Don’t Hit the Wall: 5 Lessons from Marathoners on Brain-Fueling Food Delivery

Posted by on Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 with 2 Comments

Stamina is something many athletes must take into consideration, whether they’re preparing for a long hockey match on the ice, or participation in a marathon. However, marathon runners aren’t the only individuals who have to worry about “hitting the wall”. While runners are concerned about their bodies physically running out of fuel during a big race, the rest of us know the feeling of staring at a computer screen or piece of paper for an extended length of time and the toll it can take. It can begin to feel as though we can’t actually read the words in front of us. Long days, conflicting priorities, and endless meetings make it easy for the average employee to hit the wall when it comes to focus and attention — especially when we don’t pay attention to properly fueling our brains the way athletes fuel their bodies.

marathon runners

Marathoners know how to avoid hitting the wall!
Image source: Flickr user edwardopilopilous

After all, marathoners don’t just train by running, but by eating a diet tailored to their body’s needs. And while athletes are likely to burn, and, therefore, consume more calories than the average non-marathoner needs, they also know a lot about fueling their bodies to survive a grueling race… including some tips on healthier eating that all of us would be well-advised to follow. We’ve taken the best advice from athletes and nutrition experts, and applied it to the office worker’s equivalent of those mid-marathon sports gels: lunchtime food delivery!

View food as fuel, not a reward

“I love food, but I don’t look at it as a reward for a hard workout; it’s fuel to help me run harder and recover faster,” elite marathoner Kara Goucher told Fitness Magazine. This can be especially tough to apply in the office. After all, your lunch break (brief as it may be) is sometimes your only respite from the daily grind — so it’s easy to feel justified in treating yourself to a burger and fries or slice of pizza during a rough day. Instead, follow Goucher’s example: think about how your lunch will fuel your brain. Instead of seeking comfort in greasy takeout that will leave you tired and unfocused, eat a lunch balanced with whole grains and lean proteins — providing the steady energy release and long-lasting satiety to keep you focused for the rest of the day.

sandwich with veggies on a whole wheat bun

Focus on all the healthy foods you can pack into your lunch, instead of what you’re leaving out.
Image source: Flickr user Janine

Adopt agnostic healthy eating

Do the best athletes follow the Paleo diet? Are they vegan? Do they swear off dairy? Generally, no. Most athletes focus more on what they do eat than what they don’t, but without any hard-and-fast rules or beliefs — earning the term “agnostic healthy eating”. This means they tend to eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts, legumes, seafood, and lean meat… and avoid deeming anything strictly off-limits. Follow their lead and try to incorporate as many brain-boosting foods as you can into your food delivery order, and you’ll feel much more positive about your choices. There’s a big difference between thinking “This turkey-on-whole-wheat is going to give me so much energy” and “That meatball sub isn’t allowed”.

grilled shrimp salad

Salads with a rainbow of colors provide a wide array of nutrients.
Image source: Flickr user Steven Depolo

Mix up your fruits & veggies

One excellent rule of thumb is to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables — different colors signify different nutrients. Look for salads with a lot of color — yellow bell peppers, deep green spinach, red strawberries — to ensure you’re getting a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.

Eat high-quality carbs

The stereotype of runners carbo-loading on potatoes and white pasta is just that — a stereotype. While some marathoners may eat extra carbs the night before a big race, during their daily routine, nutritionists recommend eating high-quality whole grains and complex carbohydrates. Sweet potatoes, quinoa, farro, beans, brown rice — these are the kinds of quality carbs that the best athletes incorporate into their daily diet. At the office, it’s easy to follow their example: order brown rice instead of white with your Chinese food, swap out white bread for whole wheat on your deli sandwich, and choose whole-wheat pasta instead of the regular stuff. Your blood sugar and energy levels will thank you!

tired man at desk

Make sure you have the fuel you need on long days at the office.
Image source: Flickr user Phil and Pam

Plan ahead for your own personal “race day”

Runners usually have their race day menu planned out well in advance – they know just what foods help them run their best and maintain their pace. Follow their example when it comes to busy days at the office! If you know you’ll be in meetings for hours or staying late to meet a deadline, coordinate your food delivery to provide your own optimal fuel: the day before your early meetings, order a whole-wheat bagel along with your deli sandwich so you’ll have a healthy breakfast waiting at the office. When you’ll be working late, add an extra salmon roll to the sushi order to stash in the fridge for a late-afternoon snack. Skipping meals is a guaranteed way to feel tired and distracted when you need focus and energy the most!

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2 responses to “Don’t Hit the Wall: 5 Lessons from Marathoners on Brain-Fueling Food Delivery”

  1. Dj says:

    Yes to mixing fruits and veggies to your food. I follow a pescatarian diet lately and fruits and veggies are my main food all the time. It has helped me with digestion and feeling better all through out the day.