ST Run at the Hub 2015

Nutritional truth easy to digest

The third of a six-part ST Run special with Dr Mok Ying Ren. This week, the former SEA Games triathlon and marathon champion emphasises the importance of eating right

Sprinters Shanti Pereira and Calvin Kang show off their high- performance meals at Swissotel The Stamford before the SEA Games. A well-balanced diet is a vital factor in maximising the performance of runners.
Sprinters Shanti Pereira and Calvin Kang show off their high- performance meals at Swissotel The Stamford before the SEA Games. A well-balanced diet is a vital factor in maximising the performance of runners.ST FILE PHOTO

Nutrition - counting calories and adhering to a strict diet - might seem daunting to some, but it really is not that complicated.

There are three key points to note when choosing a diet to maximise your running performance.

One, always opt for a well-balanced diet.

Many of us are taught to categorise food based on the amount of macronutrients - that is, the level of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.

But food can be further broken down into 10 more groups. They are vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, fish and lean meats, whole grains, dairy products, refined grains, fatty meats, sweets and fried foods.

I recommend that you eat food from the first six groups, which are higher in quality, and avoid those in the last four.



    This week, you will focus on longer, consistent hard efforts. Warm up for 10-15 minutes. Do 4-6 times of 3 minutes hard with 2 minutes easy in between.

    Remember how you felt in last week's 3-minute efforts and adjust your pace accordingly. Try to run faster and faster for each repetition and finish strongly.

    Finish off with a 10-minute cool-down.


    This week, you will increase your race pace run by 2km to 10km. By now, you should have decided on your race pace and feel more in tune with it. If you still have any doubts, speak to any of our friendly pacers.

    You can do this with running groups such as Running Department, who run on Wednesdays at 7pm at UOB Plaza.


    This is an optional run for those who are fitter or keen to train more.

    Do a 30-minute run at an easy effort. You may replace this with an easy 30-minute swim or cycle.

    This active recovery will help your body get ready for Saturday's long run.


    This week's long run will be an additional 2km to make it 16km. Again, there is no need to run at race pace for this run. Take it easy and enjoy it with your friends. In addition, try out your pre-race breakfast plan before the long run so that you will not get any surprises on race day.

  • Training effort description

    Easy/long run: You should be able to hold a conversation comfortably during the run.

    Moderate (race pace) run: You should be able to speak in phrases but not in full sentences.

    Hard (fast) run: During these intervals, you should be able to speak only in a sporadic fashion.

Renowned sports nutritionist Matt Fitzgerald found that when athletes eat food from the first six categories, the proportions of macronutrients that enter their body are naturally taken care of.

He also cautioned against buying into dieting fads, which encourage extreme choices of food with little variety, and which are often avoided by elite athletes.

Second, opt for food which is less processed. Whenever possible, choose brown rice (whole grain) instead of white rice, or nuts instead of energy bars.

Food which is less processed tends to rank lower in the glycemic index (GI) - a rating given to each food based on how fast it is absorbed into your blood stream.

You want something that is absorbed slowly - having a low GI rating - so it can provide you with an even energy output during the day, as well as make you feel full longer.

Not all food with a high GI is bad. Some fruits have a high GI rating, but are full of natural sugar, which is a good source of energy throughout the day.

This brings us back to the point of balance, and of consuming food from the six preferred categories.

In food heaven Singapore, I usually order chicken rice with white rice, instead of the oily rice. At the mixed vegetables rice stall, opt for brown rice with less oily sides.

Another go-to meal for me is yong tau foo, with the non-fried entrees. Of course, finish your meal with a piece of fruit or juice.

The final and most neglected aspect of nutrition is timing. According to Fitzgerald, it is important to have your meals and snacks at the same time each day.

Erratic meal times lead to hormonal imbalances, which cause your body to store more fat.

Thus, plan your meals and snacks wisely, and do not go hungry for long periods of the day.

Timing is also the key to recovery. It is advisable to consume something that is a good mix of protein and carbohydrates within 30 minutes of completing your run. This is to capitalise on our body's ability to absorb nutrients quickly after a workout.

This requires discipline. What I do is prepare a protein shake with milk and protein powder whenever I head out for my training runs. You can also pack a chocolate milk in your workout bag the next time you exercise.

As the saying goes, you are what you eat. So the next time you are at a kopitiam, choose wisely.

  • Have any questions for Mok? E-mail them to with the subject "Run with Mok" and he will try to answer as many as he can in his weekly column
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2015, with the headline 'NUTRITIONAL TRUTH EASY TO DIGEST'. Print Edition | Subscribe