NOVEMBER 2018: Fran Taylor, who goes by the name The Brighton Nutritionist, not only has heaps of experience providing nutrition advice to runners, she is also a runner herself.
I was chuffed when she agreed to present at our forthcoming RunBrighton seminar.
We recently met up for a chat in a Hove café. Fran had just returned from an 11-mile training run…
Fran, firstly, where did your running begin? Have you always been sporty?
I’ve always loved running. At school, I enjoyed other sports, but wasn’t particularly good at many of them – I think I was too uncoordinated! I could always run though, and especially enjoyed longer distances. I was part of my local cross-country club and ran for my school and county.
And what’s your favourite distance now?
The half marathon is pretty much perfect for me. It’s a decent enough distance to feel like I’m pushing myself, but doesn’t take up too much of my time. I do enjoy longer trail runs over the South Downs, as well.
Do you have any particularly memorable moments in your training or racing?
I think one of the most memorable moments, in recent years, was training and running the Brighton Half in 2011. It was the first event I entered since I’d had children; allowing myself the time to train, and having a goal outside of the chaos of small children, was quite frankly bloody brilliant.
What made you decide to become a nutritionist, and how long have you been doing it?
In my twenties, I was living in London, working in a stressful job with long hours and I sat behind a desk all day. I knew I didn’t want to be doing that in my thirties and beyond. I have always loved food and been fascinated by the connection between food, health and performance – so I went back to university and did a BSc in Human Nutrition.
I started the degree without any children and finished it with two. (I sat my final exam, three days before my youngest was born – yes, they are very close in age!) That was nine-and-a-half years ago.
I understand you work, not just on a one-to-one basis, but you also run group courses, involving cookery, too. Is that correct?
Yes, my work is very varied, which I love. My week can range from working with an athlete on their performance nutrition goals, to delivering corporate or public-health workshops or a cooking and nutrition workshop.
I’m actually holding a running, cooking and nutrition workshop soon. It’s called Fuel Your Run: Eating for Endurance Running and will be held at The Community Kitchen in Brighton, in January. This combines everything I love most– running, performance nutrition and cooking.
I know you’ve worked with some top-end runners, for example with our very own RunBrighton ambassador Dan Lawson, a world-record, ultra-distance runner, where marginal gains are key, through to complete beginners with whom the focus is on getting the basics right.
RunBrighton has many members who are either beginners or who have relatively recently taken up distance running in the last two or three years. What sort of things would you focus on, when advising such runners?
Getting the basics right by fuelling your run properly is a good place to start. Eating a few hours before you run to minimise any stomach issues and to allow enough time for the energy to reach your muscles is helpful. A meal combining wholegrain carbohydrates and a little fat and protein will enable a slow release of energy; for example, a pre-run breakfast of porridge made with milk and topped with a banana and some walnuts would be good.
For runs over 60-90 minutes, practising fuelling on the run and training your gut to take on food and fluid on the move is essential for making it comfortable and for getting the most out of it. Finally, post-run refuelling with some carbohydrates to replace your muscle glycogen (carb) stores, protein to repair muscle and plenty of fluid to rehydrate, will all aid a speedy recovery and help reduce the risk of injury.
For distance running, what would you say are the key benefits of making a nutrition strategy an integral part of training?
Good question. I think the benefits of focusing on nutrition is that you will maximise your training, enable good muscle recovery, minimise injury risk and, if you practise your fuelling during training and get it right on race day, you’ll maximise your chances of getting a PB.
What would be your number-one tip, from a nutrition point of view, for anyone about to start preparing for their first half or full marathon?
Practise your fuelling strategy, well in advance. Don’t try something new on race day – your stomach will already be sensitive from nerves – don’t exacerbate this by introducing the unknown.
Some of our winter training group don’t plan on running a half or full marathon. They might be targeting a 10k, or maybe they have no race target at all and they’ve signed up simply to enjoy the camaraderie of group running.
How might your advice be different for anyone running short distances?
Nutrition still plays an important role, but I think the key difference here is you focus more on what you’re eating before and after the run and not so much in between. Fuelling properly beforehand will give you enough to get you through a shorter distance and refuelling will help repair and enhance any training adaptation gains.
How do you spend your spare time when you’re not running, Fran?
What spare time??!! After work, family and running, I enjoy spending time with my friends and, if there is any spare time after that, practising a bit of yoga and going on ski holidays.
Fran, lovely to chat, and thanks again for agreeing to present at our forthcoming seminar, at the start of our winter training.
By Mike Bannister