Friday, August 30, 2013

Some Random Thoughts on Nutrition:

We cannot become great runners through healthy eating alone, but much of our hard work can be undone by misguided eating. When we really think about it, our training may take up 30 minutes to a few hours of our day, while eating happens much more frequently. We can easily overcompensate for a workout by over-eating after.

In addition to making us stronger and fitter, our running burns calories which also makes us leaner. The impact of being leaner is faster training and racing paces (With the "rule" being about 2 seconds per mile for every pound lost).  However, if we eat more than we burned, we can actually gain weight during training! No way! Yes, way!!!

I never advise my runners to diet during training.  First, we need to be fueled to train hard and a starving runner is an injury waiting to happen. But I dont want to anyone to undue all their hardwork by not understanding how to eat smart as an athlete.

Another rule of thumb that has been shared is that "running burns 100 calories per mile". This is a good general rule, but if taken literally smaller runners may find that they are over eating, while larger runners are not eating enough for proper recovery. Here is a "proven" formula to help you determine how many calories per mile you are burning per mile. .63 x your weight in pounds = calories burned in one mile. Multiple this number by the mileage run and you have a more accurate estimation of how many calories you burned during the run.

If you find that you are eating a pre-run snack, post-run recovery meal and then your normal meals, just for a 3 miler you may be overdoing things. One tip I can give is to time runs around meals so that your regular eating is doing double. Then if after a meal you still crave a snack, THEN chose something small and healthy. Also do not mistake dehydration for hunger.

One formula for properly refueling is offered by Dietitian Jackie Diko, cited in Running Times here: Divide your weight by two, and eat that many grams of carbohydrates, plus 10 to 20 grams of protein after a hard workout.

Carbs and Protein have 4 calories per gram. When you do your math to see how many gram of carbs you should eat and how many grams of protein you should eat, multiple the total grams by 4 and you will find your total calories of carbs and protein. Most food contains fat as well, as it should because we need it. Choose low fat options. Add the fat calories in and you will have some idea of how many calories you will need to consume after a hard workout (for me it is about 300). As a rule, I dont take in recovery fuel for runs that dont burn enough to surpass the calories of my recovery fuel. In my case, now, I usually dont eat specifically for recovery (i.e. bring a snack with me) unless I run double digits (10 or more). Instead I wait until my next regular meal (which is usually soon after). I used to refuel after 6 miles or more when I was newer to this.

Timing: You should be eating a regular meal or recovery snack within 60 minutes after running, but I find eating by 30 minutes is best.  (Exception:  Sometimes I purposely do depletion training where I restrict calories, but I dont recommend this without doing your homework first. There can be alot of negatives, but historically there have been many benefits as well if done properly and well-timed.  The most recent science shows depletion training has more of a benefit for those racing a long time at sub-maximal paces, so unless you are an ultrarunner you may not need to train depleted, ever.).

Although chocolate milk is a great option for recovery, I do choose a protein shake b/c I feel the protein in chocolate milk can be on the lower end of the above recommendation protein amount for me. Currently I drink a protein shake as my prefered refueling choice, but any real food that meets the above formula is great.

What is even more important may be rehydration. Sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger. The body absorbs fluids at a rate of about 400-800 ml per hour (as per Dr. Noakes), so it can take time to rehydrate, especially if you lost a few pounds in sweat on that long run in the summer. Drink lots of water to feel better sooner after a hard workout.

Finally, to make sure I am on track every few months I log onto "My Fitness Pal" and spend a week logging everything I eat, drink, and do. If my Calories In are equaling my Calories Out I know I am not eating away my workouts. I am rarely significantly under the goal, but I am always close and sometimes over. I love food.

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