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Lesson learned: Runners, do not deny the carbohydrate

One day last week, after a hard interval run in the morning and a long day at work, I arrived home, turned on the baseball game and sat down on the couch for a second to think about dinner. Two and a half hours later, I cracked my eyes open and discovered I couldn't move. It took another hour to muster the energy to crawl into bed. I wasn't just tired – I was hit-by-a-truck fatigued.

The next morning, I called Alan Chud at Absolute Endurance in Toronto, my running adviser as I train for the half marathon that's now only a month away.

"You were trashed – it's common in endurance running," he says, nonchalantly. I smile, quietly proud for having done an endurance runner thing at all. "You need to fuel and hydrate better," and gives me the name of the resident nutritionist at his clinic.

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As soon as Tara Postnikoff and I start talking, I realize how foolish I've been. I'm still going full-tilt "health food" during the week: unsweetened almond milk, fruit and protein powder smoothie for breakfast, shredded purple kale and tuna for lunch, and a salmon stir-fry or (if I'm feeling lazy) a big bowl of plain yogurt for dinner. And never mind a proper snack to refuel after a gruelling max-heart-rate-hitting run.

"Eat more food," she says without hesitation. "Especially on run days, fuelling your body is important – and also providing a recovery for your body too. You're depleting your glycogen stores on these runs, and not giving much back to recover afterward."

I need more of everything. More protein in the form of hard-boiled eggs and Greek yogurt, more fat with a handful of walnuts and almonds. "And don't be afraid of whole carbohydrates with every meal."

And there's that word – carbs. As a once-overweight kid, the c-word became my enemy when I began a weight-loss plan.

But the next day, I follow her recommendations – more food, more often, with more carb/fat/protein balance: Oatmeal with protein powder and berries in the morning, kale salad with tuna and carrots and quinoa for lunch. Dinner is halibut, roasted broccoli and sweet potato. I drink water all day. I snack on walnuts, a hard-boiled egg, yogurt and seven-grain bread with nut butter and organic honey. I run for an hour in the evening, and this time throw back an avocado-boosted smoothie afterward. Just call me Hoover, inhaler of all things.

It's time-consuming and costly: My dishwasher has never been fuller, nor my wallet emptier – but the run was genuinely rejuvenating. I actually feel like a functioning person, with a spring in my step, at the end of the day.

Follow @amberlym on Twitter and offer tips with #globeruns. See her evolving training plan at tgam.ca/halfmarathon.

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About the Author
Editor in the Opinion section

Amberly McAteer is an editor in the Opinion section at The Globe and Mail. She has been a homepage editor, online editor and community editor in Features - including Life, Travel, Style, Arts and Books. She's written columns about her quest to run a 10K and find the perfect dog. More

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