals. This is designed to support the cardiovascular system, and thank God – my own heart health is good – but this gives me a circulatory boost and great energy before I run, and greater flexibility as well.
Back from my run, I am now in recovery mode. Muscles that have exercised need repair – and repair calls for protein.
I’ll eat a little salad, with sardines or an egg on top. Sardines are the unsung heros of athlete’s diets. They are really high in omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA (to help manage cholesterol), an excellent source of vitamin B12, and bone-building vitamin D, and most importantly for me – an excellent source of lean protein! Proteins form the basis of muscles and connective tissues – and I am all in favour of anything that keeps these joints of mine going.
I said in a recent interview that my joints must have racked up hundreds of thousands of miles between training and racing and they have carried me this far – so I owe it to them to mind them 🙂
Along with my protein rich lunch, I’ll always re-hydrate after my run. Through the course of the day, I definitely consume 5 litres of water or herbal tea, at a minimum. After my run, I’ll add a scoop of my other daily supplement – Joint Essentials, which is packed full of collagen, chondroitin, glucosamine and other vitamins and minerals to maintain supple, flexible joints and strong bones. The collagen doesn’t do the skin any harm either!
Dinner for me, is typically eaten with the children. They are fast growing, and both into sports of their own, and believe me – race career or not – I Often have trouble keeping up with them! For the most part, I eat what they eat – we’ll always have vegetables, fish or meat, and potato or rice.
I am not a drinker, and never have been. In my early adult life, between training and racing there was always a reason to avoid it, because it definitely impacts performance in an athlete. I was not interested in choosing to consume something that would make me feel less well or train less effectively in the build up to a race or while participating in a competition. so, I never developed a taste for it and now I’m grateful for that! I certainly don’t judge anyone who does take a drink, for many people it’s a way to relax and part of enjoying a nice meal for example. There are even studies now to suggest that having a glass of red wine every evening is very good for you, and it boosts antioxidants in the system, so perhaps I will take it up yet!!
I think of my diet and eating habits as well-balanced and normal, for me at least. I always advise people to find what feels right and promotes well-being for them – because it’s a very individual thing. We should all consume everything in moderation – even exercise, and a piece of cake or some chocolate does you no harm at all every now and again. A little bit of what you fancy does you good!