A necessity for our stroller runs is snacks.
When most people hear the term "carb-loading", a big pasta dinner the night before an event comes to mind. However, this is not the best way to load your glycogen stores (glycogen is the form carbohydrates take when stored within your muscles). Research has shown that you can build-up glycogen stores better by eating 70 to 90% of your total calories from carbohydrate for 2 to 3 days before an event. That means that you should still aim to eat roughly the same amount of training calories but aim to eat more of those calories from carb sources.
For example, during a normal training cycle, runners should be aiming for about 60% of total calories from carb. So, if you normally eat 2000 calories, then 1200 of those 2000 should be coming from carb, or about 300 grams. For the 2 - 3 days prior to a longer race, increasing to 70 - 90% of calories from carb would then be 1400 to 1800 of 2000 calories, or 350 to 450 grams of carb.
Great carbohydrate sources are pastas, rice, cereals, breads, dairy products such as yogurt (if you eat dairy), fruits, and starchy vegetables. As far as fruits and veggies go though, just for the 2 - 3 days before the event, you may want to consider limiting or avoiding beans and very high fiber/roughage types of fruits and veggies to avoid distress.
Practicing carb-loading 2 to 3 days before your longer training runs is one of the best ways to fine tune your fueling plan for a race. This gives you plenty of time before the actual event to figure out what works for you. We invest so much time training our bodies to handle the miles, and should be investing the same amount of time into training our guts. Consistently practicing your fueling before, during, and after longer training runs is one of the BEST ways to avoid GI distress during events.
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)
Like many other parents, I find myself pondering what I am going to make for dinner on a regular basis, or wondering what I can whip up for a snack, While attempting to find a solution to these questions, I am always considering how I can include as many fruits and vegetables as possible. Encouraging my kids to eat and explore fruits and veggies is something I have focused on a lot at home, and through my 12 years of being a parent, I have found somethings that work really well. One of the requests I receive most from other parents is for ideas and tips for snacks and meals, and so I thought I would share some of my practicals (and with the exception of #1, they can be time savers too).
1. Get kids involved.
Kids naturally are curious. They want to know what you're doing and often want to help (Me too! Me too!). This can translate to fruit and veggies, and food in general, in a couple different ways. Let them pick out fruits or vegetables in the produce section that look interesting to them or that they want to try (my kids really enjoy this). Allow them to help wash and cut (if they're old enough to handle a knife), and help with parts of cooking appropriate to their age (like adding ingredients, stirring or mixing, etc.)
Also, kids like fun presentations. You can make fruit kabobs. Cute little fruit and veggie monsters or animals (Pinterest is an endless source of these). For my own children, I often will just put a bunch of different sliced fruits, berries, veggies, and some cheese out on a party platter just for a snack. They think it is the best thing ever! (I am guessing at some point the novelty will wear off, but until then I'm going to party-platter it up.)
2. Frozen vegetables.
Frozen veggies from the frozen food section are an easy way to add veggies to meals. These are great because the veggies have been prepared and frozen right after being picked, helping them to retain more of their vitamins and minerals. You can cook them on the stove-top (adding the frozen vegetables to a small pot and covering with a lid, no need to add extra water), but microwaving can also be a more convenient method. And despite the rumors you may have seen or read, microwaving does not destroy all the nutrients in food (a myth I see spread around the internet). Research has shown that all cooking methods (boiling, stir-frying, and microwaving) with the exception of steaming, result in a decrease of nutrients, it is just the nature of cooking and heat. Please do not get too focused on this though. Overall, a varied diet of vegetables prepared and enjoyed in different ways is going to give you plenty of vitamins and minerals.
And if you are wondering about the safety of microwaving food, as there is a lot of stuff floating around the internet, this is a great review of the literature and it debunks some of the most common myths.
3. Pre-cut fruits and vegetables
If your budget allows, many stores will have vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, butternut squash, melons, apples, berries, etc., available already washed, cut, and ready to cook. I really like the selection at Trader Joes. Costco has a few items like this too in their produce section. But I have seen these veggies and all sorts of fruit in many other grocery stores too. These options are great for families running short on time.
4. Sheet Pan Dinners
Sheet pan dinners are great because you cook everything together on a sheet pan all at once. There are an endless number of recipes and ideas available online, and what I love about them is that many are well-balanced, featuring lean proteins and lots of vegetables. If you are really in a time crunch, using the pre-cut vegetables mentioned above can help make prep even easier.
5. Make ahead crock-pot freezer meals.
Ah yes. Ye ole crock-pot. The crock-pot really is a great way to cook a meal, especially if you are a family on the go. Make-ahead freezer meals make it that much easier. They do require time for preparation, but that prep time can be a great time to implement #1 on this list and get your littles involved (cutting vegetables, measuring things into bags, etc.). I always double the amount of vegetables in the recipe or add additional ones I think will work with the other ingredients. Just dump everything in a Ziploc-type freezer bag, put the bagged meals into the freezer, and then (the night before you need it) pull the meal from the freezer and let it defrost in the fridge while you sleep. Dump it in the crock-pot the next day, cooking as per the directions, and when you get home dinner is done. Here is a download that features 19 great recipes compiled by New Leaf Wellness that we like.
These are just 5 things that have worked well for me. I would love to hear what things you have found that your kids and family love or dinner ideas.