Before you scroll right through this article, let’s level set and say running hasn’t always been my thing. In fact, I spent a lot of time trying to avoid it. After leaving my family’s farm to go to college and then taking on a desk job, let’s just say I needed to find an exercise routine and running was the most affordable and approachable. Now it still took a solid year of hating it and working slowly toward building my endurance to find a love for the sport.
Today, I go stir crazy if I skip a run so the routine has certainly stuck with me. I’m not out there setting any American records, but each day and training cycle I’m seeing improvement in myself and that keeps me motivated to work harder.
I started running VERY short distances, I’m talking a quarter or half mile before taking a walking break. That eventually led to running my first 5K and then of course I had to push the limits and run a 10K. Those races were fun and challenged me to run farther than I ever had before but like most runners will tell you, you get addicted and have to keep going. That of course, led me to running a half marathon.
Nutrition is always important in building a healthy body and lifestyle, but when I started half marathon training I realized I needed to beef up my nutrition plan (pun intended). I began tracking my macros using the MyFitnessPal app to see where my average day left me short. Even though I eat meat at nearly every meal, I found I still wasn’t getting enough protein. Around this same time I heard about the Wisconsin Beef Council’s Team Beef. Initially I joined to help offset the cost of race registration and get some cool running gear. As part of the team though, I’ve gained much more including a deeper understanding of nutrition and how beef plays an important role in a runner’s diet.
Did you know that just three ounces of beef contains 25 grams of protein? That’s half of your daily value in just three ounces! I have come to learn that protein is not only important for building muscle, but also helps us feel full for longer after a meal. I always assumed I was so hungry because I was running so much, which is a bit of a stretch if you compare my routine to elite athletes. Now that I have a better understanding of creating a balanced meal, I have found that I’m snacking less and generally just feeling better after meals.
If you’re like me and looking for fast, easy recipes that are high in protein, you’re in luck because the Wisconsin Beef Council has a large selection on their website. You can even challenge yourself to find other ways to add more protein with your beef like substituting rice for quinoa or try a protein pasta. Breakfast is the meal I have, and still do, struggle with the most. But there are even great recipe options to get your day started right.
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or just getting into a walking routine, lean protein and a balanced diet will help you feel your best and help you ignore that family sized bag of potato chips in a moment of snacking weakness.
As we celebrate May Beef Month, I challenge you to start tracking your macros. There are a variety of apps and programs that do this for free including MyFitnessPal. Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress, just get a rough idea for where you’re at. Then find ways to incorporate lean protein to beef up your nutrition game!
Sarah Hetke is a Sauk County Farm Bureau member. She is a digital communications consultant at Compeer Financial where she helps connect clients and rural community members with the Farm Credit system. Sarah and her husband Andrew live in Baraboo. The couple started and are growing Andrew’s dairy cattle photography and marketing business – Andrew Hetke Photography.