Saturday, September 5, 2015

Fuel your run: The best foods for energy, breathing and recovery

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The 34th annual Blue Cross Broad Street Run is this Sunday, and whether you are an experienced marathoner or new to running, you may have questions about the best way to fuel your race. Katie Cavuto Boyle MS, RD, the official dietitian for the Philadelphia Phillies is sharing her top tips and food picks:

Foods for energy:

The timing and type of foods you eat before the race can help to boost your energy during the race. When you work out, your muscles use glycogen for energy. Glycogen is your muscles’ form of stored carbohydrates. Muscles themselves are made up of protein. Therefore, the two most important nutrients to keep in mind when fueling your run are carbohydrates and protein. Ideally, you should try to eat a mix of carbohydrates and low fat proteins one to three hours before your training runs.

The day before your race: You should eat easily digestible carbohydrates to maximize your body’s stored carbohydrates for race day.  Pasta and rice dishes are popular dinners on the night before races for this reason. Also, make sure to eat familiar foods on the night before a race. This is not the time to try a new restaurant or an exotic dish. You want to be sure your stomach is not upset on race day.

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  • The morning of the race: Have a small breakfast 2-3 hours before the race.  Focus on easily digestible carbohydrates, such as toast with a bit of peanut butter, cereal with almond milk or a smoothie to fuel you for your race.  Avoid dairy as it can cause GI distress. Like the night before, the morning of the race is not the time to try a new meal.

    During the race: If you are running a longer distance race or training for more than 90 minutes, you may need to take in some additional fuel during your run. Your muscles rely on sugar in the bloodstream for fuel and during an extended training run or race, you will need to replace that sugar in order to keep your energy up and avoid “bonking.” Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, Clif energy gel shots, Sport Beans or simply grapes or honey sticks are all good options for replacing the carbohydrates during a race.

    Foods for breathing:

    Breathing is just as important as energy in your race. If you are able to breathe well, you’ll be able to supply your body with the oxygen it needs. A healthy diet definitely plays a role in respiratory health, and there are a couple of foods that are easy to sneak into your diet to help keep it strong.

    Studies have found that good lung function is associated with a high intake of vitamins C, E and beta-carotene. It can’t hurt to aid your race breathing by adding citrus fruits, carrots, apples and fruit juices the prior to race day.

    More immediately, if you have any type of seasonal allergy, there may be certain foods you want to avoid to steer clear of an attack during the race. If you are sensitive to grass, you may need to avoid wheat, rice, or corn as they are a part of the grass family. If you suffer from other allergies, citruses, garlic, onions and apples are all great to have in your diet as Vitamin C can help counteract histamine.

    While, there won’t be overnight changes in your breathing health by adding these, it can’t hurt since they are all good for you!

    Foods for recovery:

    After your workout, you will want to replenish your body with carbohydrates and protein. The carbohydrates will help to replenish your muscles’ glycogen stores and the protein will help repair and rebuild the muscle fibers you broke down during your workout.

    Simple carbohydrates such as those found in sports drinks like Gatorade and unconcentrated coconut water like Vita Coco are ideal for replenishing your glycogen stores and balancing your electrolytes, as well as rehydrating you immediately after a race. 

    Can’t stomach food?  Chocolate milk is the perfect ratio of carbohydrates to protein and is easy to drink down post race.  You could do chocolate soy milk, if dairy isn’t in the cards.  There are great post-race food options that do the trick as well.  KIND fruit and nut bars are easy to pack and eat and are a good source of vitamin E which helps fight muscle soreness and magnesium which can prevent cramping.  A simple sandwich with whole grain bread and turkey is great post race as well.

    Pay attention to what works for your body. You may find you can only tolerate liquids after a race and need to wait to eat solid foods.  Avoid anything high in fat as it will delay the digestion of the carbohydrates and protein which delays recovery.

    So whether you are trying for a new PR or running for fun, fueling yourself well for races and listening to your body are the keys to success.

    Culinary Nutritionist, Dietitian for the Philadelphia Phillies
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