Nutrition Talk Recap

Posted on June 25, 2011


ProKine was invited to speak Thurs night to a group of beginner runners training for their first 5/10K. So I headed up to meet with these newbies & have a fun talk about nutrition & running! While they were beginning runners, the lessons hold true for any level athlete, so take a read-through of what we discussed Thurs night…

I began with a talk on all things nutrition from ‘what to eat before you do a training run’ through ‘what do I eat now that I’m done with the race/workout’ with stops along the way at ‘the dreaded pre-race pasta party’ & ‘gels, chews, and sport beans – oh my!’ Afterward we did an open Q & A, which I’ll summarize as well.

First thing to address nutrition with is before/during/after training runs! This is the time you practice what you’d eat before/during/after/ you race on ‘The Big Day.’ You can play around with quantity of carbs, type of carbs, how much protein, how much fat can you tolerate in that meal/snack. Just like you train your race by playing with what happens when you go out fast, when you go out slow, when you monitor your HR, when you listen to your body…all those will create different outcomes in your performance. And the only way to know which running method to take on race day is to try it & see which one works best.

The same is true for running nutrition.

*A meal should be eaten 1-3 hours before running. Some can eat closer to the 1 hour mark, others need a good 3 hours to digest. Once you start running, blood will be shunted away from the gut and digestion, and sent to the limbs to support running economy. Food still in the stomach once this happens will move ever-so-slowly (if at all), and cramping can set in.

*Be open to different things…oatmeal is a popular choice for runners, but it is in the grain category, and thus, highly inflammatory. It can ‘work’ for some, but if you could eat something that was just as good at fueling you for the event without the inflammation (i.e. increase disease risk & cellular breakdown), wouldn’t you like to use that for fuel?

  • My FAVEcarb source pre-running is: 1/2 to 1 whole (depending on size) sweet potato, microwaved for a few mins, cut in 1/2 and topped with 1-2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce & cinnamon. The sweet potato is full of complex carbs, a little fiber, and the applesauce is your simple sugar that gets to your blood stream quickly. This meal has been tested numerous times in races, and provides good quick energy & longer lasting energy. Drew, ProKine’s Co-Owner, wrote a great article on the benefits of sweet potatoes!

*Ideally, the pre-run meal should be carb-focused with a smaller amount of protein & fat. Consuming exclusively carbs, a la “pre-run bagels”, is a recipe for disaster – both in the short-term (the run) and long-term (your health). A bagel is absorbed as a sugar bomb into the bloodstream, spiking your blood sugar levels quickly then causing them to plummet shortly thereafter. And for those who use running as a fat-loss tool…blood sugar spikes are the opposite of what you want for fat-loss, even if you’re an endurance athlete.

  • Good carb sources for pre-run that don’t include the inflammatory issues of grains are: fruit, vegetables (like sweet potatoes) Simple!

*If the run is shorter than 45-6o mins, you should need only water. If it’s going to extend beyond that, energy gels/sport beans/chews should be used to support blood sugar (which directly affects power, endurance, and mental “fuzziness”) If it’s especially hot out, you’re a heavy sweater, or you’re doing an extremely extended endurance event, electrolyte beverages can really help ensure you stay balanced with potassium, magnesium & sodium. Failing to do so can result in distress as small as feeling ‘off’ and as severe as going down & needing medical intervention.

*Gels, chews & sport beans – which is right? The one that matches your  stomach tolerance AND your race needs. You do not need a gel that has 30g of sugar if doing a 10K, but you might need that type of gel (lots of that type of gel) if doing an Ironman. Practice, practice, practice during your training runs.

*When choosing dinner the night before the race, the pre-race pasta party is a treacherous place to find yourself. There’s a saying, “nothing new on race day”…that includes the pre-race dinner. You want to eat a dinner as close to what you normally would eat as possible. This should mean: main-focus is protein(example: beef/fish/chicken/turkey), 2 servings of vegetables, a healthy fat (example: avocado, oil, butter, nuts) & 1 serving of starchy carb (example: potato, or rice if you do grains).

*Race day meals really can be a MEAL. But you’ve got to train yourself to eat. Eating a poptart & calling it pre-race fuel, believe it or not, is not  ideal. While possibly not as large as a normal breakfast, you should still include protein/carbs/fat at this meal. Combinations of macronutrients slows the absorption of the carbs in the meal, making that meal last longer. You should have practiced this by race day, so you’ll know how much fat/protein/carbs you can handle.

*Post-run/race has two options: If you’re running to lose fat, you may want to push off the post-run meal for the full hour after workout is completed. There’s some evidence that shows that for those whose goal is ‘fat loss’, it pays to leave that ‘recovery window’ open so the body can recover itself using fat stores, not glucose loaded into the body in the form of a bagel. However! If performance is your goal i.e., you want to gain speed, recover faster, gain endurance, build your muscle glycogen stores you must eat within 1 hour of completing the run (same is true for strength sessions) so that you can replenish your muscle glycogen stores at a time when your body is most ready to accept nutrients.

The Q&A had some interesting questions…here were the answers in rapid-fire format…coffee is fine to drink, unless you have adrenal issues (which many folks unknowingly have – I’ve dealt with adrenal fatigue & recovered from it – it’s a factor for some folks, for sure) approx 200mg or less per day is your ‘safe zone’ – that’s about 2 cups of coffee…don’t eat raw potatoes, they contain toxins that are neutralized when cooked…if you must eat a ‘food bar’ due to work/life/schedules, look for ones that contain only real food – essentially real food mashed into ‘bar’ form – no chemicals, no additives, short ingredient list…corn is a grain, not a vegetable, it my cause leaky-gut issues the same as cereal/wheat grains can…fiber intake is adequate if eating plenty of vegetables per week,  a fiber supp/bar/cereal can actually make things worse in the intestines, better to eliminate the ‘food-like items’ like fake ingredients & chemicals & see how digestion improves than to cram Fiber 1 bars down your throat.

Hope this is helpful and a good refresher to you all! I lovelovelove nutrition & food, and swim happily in the pool of integrative nutrition science, so throw your questions/I-don’t-get-(x)/’huh’ food moments at me and I’ll do my best to answer and share research!

Posted in: nutrition