Topping Up Your Nutrition for Walking
Now that you have your walking programme in place you need to know how to fuel these walks as they get longer.
As soon as I mention fuelling walks I’m sure many of you will start dreaming about all those great carbs you’re now allowed to eat in unlimited quantities … unfortunately this isn’t quite true, and as I’m sure you know, things which are too good to be true usually are. It is true that along with a diet which contains adequate protein and fats you will need some extra carbs, but definitely not in unlimited quantities.
The Need for Complex Carbs
Before and after the walk you need complex carbs, these are the slower burning and give a more sustained energy release. These are my favourite in descending order:
Whole grain rice
Whole meal pasta or bread
White pasta or bread
As you can see from the above list I prefer carbs which are messed around with as little as possible. Now I’m not a believer in the naturalistic fallacy but there’s a certain amount of preparation which goes into making bread and pasta which doesn’t happen with potatoes, maybe this is why so many people have issues with those types of manufactured foods. With sweet potatoes all you do is peel and bake, maybe with a little paprika (I promise that’s as culinary as I get) and you have an excellent slow release carb with which to fuel your walks or re-fuel afterward.
The crux of carb selection is how you react to a particular carb. I love white bread, but when I eat it I feel bloated and sleepy; far from ideal if I was about to go out for a 20 miler! These issues seem more prevalent for most people with carbs from the bottom of my list, and less so with those from the top. If however, you feel energised after eating white bread and you’re ready to rock and roll then have it – lucky you.
The Need for Simple Carbs
Simple carbs (faster acting) are used during your walks to keep your energy levels topped up. I like to use a carbo drink, look for those with “long chain glucose polymers”. Unfortunately many can’t stand the taste of these, especially when exercising. If this rings true with you then try the gel packs which many Marathoners and cyclists use, or good old Snickers bars or flapjacks. Please be aware that Snickers bars can get a little messy on a long walk, especially in hot weather, whereas the gel packs are messy the whole time. Also remember that if you decide to fuel yourself with food rather than a carbo drink you will also need to take water with you – just in case the really obvious isn’t that obvious.
A Word about Stopping off for Lunch
When planning your walks, especially the longer walks I would be very temped to have lunch planned, at a nice pub for example. This will allow you to re-fuel on your complex carbs as well as have a well earned rest. You could bring sandwiches (with bread you can tolerate) with you but this all adds to the amount you have to cart around with you. A nice balanced lunch is great for keeping you energised, just don’t be tempted to go overboard. I don’t want a bloated sluggish you struggling as you set out on the last five miles of that day’s walk. If you have overdone your lunch it will feel a lot longer than that.
In closing I will say that before and during your walk eat for function, if you feel the need for a treat which doesn’t energise you then have that after your training for that day. Remember, you’re an athlete now!
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