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  • Food/Fuel Considerations

    Nutrition is an important factor in becoming and being fit and in performing our best. It is important to have a plan that works for your body to prepare, perform and recover in training and racing.

    Before Workout
    For many people, it can be difficult to have anything in their stomach before running; however, eating prior to a longer run can be critically important when workouts go beyond one hour. We recommend eating one to two hours before a long run. For runs under one hour, runners do not necessarily need to eat but may feel better if they do – it is a personal choice.

    For most runners, eating a food with simply and complex carbohydrates like oatmeal or toast/jam provides an easy to digest and good start for a long run. Others may choose an energy bar or beverage that is formulated to provide an elevated, consistent energy level over an extended period of time. These typically include a balanced mix of simple and complex carbohydrates, some protein and fiber.

    It is good to get use to eating something prior to running by slowly introducing light foods or energy bars on longer training runs.

    During Workout
    During a workout or race, no matter what type, you need to quickly absorb carbohydrate-based calories to replace the glucose you are burning at 400 - 600 calories per hour or you will begin to lose concentration and energy. There are several alternatives to fuel the body during exercise:
    Food like fruits
    Sports Drinks
    Energy Gels/GU
    Energy Bars
    Energy Gelatins

    These are designed for easy digestion and absorption into your bloodstream. The goal is to provide sustained energy through a gradual rise (not a spike) in energy followed by a similarly gradual decline. Chews, gels and beverages are favorites due to their simplicity and agreeable taste.

    Also during exercise proper fluid intake is critical. Good hydration helps to prevent overheating and increases your blood flow, transporting vital nutrients and oxygen to your working muscles,
    which is the most important factor for a good workout. Yet during exercise water is not enough to keep your body properly hydrated. Your body needs electrolytes in the correct ratio to replace the sodium and potassium you are losing through sweat. At the same time, your body needs complex carbohydrates (not sugar) to maintain your blood glucose and muscle glycogen at levels necessary to have a great workout/race from start to finish.

    Again, some runners have some difficulty taking different types of fuel sources while running. It is important to experiment and find what works best for you.

    What is GU?
    GU is the most popular energy gel for endurance activities. GU is a convenient, carbohydrate gel formulated to energize before, sustain during, and aid in recovery after your training and
    competitions. Made with a unique blend of ingredients, GU provides: complex carbohydrates for sustained energy, amino acids to maintain muscle protein, antioxidants and muscle buffers to aid with recovery.

    Recovery Phase
    If rehydration was the only factor to enhancing performance, a conventional sports drink would be enough. But athletes don't just need to rehydrate, their muscles need to recover, too. Protein
    speeds muscle recovery. During prolonged exercise, up to 10% of the muscles' energy can come from metabolizing protein, which can come from the breakdown of muscle. Having protein in sports drink minimizes the breakdown of protein from the muscle during exercise. The result can be a quicker recovery.

    The ability of any athlete to perform at their best is directly related to how fast their muscles recover after exercise. Protein-enhanced recovery drinks give muscles a jump-start on getting back to peak performance. In fact, recovery drinks have been shown to significantly reduce muscle damage following exercise. Compared to a conventional sports drink, it minimizes
    muscle soreness. These are fortified with proteins, amino acids and other muscle-restoring elements to help hasten the repair and restoration of cells in your body.

    What do these products offer that traditional foods cannot?
    Easy portability. Bananas, as great as they are as energy boosters, quickly get beat up when transported in an adventurer's pack.
    Long shelf life. No refrigeration (or similar food-handling precautions) needed. Convenience. What you need (concentrated, specialized nutrients), when you need it (any time you choose) and where you need it (any place you choose). Which items are best suited for you? We suggest you experiment with various products. Stick with the ones that:

    • Deliver the best results for you
    • Feel most comfortable in your stomach
    • Offer the most appealing flavor and texture for your tastes.
    • Many products can serve more than one of these functions. But these general designations can help guide you to choices best suited to your needs.
    • How many of these items do you need? It depends on the intensity of your activity or workout. For a light training run, for example, you may not need any. A more moderate run may call for just a single item from one of these categories. The more demanding (and prolonged) your activity, the more options your body may likely need to sustain peak performance.

    Try different methods during your training so that you can be confident on race day!

    Please Note: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional dietary advice. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding proper nutrition for your body.

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  • Eating for the Long Run

    It comes as no surprise that providing your body with the proper nutrition while training for a marathon will help optimize your running performance. We know that good nutrition will help your body to “run” more efficient, enhance your overall health and immune system, aid in preventing/healing injuries, improve your body’s adaptation to training as well as promote speedy recovery. The food you eat and the way you eat it will indeed dictate how well you run! But with so much information out there it can be hard to know what to do and when to do it! Below are some basic recommendations to help you fuel your body for peak running performance. Use this information to guide you, but don’t be ultra concerned about all the details so much that you don’t enjoy eating!!!!! After all we run to eat! Or do we eat to run? Remember what might work for one person, may not work for you. Try to remember that just like running should be fun, eating should be fun too! Practice, practice, practice during your long runs to see what does and doesn't work for you and than follow that on race day!

    BASIC GUIDELINES: Endurance runners should aim for a diet high in carbohydrates (60-70%), moderate in protein (12-20%) and low in fat (20-25%). Food choices should include foods from all the 5 food groups: Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Milk/dairy and Meat/Beans. Calories should be spread evenly throughout the day (no skipping meals, especially breakfast which is the MOST important meal of the day), eating 3-6 times per day. Women should aim for 2,000 to 3,500 calories/day, men should aim for 2,500-4,000 calories per day. On rest days and shorter run days, aim for the lower end of the calories; on long run days shoot for the upper range.

    CARBOHYDRATE: is truly a runner’s best friend because it serves as the primary energy source for working muscles and helps the body to use fat more efficiently. Carbs also help to maintain optimal blood sugars levels. Carbs are stored in the muscles as glycogen, which is the primary fuel you need to keep MOVING. When glycogen stores start to diminish, so do you. This is when exercise intensity reduces and you start to feel pain, cramping and sluggishness known as “The WALL” take place. This will usually happen after about 90 minutes to 2 hours of running. Going out too fast too soon will also contribute to the deletion of glycogen stores. Therefore, training you body with running as well as carb intake will help avoid hitting the wall. Carbohydrate is also the source of many photochemicals and antioxidants which help us repair, recover, maintain a healthy immune system and prevent/heal an injury. Therefore a diet high in carbs is essential for long distance running performance. Examples of good sources to fuel your body are: pasta, rice, potatoes, cereal, fruit, vegetables, some low fat/fat free dairy products and whole grain product. Remember that 60-70% of your diet should be coming from these carbohydrate sources. One of the rewards of running is being able to sneak in a few sweets/treats now and then. But make sure you avoid “living” off from junk food as your main carb source because these carbs are virtually nutrient free and could end up harming your training efforts. To help figure out the amount that’s right for you, multiply your weight in pounds by 3.2 to give you the number of grams of carbohydrates you should consume per day.

    Examples include:

    • 15 grams of carb=1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta & 1 serving of fruit, 1⁄2 cup of starchy vegetables or 1⁄2 cup dried beans.
    • 12 grams of carb= 1 cup of low fat milk or yogurt or 1.5 oz of cheese
    • 5 grams of carb= 1 cup leafy raw vegetables or 1⁄2 cup chopped vegetables

    PROTEIN: is used to build and repair body tissues including muscles, tendons and ligaments. Protein is NOT a primary source of energy for long distance runners. Your body can only use so much at one time, any excess may be converted to fat. 12-20% of your diet should come from protein. To figure out the amount for you, multiply your weight in pounds by .6 to calculate the number of grams of protein you should consume per day.   

    Examples include:

    • 21 grams of protein: 3 oz lean meat, poultry or fish provides
    • 8 grams of protein: One cup of low fat milk or yogurt provides
    • 7 grams of protein: 1⁄2 cup cooked beans, 1 ounce of cheese, 1 egg, 4 oz of tofu or 2 T peanut butter
    • 3 grams of protein: A serving of whole grain product (i.e. 1⁄2 cup cereal, 1 slice of bread)

    FAT: helps a runner sustain prolonged exercise. It is also an energy source that insulates the body against cold as well as helps protect and cushion vital organs. Limit fat for pre run/pre race meals as it exits the stomach slowly and my cause cramping. Fat burns better when combined with carbohydrates. There are three kinds of fat. Saturated fats include: butter, hydrogenated oils, coconut oil and palm oil. Polyunsaturated fats include: corn oil, soybean oil and margarine. Monounsaturated fats include: olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil and are the preferred fat. Peanuts butter (natural) is a good source of monounsaturated fat. Approximately 20-25% of your diet should come from fat, 10% coming from saturated fat.

    FLUIDS: Marathon runners are at risk for dehydration, and hyponatrimia (low blood sodium levels, a dangerous but easily preventable condition). Dehydration can bring on fatigue, cramps and impair performance. If you drink too much and aren't properly replacing your electrolytes you lose in sweat you are at risk for hyponatremia (low sodium levels) which can produce symptoms such a nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, headache, disorientation and bloating in face and hands. In general water is sufficient for any runs under one hour.    Any runs 60-90 minutes or longer generally require more than water (i.e. Gatorade, Ultima, Endurox R4). To figure out your basic fluid needs take 1⁄2 your body weight (lbs) in fluid ounces. (140 # person would require 70 oz/day)

    BASIC GUIDELINES BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER RUNNING:

    Before: A meal or snack should provide sufficient fluid to maintain hydration, be fairly low in fat and fiber to aid in bowel elimination and minimize any GI distress, be relatively high in carbohydrate to help maintain blood glucose, be moderate in protein. Choose foods that are familiar and well tolerated, avoid unfamiliar foods. Drink 14-22 oz of fluid 2-3 hours before a long run and another 7-10 oz 10-20 minutes before the run.

     

    Pre Race Snacks:

    • 1 small bagel +2 tbsp peanut butter + 1 small banana.
    • 4 oz juice, 8 oz yogurt, 2 slices toast.
    • 1 1⁄2 cup ready to eat cereal or 1 cup oatmeal + 1⁄2 cup skim milk + 1 fruit.
    • 1 fruit cereal bar + 4 oz juice

    During: The primary goals for nutrient consumption are to replace fluid losses and provide carbohydrate (approximately 30-60 grams per hour) for the maintenance of blood glucose levels and to keep muscles primed. 6-12 oz of fluid should be consumed every 15-20 minutes depending on tolerance. Race snacks: gels, cliff shots, bananas, oranges, Fig Newton’s, graham crackers, pretzels, Jelly beans or fruit chews, granola bars, rice crispy squares, raisins.

    After: The dietary goal is to provide adequate energy and carbohydrates to replace muscle glycogen and to ensure rapid recovery. Carbohydrate intake of 1.5 grams/kg body weight during the first 30 minutes (approximately) 60-100 grams carb) will be adequate to replace glycogen stores. Protein consumed after exercise will provide amino acids for the building and repair of muscle tissue. Runners should consume a mixed meal providing carbs, protein and fat soon after a long run/marathon. Drink enough fluids to replace sweat losses during exercise. Drink at least 16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during exercise.

     

    Recovery Snacks:

    • Fruit smoothie: 1 cup skim milk, 1 small banana, 1 cup frozen berries.
    • 1 cup cottage cheese w/fruit and 1 cup grapes and 1 cup orange juice.
    • 1 cup low fat chocolate milk, gram crackers and peanut butter.
    • Baked potato with low fat cheese.
    • Pasta with low fat meat/cheese.

    Good eating habits are a lot like good training habits. Remember the big picture: don’t get caught up in the day to day things. A treat in your diet from time to time won’t harm your performance just like taking a break from your training schedule once in a while. In the long “run”, relax, have fun, be consistent, learn what works for you and above all, have fun running and ENJOY YOUR FOOD!

    Sources: Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance, Gatorade Sports Science Institute, National Athletic Trainers Association, USDA My pyramid, Cool Running, Runners world, and American College of Sports Medicine.

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