Eating for Fuel Efficiency

Quality matters more than quantity in training and recovery.  What you eat, and in what ratios, can dramatically impact your efficiency as a runner.

Let your body teach you what it prefers.

Your fuel impacts…

  • your energy on a run
  • whether your body chooses to burn sugars or fat
  • how quickly you recovery
  • your ability to hold onto muscle mass vs burning it
  • stomach issues in races

And so much more!

This is part 3 after parts one and two… how to know if you burn sugar vs fat and how I use fasted runs.

If you’ve paid attention to your body’s signals, you’ve probably already identified a lot about what does and doesn’t work for you pre-run, during and post-run.

Balance your meals.

In metabolic efficiency, you want to also take a close look at how balanced your meals are.  Here is what we know for sure:

  • You need carbohydrates
  • You need healthy fats
  • You need adequate protein (higher than sedentary friends)

Any form of eating that cuts out or drastically reduces a macro-nutrient might have short term benefits but can lead to long term metabolism changes or missing nutrients.

In metabolic efficiency, you will balance carbs more evenly with protein than in a typical runner’s diet but carbohydrates will almost always be the highest macro-nutrient for runners.  This is where nutrient tracking can be very helpful and eye opening.

In the runner’s reset, I recommend using myfitnesspal for the 21 days so we get an idea of our starting point and what pieces need to be tweaked.

Focus on your post workout meal.

Post workout meal

Post workout is the best time to include starchy carbohydrates.  I like this image from Precision Nutrition because it gives a great visual of what your plate should look like.

If you are carb sensitive, you may want to aim for non-starchy carbohydrates for other meals but post workout is always a good time to get them in and replenish your glycogen stores.

Remember that there is no one way of eating that works for everyone.

While protein needs remain steady, there are several variables in an ideal runner’s diet:

  • Some of us do better with animal protein while others feel better on plant based proteins
  • Some feel great on wheat while others notice it causes inflammation and bloating
  • Some prefer higher carb and lower fat while others do better on higher fat and lower carb

Yes, everyone wants a “one fits all” diet but the truth is that you have to do what works for you.

Runners reset

In the Runner’s Reset (beginning next week!!) we’ll look at the best case scenario combinations of carbs, fat and protein for runners and how to identify the balance that your body prefers.


Have you ever tracked your food on myfitnesspal to determine how balanced your carbs, protein and fat are?

What have you learned so far about your body and the fuel that it prefers for running?




Steamtown training week 8 recap + Meal Plan link up

Hello from the beach!

Beach fun

I completely missed my  usual Sunday check in post and didn’t even realize it until late Sunday night.  We’re been enjoying a week with cousins and grandparents at the beach, but I ducked into a coffee shop for an hour or two for a little quiet time and caught up on a few things, including this recap.

It is HOT this week- unbelievable! Last week was week 8 of Steamtown training, my highest mileage to date for this training cycle so far.  It was a great week until Friday, when the heat was pretty brutal, just in time for my 18 miler!

I’m taking this week as a cut back week, with more cross training in the form of swimming and not worrying too much about getting the runs in.

Training Recap:

Sunday: 20 minute easy bike recovery ride + short strength circuit (squat and press ups, push ups, kettle bell swings and plank series)

Monday: 9 easy miles (9:20 ave)

Tuesday: 45 minute spin

Wednesday: 10 miles with 6 at tempo (8:46, 8:00, 7:15, 7:05, 7:27, 7:16, 7:15, 7:15, 8:26, 8:00)

10 mile run

Thursday: short upper body/core with resistance bands

Friday: 18 miles with splits ranging from 9:00 to 7:48 (ave pace 8:31)

Trail run 6 mile out and back

(I used this trail twice for a total of 12 shaded miles on my hot run!)

Saturday: 5 recovery miles (no watch, probably 9:30- 10:00 pace) + 45 minutes of “swimming” around with my 6 year old

18 miler

I ended the week with 42 miles and felt great.  Ironically, after a few days on the beach my shins were a little sore, which I think is from walking on the sand.  The humidity is crazy, so my 5 miler yesterday turned into 3 and I’m just rolling with it this week and doing what I can.

Ideally, I plan to peak around 50 miles but don’t plan to go any higher than that.  My body has taught me that it prefers lower mileage. I’d like to add a little more strength training back in too but it’s so hard as mileage goes up.

Meal Plan

Tuesday:  Out (date night)

Wednesday: Out

Thursday: Grill chicken sausage, sweet potato, eggplant, zucchini and sweet corn

Friday: Pizza night

Saturday:  Party for baby J turning two! (Burgers, veggie burgers, side salads, cupcakes)

When L turned two, I was still hunting for the healthiest homemade cupcakes I could make- this time I’m using Trader Joe’s vanilla cake mix.  Life is just busier, and a super sweet cupcake will be a fun treat for her!

I did, however, make my own icing- I brought it along this week to celebrate with family and I’ll make more for the party.  It’s so easy!  A combo of cocoa powder, honey, dash of milk and a little peanut butter.  So good! And just four ingredients.

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Do you like to cook on vacation or go out for all your meals?

How to you balance strength training while marathon training?

Linking up with My No-Guilt Life, Marcia’s Healthy Slice, and MCM Mama Runs to share scenes from my run for Tuesdays on the Run, and HoHo Runs and MissSippi Piddlin’ for the Weekly Wrap. Also linking up with Nicole, Annmarie, Jen, and Michelle for Wild Workout Wednesday.




Day in Life and WIAW

Hi friends!

How are we nearing the end of July already? We have some traveling coming up and I’m almost afraid to go because school will be starting soon after we return!

I thought I’d go back to a WIAW (What I Ate Wednesday) and day in life post today.

My day started early, with one kiddo crawling into bed with me at 6am.  I got up, determined to get my run in before the it was too warm.  After a really tough run on Monday (tired, heavy legs) I was worried that the tempo run wouldn’t happen.  But I felt surprisingly great and nailed my paces- woohoo!

Day Life run

The cool breeze and the views around the water made it an awesome start to the day. I had 1/2 a banana with sunflower seed butter pre-run and my daughter’s leftover steel cut oats post run (we do these overnight in the pressure cooker.  It saves so much time!)

Day life breakfast

After showering, I had a chance to eat a second breakfast- Swiss chard from our garden (sauteed the night before) thrown into scrambled eggs with feta and one of Lindsay’s sweet potato banana muffins (also made the night before).

Then we scrambled around getting ready for swim lessons for my 6 year old.  Getting out the door is not getting any easier!

Baby J and I wondered around the pool and dipped our toes in the kids pool as we waited for her to finish.  It was like an ice bath! I have no idea why it was so cold today but my legs probably appreciated it.

After dropping off library books, we headed home and decided to do our nails before our beach trip.  Little sis wanted to be fully involved this time and chose a color for her hands and feet.

Day Life Nails

Big sis did her toes and if you could see them up close it would be pretty obvious… ha!!

Then I threw lunch together- egg sandwich for my oldest, leftover sweet potatoes and lentils for the littlest, and an avocado chicken salad for myself. Some days I don’t mind being a short order cook!

Avocado Chicken Salad

I threw the chicken salad together with leftovers from a roast chicken and made a mayo-less salad with avocado and Greek yogurt.  It was really good! The recipe is here.

Hubs came down from his office to join me for lunch as the girls were finishing up.  They actually played peacefully long enough for us to eat and, shocker, have a real conversation!

Day Life lunch

This week my oldest is doing an afternoon camp so baby J went down for her nap and I headed out with her.  After drop off, I set up shop at Whole foods with a decaf coffee and RX Bar and finally caught up on emails and a bit of work.

Day Life RX

I wouldn’t say I love these bars but I grabbed a few at Trader Joe’s this week and they’re fine in a pinch.  I’m also wrapping up week 3 of the runner’s reset and aiming for the least processed food choices so this is a good one.  (Next one starts August 1st!!)

I picked up broccoli to turn the rest of our leftover chicken into a favorite curry rice noodle soup recipe. It’s not a big hit with the girls, but they eat the parts deconstructed.

Day Life dinner

We spent the evening outside and then I was on bedtime duty.  We finally had a quiet evening for a little blogging, list-making for upcoming trips and an early bedtime.

Do you plan your runs around the predicted temperatures?

What are some of your go to lunches?



How I Use Fasted Runs

Last week, I shared some of the signs that can tell you if you are mostly burning sugar or fat as an endurance runner.

One easy tool to test what your body is burning is to implement fasted runs.  There are mixed opinions on this- whether it forces your body to burn fat or if it is only burning muscle (not want you want) but in either case, it does force your body to workout in a glycogen depleted state where it has minimal sugars to pull from.

To be clear, fasted runs do not teach your body what to burn but they can help you identify if you are a sugar burner or not.

A fasted run is not simply running on an empty stomach.  To be glycogen depleted, first thing in the morning is ideal.  Otherwise, you would have to wait 5+ hours after eating and are more likely to feel hungry and weak.

Fasted runs are NOT:

  • a way to lose weight
  • a short cut to fat loss
  • guaranteed to boost your training results

4 Benefits of Fasted Runs

However, they do have many helpful functions.

  1. By forcing your body to work out in a glycogen depleted state, you mimic how running will feel toward the end of a longer race and teach your body to pull from fat stores as opposed to running out of sugar and bonking
  2. If you cannot go more than 2-3 miles without feeling weak and shaky, you can be pretty confident that you are primarily a sugar burner and need to tweak your diet.
  3. If you do a few long runs in a fasted state, your body learns to work hard without the benefit of fuel which often means an improved performance when you are fueling with carbohydrates on race day
  4. Research shows that exercising in a fasted state increases lipolysis and fat oxidation rates.

I use fasted runs several times a week.  Most of my short distance runs are done immediately after I wake up. I drink water and go out the door.

If I wake up hungry or have an especially long or hard speed workout, I usually eat 1/2 a banana with almond butter as I know I will perform better.

I also incorporate fasted long runs up to about 16-17 miles a few times per cycle.  I typically alternate a glycogen depleted long run with a fueled long run so my body learns to work with whatever it’s given.

Years ago, when I used to fuel on anything over 6 miles, I found that my body would start to shut down every 30-40 minutes and crave the sugar boost.  That was a key sign for me that I was too dependent on sugar as fuel.  Since changing my diet and incorporating more fasted runs, I feel fine without fuel.

However, I do want to add that if body composition or fat loss is a goal, you will see faster results with less cardio (skip the marathon training!) and more strength training and HIIT workouts.  Steady state cardio is known for making it difficult to maintain muscle mass and encouraging fat storage.

Do you use fasted runs?

Have you ever done a long run in a glycogen depleted state?

Linking up with Coaches Corner.



Steamtown training week 7 + Meal planning Link up

Hi friends,

It’s a hot weekend here… how about you? We had a fun visit with my husband’s parents and aunts and uncles.  It was an excuse to check out a local museum we haven’t been to yet and L and I prepped a mini surprise party for grandma’s birthday.  She decorated the house (by throwing torn crepe paper as “confetti” and decorating balloons with yarn hair) and I made a peach blueberry crisp.

Today is looking like a good pool day.

This was week 7 of marathon training already! I am definitely feeling stronger.  In fact, I was almost giddy after my 400m repeats on Monday- the strongest, most consistent splits I’ve had in a long time! And after one of my highest weeks of training so far, too.  I’m building confidence little by little that the 3:20 is doable.

Workout Recap:

Sunday: rest

Monday: 7 miles with 400m x 12 with 90 second rest (ave 5:45 per repeat- 1:28, 1:23, 1:23, 1:26, 1:26, 1:26, 1:27, 1:25, 1:28, 1:27, 1:27, 1:26)

Tuesday: 3.5 easy run + core/upper body circuit (upper rows, kettle bell swings, push ups, mountain climbers, shoulder press, side planks)

Wednesday: 8 mile progression run with final 3 at 7:54, 7:30, 7:16)

Thursday: off

Friday: 14.5 hot, humid, tough miles!

Saturday: 6 recovery miles on the trail (9:15 ave)

400m repeats

For the next couple of weeks, my long run will be Fridays with a recovery Saturday to fit conflicts of schedule.  I’m hoping I can squeeze in all the miles I need to.  It will mean a few extra early mornings.  I have 18 to get in this Friday.  Any tips?

Meal Plan

Sunday: Leftover BBQ chicken + Cucumber tomato quinoa salad

Cucumber Quinoa Goat Cheese Salad

Monday: Egg avocado bacon tomato sandwiches

Tuesday:  Greek Black Bean burgers + veggies and hummus

Wednesday: Grill shrimp kebabs over rice

Thursday:  Easy Green Goddess spiralized potato salad

Friday: Dinner at the beach

Saturday:  Beach

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What day do you typically do your long run?

What’s the last confidence boosting run you’ve had?

I’m linking up with the Weekly Wrap.




Riding the waves

Thanks for the great discussion around sugar and fat burning this week! I’ll follow up with part two next Tuesday.

For today, I am Thinking Out Loud.

I was at the grocery store yesterday with both girls after picking up my oldest from camp, and noticed how different my cart looks from just a few years ago.  I used to be fanatical about making our own granola bars and bread and keeping processed foods out of the house.

Yesterday? L found single packet mac and cheese that I agreed to, a peanut butter flavored cereal, veggie straws and marshmallows.  Granted, we were at Whole Foods so they may not contain high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils, but they aren’t exactly health foods either.

But I noticed that I no longer care about getting it “perfect”- I’ve found it’s not easy to explain to a 6 year old what is not so healthy about mac and cheese or cereal, and I really don’t want her to have the “good foods”  vs. “bad foods” mindset.

Instead, we talk about choosing food from the land or animals as often as we can and it’s fine to fill in with some extras.  Food is meant to be enjoyed.

This is a pendulum swing for me.  It’s been on the extreme do-it-all-myself side, and it’s swinging the other way and hopefully settling around the middle.

I thought about how the pendulum swing connects to other parts of my life too.  Parenting.  Blogging.  Work.  Running.

The pendulum is definitely on the move with running- a year ago I was convinced I was done with marathons for life and here I am 5 weeks into training for another one and truly loving it!

Does this make me a hypocrite? Unreliable?

I don’t think so… I think it is normal to have seasons of life where we are passionate about something and then we set it aside.  We may come back to it or we may not.

Despite truly enjoying training right now, I also know that in another month or so my body will be tired and I’ll begin planning a serious running break- likely complete with another statement about ending my marathon running days.

The pendulum swings.  Motivation will wax and wane.  There is something freeing about knowing that this– where I am right now- does not have to be permanent.

Do you notice the pendulum swinging in your life?

What areas of your life have changed that you never would have expected a few years ago?


How do you know if you are an efficient fat burner or sugar burner?

It was about a year ago that I realized I was primarily a sugar burner.  Over the past year, I’ve talked a bit about learning how to be more metabolically efficient as an endurance athlete.

It is true that we need higher carbohydrates for energy and to restore glyogen post workout, but most of the women I work with are consuming more than the recommended amount.  I find that endurance runners in particular get higher amounts of sugars and carbohydrates than the average person. This leads to struggles with sugar cravings, fatigue, energy highs and lows or constant hunger.

Why teach your body to burn fat?

Ideally, you want to teach your body to be efficient at using fat for fuel in training for several reasons:

  • you will have an endless source of fuel (up to 80,000 fat calories stored at a given time as opposed to 1500 calories in carbohydrates)
  • you will be much less likely to ever hit the wall or bonk
  • you won’t feel weak or dizzy or run out of energy on a fasted run
  • your body composition will change (less fluffy, more definition)

We talk a lot about this in the runner’s reset programs I lead.  It’s very easy to assume you need to stock up on gels, gus and energy boosting products to be an efficient runner.  But how do you know if you are burning fat or sugar?

7 Signs that you burn sugar not fat

Here are 7 signs that you are mostly a sugar burner:

  • you can’t run more than 3 miles on an empty stomach first thing in the morning without feeling weak
  • you feel like you need food every 2 hours and struggle to go 3-4 hours between meals without feeling shaky or light headed
  • you have intense sugar cravings or struggle with low blood sugar
  • you hit mid-morning or mid-afternoon energy slumps
  • you rely on stimulants like coffee (beyond a cup or two in the morning) to get you through the day
  • during long runs, you feel like you NEED gu, gel, or other fuel or you start to fade
  • you struggle to lose weight

Do any of those symptoms sound like you? If so, you want to take a careful look at your diet and make some changes to balance carbohydrates and sugars with fat and protein.

For more specifics, you can do a metabolic efficiency test to learn at what paces your body crosses over from fat burning (low intensity) to carb/sugar burning (high intensity).  If your diet is especially high in carbohydrates, you may not even be burning fat at the low intensity jog.

You can also use fasted runs to test your body’s dependence on sugars for fuel. We’ll talk more specifically about using fasted runs and balancing your foods in two follow up posts.

Becoming a more efficient fat burner is not only better for your running, it is linked to better health with a lower chance of diabetes, inflammation and “skinny fat” symptoms.  You don’t have to be over weight to be damaging your health with an imbalance of nutrients. If you’re looking for specific guidance, the next runner’s reset begins August 1st and I’m happy to help you determine if it’s a good fit for you.

Have you ever bonked or felt like you ran out of fuel on a run?

Do you have any idea whether your body is burning mostly sugar or mostly fat?




Steamtown training week 6 recap + Meal Planning

What a week… there are so many things weighting heavily on my heart this week with national (and global) news.    I appreciated the many messages my friends have been posting about being the love, speaking out to be part of the change, and offering hope.  I’m struggling to know what I can do.

Thank goodness for runs to pound the pavement and clear my head.

Workout Recap (week 6 of marathon training):

Sunday: rest

Monday: 9 total miles (with the 4 mile race in 27:02)

Tuesday: 30 easy spin + core/upper body circuit

Wednesday: 7 hilly miles (8:28 ave)

Thursday: legs/core circuit (45 total burpees, 30 squat jumps, 30 lunges, 50 walking lunges, 30 step ups, plus leg raises, bicycles, and planks)

Friday: 6 mile progression run on sore legs (9:58, 8:59, 8:42, 8:24, 8:19, 7:46)

Saturday: 16.5 long run with Steph (9:30 ave with final 2 miles at 7:39 pace)

16 mile route

I drove to meet a friend for the long run yesterday and as always, it was so nice to have a new route! The miles flew by as we talked.  Nearly 40 miles this week makes this my biggest week since Boston training over a year ago.

I have two more similar mileage weeks and then another cut back week.


For the meal plan, we’re collecting lots of cucumbers, lettuce, swiss chard and herbs from the garden right now so that will be the focus of our meals!

Meal Plan

Sunday: BBQ chicken + cucumber tomato quinoa salad

Cucumber Quinoa Goat Cheese Salad

Monday: Crock pot chicken and salsa combo for taco night with avocado, scallion, and cheese + roasted veggies

Tuesday:  Large garden salads with leftover chicken, guacamole and roasted veggies

Wednesday: Swiss Chard Frittata

Thursday:  Lindsay’s gorgeous Jerk Salmon with veggies

Friday: Dinner at the pool and/or leftovers

Saturday:  Dinner with grandparents visiting

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Do you run most long runs solo or with friends?

Any suggestions to use up the dozens of cucumbers that are almost ready?




My 10 Year Vision

I love goal setting. Every season I map out training goals and a training plan. Every month, I map out a plan for my business.  Every week, I plan meals.  Every day, I write a short to do list.

But it’s been awhile since I was asked to write out my ten year vision.

Last week, a friend invited me along to a meeting for wellness entrepreneurs- yoga teachers, acupuncturists, health coaches, massage therapists, etc.  It was fantastic to connect with so many like-minded women.

The speaker for the evening was a business mentor and life coach who took us through a process of identifying where we want to be in 10 years and working backwards to determine what we need to do now to get there.

She had us lay on our backs, close our eyes, and answer a series of questions in our mind’s eye as we saw our future self.

At first, I struggled to see anything different from life right now.  I’m content (this in and of itself was an important realization, after years of wondering about growing our family, work uncertainty, etc).  But little by little, I put some pieces together.

Ten year vision

I saw more quality family time, more trees and trails and water, less noise and traffic, and, interestingly enough, two more kids! Ha! I’m not sure about that part.

I saw my business expanding.  I saw myself helping other moms meet these goals too and not have to choose between family and work.

I saw myself starting a foundation or non-profit of some kind.  My MSW concentrated on community development, policy and non-profit management.  I haven’t determined how I want to get involved with social issues on a macro level, but it’s still something I’m passionate about.

I saw myself with more time to volunteer.

I saw my days starting with a run, but didn’t see goal times or races playing a huge part of my life in ten years.

I saw more time for travel, especially for my husband and I to get away alone twice a year. I saw us exposing our kids to how people live around the world in and in our own backyards.

I saw a simple lifestyle.  I saw us teaching our kids the importance of hospitality and generosity in larger, more sacrificial, meaningful ways.

I saw kids 3 and 4 didn’t necessarily look like our family, and I realized adoption is still an interest of mine. (Again, I don’t know about this… but maybe!)

I saw a slower lifestlye.  I saw no technology whatsoever, now that I think of it.  Interesting.

If you’ve never done this exercise, try it!  We spent the next ten minutes journaling what we saw in the present tense.

And finally, we began our vision boards- cutting out images and words of importance. Having an awareness and focus on where we are headed helps us to see the opportunities in front of us to slowly move in that direction.

As I worked backwards, it gave me more clarity on what I’m doing that is moving me in the direction I want to go and what I need to change.

In running or in life, I think it’s so important to see the big picture and put it into writing and pictures.  Who knows how that could change the trajectory of your life?

Have you ever done a vision board?

Where do you see yourself in ten years?



July 4th 4 miler and 1 mile fun run

What a gorgeous weekend! We had perfect weather and got to enjoy as much time outdoors as possible. I hope you had a great holiday weekend!

We kicked off yesterday morning with a 4 mile race and kids 1 mile fun run.  I woke up nervous.  Short distance races have hurt lately.  That 5k I did a few weeks ago? It’s held me back from racing other local 5ks because I just don’t feel “ready”… but that’s silly.  I can’t get better if I don’t push myself.  So I signed up for this race last week, largely because it also had a kids option and would be a fun family event for the morning.

L picked out our sparkly soul bands and asked for matching braids.

Cranford fun run and 4 miler

We got there just in time to use the bathrooms and get our bibs and jump into the kids race.  It was a one mile race- the longest “race” my daughter has done so far.  We did a few practice runs, and she would stop and walk often.  But this time she ran a nice steady pace the whole way through- I was really proud of her!


I only had minutes to head to the start for my race, so that 11 minute mile would have to do as my warm up.   I was aiming for a hard tempo effort, and knew I would push a little harder than that once the race started.

It was hot, but less hilly than other 5ks I’ve been running in the areas, so that helped.

I felt really good for the first mile.  Too good, actually.  I probably should have pushed harder but I wanted to start conservatively and pick it up for the second half.  Mile one: 6:49.

The race was mostly flat with chunks of it in the shade.  When we came into the full sun it was brutal, but not as humid as other mornings this past week.  Mile two I focused on slowly passing a few of the runners in front of me who had started too fast and were slowing down.  Mile two: 6:42

I aimed to stay as consistent as possible for mile three.  It was the hardest mile for me- I was starting to feel tired but also wanting my legs to pick up the pace.  6:44


The final mile looped us back toward the park where we started.  I saw my girls and husband cheering and pushed a little harder to finish strong: 6:37

Final time: 27:01 (my watch); 27:06 chip time (which started with the gun, not a chip)

Cranford 4 miler

On the drive to the race, I told my husband my goal was between 27 and 27:30 so I’m really happy with that! Especially for a hot day in the middle of marathon training.  It was a good confidence boost that my training is on track and that the possibility of a 3:20 marathon is doable.

I did a two mile cool down around the park for a total of 7 miles.  The girls played on the shaded playground and I ran into Maxine, a talented runner who I know from Instagram and lives just two towns over!

Cranford Maxine and I

So I did another two mile cool down with her and loved the chance to get to know her a bit.  We have a lot in common, as redheads, stay-at-home moms, runners and we’re both training for a marathon on October 9th! I look forward to connecting more with her in my training going forward.


We came back just in time to learn that she had the second overall time for women and I was first in my age group. Nine miles for Monday with a solid 4 mile race is a great way to start the week!

We stopped at home for lunch and naps and then spent the afternoon at a BBQ with friends.  And now the fun, long weekend must come to an end!

Did you run a 4th of July race?

Have you ever done a 4 miler?