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What’s in a Runner’s Diet?

The wonderful Utah spring thaw seems to have taken hold. With the mercury rising and your log boasting more miles, it is important to consider how you are fueling those miles. I am often asked how much a training athlete needs to eat in order to maintain health and boost performance. The answer, of course, depends on various factors including age, height, weight, gender, medical concerns, and training regimen; however, there are some key pointers for all training athletes to consider.

  • Eat breakfast – whether you choose to eat before or after a run should depend on what you want to get out of that particular training session and what your body is telling you. If you head out the door first thing in the morning for an easy distance run (under an hour), you are safe to have some water and head out the door with breakfast planned upon your return. Should you have a more intense session planned for the morning (tempo run, long run, or interval training), your performance and energy level will benefit from a light breakfast prior to the workout. Experiment with various carbohydrate rich foods to find what works best for you. Choices may include sport drinks, toast, cereal with milk, yogurt, sport bars etc… Since this pre-run breakfast is likely a smaller meal, a recovery snack (or breakfast part II) is a post-workout MUST.
    • EXAMPLES:
      • Breakfast After light morning run: 1 ¼  c cooked oatmeal topped with almonds, banana, and blueberries. Enjoy with a cup of milk
      • Breakfast split around workout:
        • Before workout – 8oz Gatorade; slice of toast with peanut butter, banana & honey
        • Post workout – 1 ½ cups cereal with 1 cup milk, & fruit
        • Stay Hydrated – keeping yourself hydrated during the day will help you stay in better touch with your body’s signals (i.e., hunger, fatigue, thirst). Remember that your hydration status is not dependent only on water consumption. Milk, sport drinks, fruits, veggies, soups, coffee, tea, juice – all of these foods and beverages contribute to your hydration status. If your urine is light yellow and you are going several times per day, you are on the right track. Keep a water bottle with you and get into the habit of drinking with meals.
        • Hungry? Pay attention to what your body is telling you. It is easy to get busy and forget that your body actually sends messages to your brain about when to eat and when to stop eating. Snacks during the day can help curb hunger and the potential to overeat if you do get too hungry. Plan snacks to support workouts. If you workout in the afternoon, consider having a light lunch and a recovery snack after the workout. Then have dinner. If you eat before your run in the morning, maybe a light mid morning snack before lunch will help keep your hunger at bay.  No matter when you incorporate your snacks, be sure to include both carbohydrate and protein for maximum performance benefit AND better staying power (adding protein helps keep you full a bit longer, and carbohydrate will replenish the “tank” after a workout or provide fuel for an upcoming workout.)
          • SNCAK EXAMPLES:
            • Whole grain crackers or pretzels & string cheese
            • Apple or banana with peanut butter
            • Veggies with hummus
            • Sport bar
            • Yogurt with or without  1/4c granola
            • 1/3 c Nuts & dried fruit
            • toast with peanut butter/almond butter & honey
            • glass of chocolate milk (great post workout snack)
            • Packet of instant oatmeal
            • Granola
            • Fruit with string cheese
            • Recover! Remember to recover with a carbohydrate & protein rich snack within an hour (preferably within 30 minutes) after long runs and interval sessions. You will recover faster, experience less muscle soreness, and be ready to go sooner than if you wait. Check out the specific recovery article on UtahRunning.com.

So what does a typical runner’s eating plan look like? Keeping in mind that portion sizes will vary based on the considerations listed above, runners should eat breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, an afternoon or post workout snack, dinner, and then possibly an evening snack based on hunger level, training volume, and goals. Here is an example of a 2600-calorie eating plan.

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What to eat before a race?

One of my favorite episodes of the TV show “The Office” is when Michael Scott decides to put on a 5k.  A charity 5k to raise money to find a cure for rabies, which already has a cure.  Just before the race begins Michael “carbo-loads” on a huge serving of fettuccini alfredo.  As you can imagine, he feels the weight of the alfredo like a rock in his stomach as soon as he starts running.  I’m sure all of us at one time or another can relate to that feeling and as a result we do everything we possibly can to avoid it!  We stress about what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat it.  Unfortunately there’s not one specific solution that works for everyone every time.  The key is finding what works for you.  The foods that work for you before hard workouts or long runs will be what works for you before a race, so keep the same routine.  That doesn’t mean you have to eat the same thing before every race, you can have options and still feel confident that you’ll be fine for the race.

Pasta is probably one of the most popular choices for people before a race, and it is a good choice, but there are plenty of other foods that you can be safe eating before a race as well.  Plus, some pasta dishes leave you feeling heavy and that’s the last feeling you want to have going into a race.  If I have pasta I choose some kind of pesto with vegetables instead of alfredo or meat sauce.  Some other options could be grilled chicken, salmon, halibut, rice (I prefer brown rice but do what works for you, especially if you’re not used to eating brown rice), steamed vegetables (easy on the butter if you use any at all), baked potato with cottage cheese and salsa, fajitas (easy on the sour cream, cheese, etc.), etc.

Some things to keep in mind when deciding what to eat before a race:

-Avoid fatty foods.

-Avoid food that takes a long time to digest.

-Eat foods that you’ve eaten before harder runs or workouts.

-Don’t try new foods, now is not the time to experiment.

-Drink plenty of water, ALWAYS a good idea whether you’re a runner or not!

-Eat healthy foods.  Again, always a good idea whether you’re a runner or not.

The best thing you can do for yourself as a runner and as a person in general is to create healthy habits so that when the hard part of the race comes your body has the fuel it needs to perform and do what you want it to do.

As for when to eat . . . this is kind of a personal preference, and it takes some trial and error.  So try different things before workouts to find what works for you.  Personally, I like to eat my last “meal” about 2.5 to 3 hours before my race.  I’ll continue to hydrate leading up to the race and possibly have a small snack (mostly comprised of carbohydrates) an hour or so before the race.  If I’m racing in the morning (which is when most road races are) I usually wake up a few hours early to get some food in my body and depending on what time the race is I may even go back to sleep for a while before I get up to start getting ready for the race.  When I race in the morning I’m definitely more picky about what I eat for breakfast because my stomach tends to be more sensitive in the morning.  Some ideas are oatmeal, toast, a little bit of fruit, yogurt, etc.  Sometimes if it’s a shorter race I’ll just have some kind of a powerbar and a banana or something similar.  Again, the key is to find what works for you.  Some people can eat an hour before they race, some people have to eat four hours before.  Try a few ways and then once you’ve found what works, make it a routine so your body knows what to do and what to expect on race day.

The nice thing about having a set routine is that it’s one less thing you have to worry about on race day.  You’re naturally going to be nervous and if you have a set routine you can have confidence in the fact that your body will be ready to perform.  You just have to go out and do it!  Which brings out another point, don’t stress if things don’t go perfectly leading up to a race.  They rarely do!  Have confidence in the things you can control, your training, the foods you eat, the amount of sleep you get, etc.  And know that you’re ready, you’ve prepared yourself and now you get to go show off all the hard work you put in!  Enjoy the race and as Coach Pilkington always says . . . “Look forward to the hard part of the race.”  That’s what we train for, to prepare ourselves for the hard part of the race so that when it comes, as it inevitably will, you’re ready and you can still run fast when it hurts.

by Lindsey Anderson – Olympian | Professional Athlete

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STOP THE OFF-SEASON EATING INSANITY

Doesn’t it make sense that if you change your training, then you should change your eating? The normal winter habit of “taking a break from training” by dropping volume, reducing intensity AND eating the same or MORE carbohydrate is killing your race season performance. STOP THE INSANITY! The pursuit of optimal health and human performance is a year round endeavor!

Never fear, for a typical age group endurance athlete training less than 10 hours a week in the warmer months, this isn’t as drastic as it sounds. The key is realizing that your carbohydrate needs drop when your workout volume drops. Also, as long as you’re doing strength work twice a week and some speed in the winter (you are doing both of these right?) then your protein and fats stay the same or even increase a bit.  Another way to understand this idea is that you have to keep your training and nutritional focus on anabolic, muscle and health building, overdrive. That means training for strength, speed and power and eating meals that keep your insulin stable and kick your hormone system into that anabolic state of rebuilding lost muscle tissue, burning fat and boosting your immune system.

Here are some simple nutritional guidelines to help you achieve this optimal off-season flux:

Guidelines

  • Protein: Consume high quality non-denatured (not destroyed) lean protein 5-6 times a day.  Eat enough to equal 1 gram protein/lb of lean mass a day. Protein should be the first macronutrient you are concerned with.  This quantity is for those of you actually lifting and/or doing speed. Eat less if you are not doing these activities.
  • Fat: Eat fat to lose fat, boost anabolic hormones and stabilize insulin. Eat omega 3 based fats with most meals. Put flax seed or mixed plant oil into at least 1 or 2 protein shakes a day. 1 TBS /50 lbs of bodyweight/day is the maintenance dose.  Double if you have joint or inflammation problems
  • Carbs: refuel muscle tissue properly right after workout so you don’t starve later! Recovery drink or shake within 30 minutes of workout. Within the next 60-90 minutes eat a solid meal with an extra serving or two of dense carbs like fruit, yams, squash, red potatoes.  All other meals only require one serving of carbohydrate, if any! Daily intake of at least 90% produce based carbs with no more than 10% whole grain!  Eat a big dark green salad everyday.
  • Fluids and fiber: drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water a day. That does not include during and post workout fluid. Take a fiber supplement once or twice a day with meals (although not before a run!)
  • Meals: Focus on protein and produce and some fats like olive oil, nuts, sharp cheese to feel fully satisfied. Eat until you are full. Eat extra carbs only after workouts.

 

 

Benefits

  • Each protein dose, when accompanied by a small amount of low glycemic carbs, releases growth hormone and glucagon (the opposite of insulin). This sets up the body to burn fat throughout the day.
  • Metabolic efficiency! The focus on protein, fats and produce teach the body to live off its own carbs stores and finally burn fat more easily because it has to.  This transfers over to being able to burn fat longer and in greater quantities in training during longer and slower workouts when you add them in later. SWEET!
  • Your insulin becomes more stable, sensitive and efficient so your body doesn’t need as much of it as it used to in order to process carbs.
  • Feel more satiated, recover better from workouts, improve sense of health and wellbeing dramatically, don’t get sick much, strongly curbs carb cravings and you sleep better.

 

The goal

The smartest athletes will use the off-season as a time to rebuild their bodies. After 4-8 weeks of resting, then eating and training in an anabolic pattern will get the body lean, mean and ready for a full season of specific endurance work. Cheers to a wise winter!

 

by Debbie Perry

Certified Sports Nutrition Advisor

USA Triathlon Certified Coach

Colgan Power Program Strength Trainer

Local Elite Runner/Triathlete

Google Buzz

Fueling for workouts and races over 3 hours long.

There are alot of runners and triathletes out there who are learning how to take in some fuel during events and workouts over an hour and that is great news! The not so good news is that as some of those athletes start going longer than 2-3 hours problems start occurring that didn’t happen before.  So what is going on here? Isn’t 1-2 gel packs an hour enough? Do I absolutely have to have an electrolyte supplement? More water? What?  Well, the deal is that for events shorter than 3 hours, you can almost fake it on not doing enough. You may feel kind of lousy by the end, by you will survive even though you are running very low on energy, fluid and electrolytes. That is because you should have enough stores of all of those things to make through by doing only minimal amounts of eating and drinking. But…especially after the 3 hour mark…EVERYTHING CHANGES! You just can’t keep up with how much you are losing unless you make a SERIOUS effort to eat and drink more.

While it is true that you are hopefully getting about 50%-60% of your fuel from fat during longer,slower events, you are still blowing through quite a bit of carbohydrate. Most any runner or triathlete will still be using a MINIMUM of 125 grams of carbohydrate an hour. Then, in the case of  a Half-Ironman triathlon, the fastest athletes can burn over 200 grams.per.hour! And since we only have about 400-500 grams of carb stored in our muscle tissue and liver, it is easy to see how quickly you will start running out even if you are eating some fuel.  Yeah, do that math for a second.  ”Let’s see…I take 2 gels an hour or one pack of Clif blocks so that is about 50 grams of carbs I eat in a hour. Okay, well if I am blowing through at least 125 grams, but probably more like 150-175, then I am running an hourly deficit of about 100-125 grams. So by the 3 hour mark, I will have used 300-375 grams of carb and running very very low in fuel and by the 4 hour mark, I will be done!”  Yep, all those feelings of being light-headed, sick to the stomach, heavy legged, cranky, crampy, slowing down and feeling like you have been hit by a bus  somewhere between the 2 and 3 hour mark does not always have to be the case. Does this ring true to anyone? Is it worth trying more? (Notice here the picture of Mirinda Carfree holding 2 gel flasks full of 100 grams carb each while on her way to running a 2:56 marathon at the end of Ironman Hawaii 2009)

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Tips for Training for a Marathon

Expert Panel Question???

“I’m a 62 year old male runner, have run many half marathons but never a full marathon. I run 3 – 4 times a week averaging 25 to 35 miles. I play golf and weight train moderately. I’m training for a marathon and would like to feel more energized – suggestions?”

Answer!!!

Realize that training for a marathon at any age is an energy draining pursuit, but to help you feel as good as possible try the following:

1. Keep your run days to 3-4 times a week
2. Keep your weekday runs to no more than an hour.
3. Do long runs every other Saturday and start them about 16 weeks out(assuming you already can run 90 minutes for a long run)
4. Do your longest training run at 22 miles and do it 3 weeks out from your race.
5. Focus on eating really well after all your runs. Drink a recovery drink IMMEDIATELY upon finishing a run and then eat a whole food meal within 45-60 minutes following that has a lot of carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fat.
6. Drink lots of water each day.
7. Sleep really well.
8. Use a sports massage therapist twice a month
9. Take a solid vitamin/mineral/ antioxidant supplement day and night.
10. Take an ice bath after each long run.

by Debbie Perry

Certified Sports Nutrition Advisor

USA Triathlon Certified Coach

Colgan Power Program Strength Trainer

Local Elite Runner/Triathlete

Google Buzz

Post Marathon Nutrition

Expert Panel Questions???

“I ran my first marathon last weekend, now I always feel hungry. Even right after a meal. And if I don’t eat for an hour or two I have stomach aches. What is recommended food for post-marathon to regain the calories/nutrients that I burned?”

Answer:

After a marathon, the body is depleted of fluid and nutrients, both of which need replenishing for adequate recovery. Focus on hydration (aim to consume 150% of what you have lost in the form of water or a sport drink), adequate carbohydrate (bread, pasta, rice, sport products, fruit…), and moderate amounts of protein (nut butters, low-fat dairy, eggs, lean meat…). The most effective way to replenish after a marathon is to eat 3-4 times over the 4-6 hours post race. (See my post “Best Way to Recover After a Long Run.” The same rules apply here). Smaller, more frequent eating episodes replenish lost carbohydrate and repair muscle tissue more efficiently than one large meal. Here are some examples of post race snacks.

Post Marathon Snacks:

– Bread with peanut butter and jam or honey
– Fruit smoothie made with fruit, yogurt & milk or juice
– Chocolate milk
– Sport Bar & sport drink or water
– Yogurt
– Cereal with milk
– Banana with peanut butter

Follow-up this initial snack with a more complete and larger meal 2-3 hours post race. Avoid going too long before starting the recovery process – you definitely want to start replenishing within 1 hour. Waiting too long slows recovery.

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