Friends, allow me to introduce you to the KIWI BERRY! They're basically like kiwis, just teeny, tiny, baby-sized (berry-sized 😉) and without the furry fuzz.
Maybe it's the nutrition nerd in me, but I get SUPER EXCITED about trying new fruits and vegetables. And my excitement must be contagious, because my kids often share my enthusiasm. We picked these up yesterday after I saw @theschoolnutritiondietitian post about them. They are fun and delicious, and my kids ate them all within a matter of minutes. I am seriously considering going back to the store and buying all they have left.
I sincerely love fruits and vegetables and get about 6 to 9 servings a day. I keep the frig stocked with a variety of fresh fruits and easy to eat veggies (like baby carrots), and several large bags of frozen fruits and vegetables. I serve veggies to my family at lunch and dinner, and leave fresh fruit on the counter for snacks.
For myself, I usually get 3 servings of fruit and a veg with my smoothie every day (a serving of fruit is 1/2 cup fresh or medium whole fruit and 1 cup leafy greens or 1/2 cup cut fresh, frozen or canned vegetables). I incorporate them into my snacks (I mean, it is pretty darn easy to just throw and apple or even an applesauce pouch in your bag and go), and at dinner I fill half my plate with veggies. I practice Intuitve Eating, but I have been at a point in my journey for a while that fruits and veggies are often what my body wants, and I am able to practice the Gentle Nutrition part of Intuitive Eating, where you can flexibly incorporate recommendations.
Do you like trying new fruits and veggies? What are some of your favorite? And let me know if you find these kiwi berries and what you think? They're a major winner here. 🥝
Let's talk BCAAs.
Do you need to take them in supplement form?
Short answer: No.
BCAAs are readily available in many of the protein sources most of us are already eating. Your body will only draw on BCAAs for fuel during exercise IF you're NOT eating enough or taking in enough carb.
IF you are properly fueling before and during exercise, and the rest of your day, you are easily getting all the BCAAs you need.
For example, each of the following foods contain ALL the BCAAs you would need daily to prevent protein breakdown during aerobic exercise:
3 oz water packed tuna.
3 oz chicken.
1 cup nonfat yogurt.
1 cook cooked beans/legumes.
Dairy products and whey protein are great ways to replace BCAAs as well. Getting BCAAs from whole food sources vs. supplements also allows your body the ability to absorb them better. There are substances within foods called "food factors" that help with absorption in ways that cannot be replicated by supplements.
BCAA supplements can be expensive and large amounts of BCAAs in supplement form on a daily basis, can actually interfere with the absorption and balance of other amino acids. BCAAs in large amounts can also cause stomach upset, and there is research indicating high intake of BCAAs with increased diabetes risk, impaired fasting glucose, and insulin resistance.
If you were to choose to supplement with BCAAs it would be wise to choose a protein supplement that contains a full array of amino acids (and thus, you might as well save your money and just eat whole protein sources).
If you still want to supplement (running it by a doc first is always) recommendations indicate BCAAs should be taken either during training and/or hourly with an electrolyte solution before and during prolonged exercise (recs based on studies showing BCAAs increase marathon performance by 4%, may decrease mental fatigue during exercise, and may decrease muscle breakdown). Taking them at any other time, like before bed, would be a waste of money and could even interfere with sleep as BCAAs decrease serotonin and inhibit the uptake of Tryptophan and Tyrosine.
I often see women discussing how a loss of their period is "normal" when increasing training. We need to have a talk about the fact that while this may be common, it should NOT be accepted as normal.
As runners, especially runners active on social media, you cannot avoid the discussions, thoughts, and images connecting weight to performance.
What we need to remember though, is each one of our unique bodies has unique needs, and our bodies are going to perform their best when we fuel them properly. Instead of focusing on weighing less, we need to focus on eating enough.
Low energy availability (EA) is the clinical term for not eating enough. It often looks like not eating enough carbohydrate, protein, fat, or vitamins and minerals. The consequences of low EA are:
- Mild menstrual changes (light bleeding, spotting, less frequent periods) to more extreme changes oligomenorrhea (>35 days between cycles), amenorhea (no periods for >90 days)).
- Bone loss resulting in increased stress fracture risk to the development of
- More frequent injuries, infections, and illnesses.
- Chronic fatigue, irregular moods, hormonal disruptions, impaired growth.
- Unfavorable blood cholesterol (e.g. LDL) and increased cardiovascular risk.
These changes and consequences can happen to any woman, at any weight. Even someone in a bigger body than what we may stereo-typically think of at risk. And recently this happened to me.
A couple months ago my period came 10 days late, and it caught me off guard. I am not extremely thin. My body fat percentage is adequate. I've been eating a lot. I've even been able to run a much higher mileage than in the past. But this is what got me. At that point I weighed myself and noticed I was down a few pounds. I immediately increased my food intake, gained those few pounds back, and my period came back normal.
A number on the scale is not worth my mental or physical health. That lower weight, while being more idealized, was not for me. And perhaps weighing less or eating less may not be for you either. You deserve to be properly fueled, and you are worthy of health no matter what.
My favorite way to refuel after a long run is a banana blueberry protein smoothie.
To replenish glycogen stores goal is to get 0.5 to 0.75 gm of carbohydrate/kg of body weight (to convert pounds to kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2; ex: 150 pounds/2.2 = 68.2 kg ) within 30 minutes, up to 2 hours, after the end of your run. I use half a frozen banana and a cup of frozen blueberries to meet my needs. Plus, I love the taste of the 2 together and using the frozen fruit gives the smoothie and creamy, thick texture.
While carbs are the priority immediately after a run, protein is needed for muscle growth and repair. I prefer whey protein as it is easily absorbed and it is a natural source of BCAAs (no need for fancy supplements) including leucine the "king" of muscle growth stimulation. Protein recommendations for muscle synthesis is 0.25-0.4 g protein/kg/meal (1.6 gm protein/kg body weight per day).
Other great carb + protein refueling options are proats (protein powder in oatmeal), eggs and toast, fruit and Greek yogurt, fruit and cottage cheese, etc.
What's your favorite thing to eat to refuel?
Long runs are the perfect opportunity to practice your race day fueling plan. Practice what your going to eat and drink before and during the race. What, when, and how much depends on the distance and time you are running, along with what your tummy and GI system will tolerate. What works for one person can be completely different than what works for another. Thankfully there are many different options and products to pick from and try.
Recommendations for fueling before a longer race are to aim for 50 grams of carb for every hour you're eating prior to the race. So for example, if it's 1 hour before, you should consume about 50 grams of carb; 2 hours before, about 100 grams; 4 hours before, about 200 grams. Eating a little protein and fat is good too, just not too close to starting. Tomorrow, 2 hours before I head out for my 20+ miler, I'll drink some Tailwind and eat a Honeystinger waffle. Then an hour before, will eat a large banana. This will mimic my pre-marathon intake as well.
As far as for fueling during a run, for runs lasting longer than 60 minutes, you should start taking carb at the half an hour mark, aiming for 30 to 60 grams of carb per hour. I have found that my tummy does better when I alternate gels. I will take a Honeystinger then Maurten gel and so on every 4 to 5 miles. I carry a water vest and will drink water from that with the gels. While the Maurten gels say they do not need to be taken with water, this is how other gels are designed to be consumed. Not taking then with water can lead to GI distress.
In order to replace electrolytes lost via sweat, there are many drink options out there like Nuun or even Gatorade. My tummy does not do well with electrolyte drinks during running, no matter how many times I've tried. I am a heavy sweater though so I do need more electrolytes than what the gels provide. In order to replenish those for myself, I have found taking the saltstick fastchews work well.
It looks like a lot all laid out, but in order to perform my best, I know I need to be adequately fueled. And for me, after lots of trial and error and experimentation, have found this variety is what works. If you are struggling to find how to best fuel your own runs, or just beginning your journey and would like some direction, I would love to help.
We are coming out of cold and flu season, however spring allergies are on the horizon. All the coughing and sneezing and the spreading of germs, along with the immune suppressing effects of endurance training = many of us are still at risk of getting sick.
While it is pretty hard to prevent exposure to all those germs (wash your hands!), there are some things we can do nutritionally to support our immune systems.
1. Make sure your eating enough to support exercise and maintain an energy balance. This sounds basic but your immune system cannot function properly if you're not properly nourished.
2. For runs that last longer than 90 minutes, consuming carbohydrates before, during, and after training can help stabilize blood sugar levels, which lessens the stress response, and thus can reduce immune system suppression.
3. Help fight against oxidative stress by eating antioxidant rich foods high in vitamin A, C, and E (oranges, cantaloupe, blueberries, cherries, spinach, kale, broccoli, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms).
4. Help activate immune defenses by eating foods high in vitamin D (salmon, herring, sardines, cod liver oil, egg yolks, milk).
5. Help fight inflammation by eating foods high in omega 3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts).
6. Support immune function by choosing lean protein sources high in iron and zinc (chicken, turkey, fish, lean beef, eggs, legumes).
7. Eat a variety of soluble fiber (oats, beans, nuts, seeds, apples, citrus) insoluble fiber (wheat bran, whole wheat, whole grains), and probiotic (kefir, yogurt, saurkraut, kimchi) containing foods to support gut health.
You may have noticed that many of the nutrients listed above come in supplement form. However, by aiming to meet your vitamin and mineral needs through food, you are not only getting those nutrients but all the active components in food. New phytochemicals are being discovered all the time. When you replace whole foods with supplements you miss out on those food components that are benefiting your health (if you're deficient and have been prescribed supplements that's another story).
Cheers to good health!
(this post is meant to be informative, not provide medical advice)