Do you know what to eat when you're training?

Celebrity chef Gary O'Hanlon tells us what he's eating while taking part in the Irish Cancer Society's Marathon in a Month challenge

When it comes to getting fit and healthy, you get what you put into it and that includes what you put into your body. So whether this recent sunshine has inspired you to get out and go for a walk, jog, run or cycle, it’s the perfect opportunity to start some healthy food habits with lots of fresh fruit and veg in season. 

We spoke to celebrity chef Gary O’Hanlon who is taking part in The Irish Cancer Society’s Marathon in a Month challenge with Newstalk’s Ciara Kelly to get his top tips on food whilst training:

If you're about to start training, what food should you add to your grocery list?

Gary: I always fill the trolley with lean proteins, like chicken, turkey and lean mince. Then I go for pasta, rice, lots of green veggies, Ryvita and nuts.

Avoid all sorts of temptations. My rule of thumb is if it isn't in the house, I can't eat it, and that works really well for me. I've so much discipline in many aspects of my life but next to zero when it comes to having munchies lying about the house.

What do you usually eat during the day before training? 

Gary: Since doing 'Operation Transformation' last year, I've stuck to what I liked on the plan. Eggs and toast in the morning and a turkey/chicken wrap for lunch. If I was planning a heavy lifting day in the gym or a long walk, run or cycle, I'd always try to get a pasta dish in on the night prior. A chicken puttanesca is hard to beat.

Can you give an example of an easy healthy dinner you'd make while you’re training?

Gary: For me, it has got to be the aforementioned chicken puttanesca.

You'll need, chicken, aubergine, courgette, garlic, olives, chopped tomatoes, pasta of choice, herbs and seasonings, onion and some peppers.

Sauté the chicken to colour in a little oil then add in the vegetables, season and sauté further. Once it's softened, add in the chopped tomato and cook out.

Add some basil or parsley to taste and toss in some linguini or penne pasta and serve. Beautiful!

What are your best tips for making healthy choices while dining out?

Gary: I really don't like telling people to watch what they eat when they're out enjoying themselves as that's the time for 'cheating'.

It's imperative that you give yourself treat/cheat days but if I was to pass on anything that has worked for me, I suppose it would be to avoid eating too much bread pre-meal.

Also try to pick some dishes that avoid the deep fat fryer. If having a starter, main and dessert, maybe try to go vegetarian on either the starter or main course and keep the side orders small.

Do you have any other advice for someone looking to get healthy and active?  

Gary: Shop and plan ahead. Don't be put off by weighing your food and take the advice of dieticians that are qualified if you choose to go down that route.

I'm merely putting it out there what worked for me but most of it is coming from being fortunate enough to have had Aoife Hearn's expertise to call upon for a few months.

When it comes to weighing your food, within a few days you'll almost be able to do it without the scales (make sure to use them though). You really cannot underestimate the power of weighing your food. What you think you eat and what you should be eating - quantity-wise - is beyond belief.

I played sport and have been hitting gyms for as long as I can remember but it honestly took me until doing Operation Transformation to really realise that exercise is utterly pointless without a balanced diet. I've never eaten as much food as I have in the past 10 months but I've never felt better. The right foods at the right time in correct quantities and you'll be golden.


For the month of July, The Irish Cancer Society is asking the people of Ireland to take part in the country’s only virtual marathon as part of a campaign to get the people of Ireland moving while also raising vital funds to support people affected by cancer.

You can take part in Marathon in a Month by completing the distance of a marathon (42KM) throughout the month of July, tracking your progress online. No matter what level you’re at, you can take part by walking, jogging or running the distance.

Find out about chef Gary O’Hanlon and Ciara Kelly’s progress on Lunchtime Live every day from 12-2pm.