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Lora Erickson: Nutrition

By Coach Lora Erickson, BlondeRunner.com

Over the nineteen years that I have been coaching runners and triathletes I have been asked many nutrition questions particularly relating to what and when to eat.  Athletes want to know what to eat when they race and train, how to eat in the off-season as opposed to the race-season, and how to properly fuel their body without gaining weight when training for a marathon or Ironman triathlon event. To each athlete the answer will be different; the fact is we all respond to foods uniquely.  Some don’t tolerate dairy, while others breakout in a rash with grain products.  Others feel better on a plant-based or raw diet.  Some athletes perform well eating a high-protein or a high-fat diet.  So what is right for you?  I have found some simple truths that I believe work for most every athlete trying to fuel a healthy and active lifestyle.

Water is Key

Staying hydrated is a must!  I find over-use of electrolyte drinks can supply too many unneeded calories, so it’s best to stick with water.  It’s better for your teeth too.  I drink throughout the day and with each meal.  How much?  Usually a good rule of thumb is half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water per day.  Drink an additional 20-35 ounces for every hour of exercise you get in a day.  Be careful not to overconsume water or you can dilute the sodium in your blood and cause a condition called hyponatremia which will negatively affect your running (I’ve learned this through experience, believe me, you don’t want to have hyponatremia). I personally like to use pure electrolyte drops, containing no calories, in my water to prevent this and aide my body in absorbing the water.

Eat a Variety of Fresh Foods

As runners we lace up our shoes and put one foot in front of the other over and over, sometimes for hours, pounding the pavement, day in and day out.  I think it’s fair to say runners like repetition and are creatures of habit. I find the same holds true for runners’ eating habits. We tend to stick to the same foods we know and love and have them day in and day out.  But there is undeniable value in eating a variety of foods.  I always strive to try new vegetables or things that I have never had before.  Just like in training, if we expect to reach new personal best times we have to do things differently.  We have to change up our routine.  I suggest the same for the diet.  Simply colorful fruit and vegetables need to be a part of our daily diet because they provide important vitamins and minerals to help our body repair and regenerate.

I often tell my clients to, “Paint their plates with a rainbow of colors.”  Vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables are what give them their color.  Many super-foods, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, beets and blueberries have deep rich colors from the nutrients they have in them. The darker the color the richer they are in nutrients. Even though bananas are a light color they also provide important potassium needed by the body and have been known to improve sleep.  Bananas are one of the few fruits I recommend before, during and after races.  Other fruits and vegetable high in fiber should be avoided during races but consumed on other days.

Know When to Say When with Fiber

Yes, fiber is good for you, but know when to have it and when not too. In general a high fiber diet is good.  I try to average 3 grams per 100 calories I consume each day.  More than that can decrease transit time and not allow the gut time to absorb valuable nutrients in your food. Limit fiber the day before a race and on race day, unless you would like to make a special repeated connection with the porta-potty.  Personally I try to spend less time in the Honey Buckets at races.

Control Carbohydrates

Eating too much simple sugar can cause excessive weight gain, which will do nothing for getting you closer to your personal best performances in races.  Simple carbohydrates are the culprit when it comes to belly fat.  Therefore cakes, candy, donuts, and other things made with refined sugars or processed foods should be avoided.  Eat fresh foods and measure serving sizes.  Too many runners believe because they run a lot they can eat whatever they want and while some may be able to get away with this, there are far more who cannot.  I don’t believe you can exercise away poor eating.  Healthy eating is a way to fuel our bodies to the finish line.  Running doesn’t give us the excuse to eat more junk food because we need more calories.  As runners we place extra demands on our bodies requiring us to need even more nutrients. So, contrary to popular belief, it is even more important for runners to eat healthy.  I have had many athletes come to me complaining of weight gain while training for their first marathon.  Knowledge is power.  When they become aware of their overconsumption of carbohydrates and start cutting out excess treats, measure portions, and track their eating (I recommend My Fitness Pal), they are able to manage their weight to become the lean-mean- running-machine they had hoped to be.  In short, drink water, eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, eliminate unnecessary  carbohydrates and processed foods, control portions and be mindful of fiber.  Keep these simple truths in mind as you go into your racing season and you will most likely have a more successful season.

Happy Racing,

Coach Lora

Coach Lora Erickson aka Blonde Runner was a scholarship runner for the University of Utah as well as Utah State University where she graduated with a degree in Health Education.  Coach Lora is also a certified coach (USATF Running, USA Triathlon & US Masters Swimming). She offers community classes as well as group, corporate and private coaching services.  She has a true passion for coaching and welcomes beginners.  To learn more visit BlondeRunner.com

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 12th, 2017 at 1:12 pm and is filed under Utah Running. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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