nutrition anna hardman

Q&A: Nutrition tips with Anna Hardman

Anna Hardman is a Registered Dietitian and founder of Bespoke Health and Nutrition. She has over 10 years of experience delivering nutritional education, advice, and support to a wide range of different client groups.

Anna is particularly passionate about the role food plays in our lives and delivers nutritional advice aiming to improve overall health. She’s also a keen runner! In our latest interview, Anna tells us about the role of nutrition in overall health and performance, her best fuelling tips for before and after race-day, her best fitness experiences and more.

The interview

Hey Anna, thanks for joining us. Please introduce yourself.

Hello 👋. I am Anna, a Registered Dietitian and a keen runner!

How did you get into health and nutrition? 

Having grown up with both parents as chefs, I couldn’t avoid a food fuelled lifestyle right from a young age. In 2009, I went to university to study nutrition, and followed this degree on with a post-graduate masters to be a Dietitian. My Grandad was my running inspiration, he always ran, he represented the country in the commonwealth games in 1958, finishing the marathon in 4th position (2:27:31) in a pair of plimsols!

Wow, that is some serious inspiration! How important is nutrition for fitness and performance?

Nutrition plays a vital role in performance. Eating a well-balanced diet helps you to provide your body with the right nutrients you need. Eating well for physical activity and sport can have many benefits including allowing you to perform to the best of your ability, reducing the risk of injury and illness and ensuring the best recovery after exercise. 

What’s the biggest nutrition myth out there?

I love going to the club run the Thursday before a marathon and hearing, “ I can eat what I want, I’m carb loading”. 

Many people get excited in the final days before a marathon because they think they can each as many carbohydrates as they want and often see it as an excuse to overindulge on high-calorie foods and snacks. However, carbohydrate loading just means that you are getting more calories from carbohydrate sources rather than protein or fat but the overall calories intake does not change significantly. 

When it comes to fuelling for fitness events, what are your best tips (pre-race, during the race and post-race)? 

Pre-race: Before a run you do not want to feel starved or stuffed.

  1. Aim to have a snack 1-2 hours before.
  2. If you are running for less than 1 hour, have a small snack around 100-300 calories, for example, a banana.
  3. For longer runs of more than 1 hour, aim to consume 300-500 calories, for example, a bagel with peanut butter.

During the race: When running for more than 1 hour our muscle stores of energy become depleted.

  1. Always practice having something to eat during your training runs, your digestive system needs to get used to this.
  2. Aim for around 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour. Some good options are sports gels, jelly babies, bananas.
  3. Try and top up your fluids every 15-20 minutes with a sip of water. 
  4. Don’t experiment with anything new.

Post race: This is important to rebuild your energy stores and recover.

  1. Both carbohydrates and protein are critical for a full recovery after training. 
  2. Aim to have a carbohydrate-rich snack followed by a meal soon after a race. 
  3. Include a protein source with your recovery meal for repair. 
  4. Hydrate – replace fluid losses by drinking at regular intervals post-race. 

What to eat the night before an event and the morning of an event is always a tricky topic, what do you recommend? 

This is a tricky topic and that’s because everyone is different – some fuel better on pizza others on pasta the night before. My key advice here is to stick to what you know works for you, including a carbohydrate source the night before and for breakfast. In the run-up to the race, find a meal which suits you – practice makes perfect! 

What would you say to anyone reading this who wants to start fuelling better but doesn’t know where to start?

I would always say don’t make any drastic changes to their diet without seeking professional advice. There are some really useful websites which provide some basic information on nutrition and sports performance, including the British Dietetic Association.  

What’s your go-to food dish?

This is the hardest question you’ve asked me! I love food, any food is my go-to dish, but if I had to choose one (well maybe two), I would always pick tuna pasta but I also love a McDonald’s Big Mac burger! 

Amazing! All about balance. What has been your best fitness experience to date?

My best fitness experience was the Liverpool Half Marathon in 2012, this was only my 3rd half marathon. It was Mother’s Day, and I remember running the last mile along the Mersey dock, I hadn’t looked at my watch and I could see my Mum and the time above her head – 1 hour 28 minutes, a PB. In 6 months I had reduced my time from 1 hour 42 minutes and finished in the top 10 ladies. My Mum was so proud, it was an amazing day. 

Lastly, summarise what a ‘healthy lifestyle’  means to you?

A healthy lifestyle to me is a balance between a well-balanced diet, doing the sport we love, whilst remaining injury-free and having a smile on our face whilst doing it! 

Thanks Anna! You can follow Anna on her Instagram channel here.