The Running Nutritionist: Nancy Clark Answers Your Questions
Q: Hi Nancy, I have Celiac disease and I am struggling with finding the right foods to eat prior to long runs. Many Gu or energy fuels contain gluten or wheat products or preservatives and are not tolerated by those like myself with Celiac disease. I do not tolerate any kind of oats, even steel cut, for early runs and find myself out of steam after 10 miles. Do you have some insight you can share? Melanie Herring, Jacksonville, Florida
A: Your best bet is to meet with a registered dietitian who specializes in Celiac disease, so you can get personalized advice. To find someone local, use the referral network at www.eatright.org or www.SCANdpg.org. Alternatively, read Gluten-free Diet by Shelley Case RD which is a very helpful resource.
That being said, you can fuel your muscles with many gluten-free “real foods” (as opposed to engineered gels or sports candies), such as Rice Chex, hot rice cereal, or just a bowl of (brown) rice. Some runners enjoy pre-run boiled potatoes; other like gluten-free bread (Udi’s or Rudy’s are popular brands) toasted with peanut butter. Instead of Gu, have some honey or maple syrup. There is nothing magic about the engineered sports foods. Whole foods work fine.
Q: I am a very heavy sweater. Because I sweat so heavily, On my long runs, someone has suggested I take salt tablets before running. I stay pretty well hydrated, but don't know if it makes sense to take I salt before (or after) running.Does it? Welles Hopper, Cave Creek, Arizona
A: Most runners can get plenty of salt through their pre-run breakfast and post-run recovery meals. The runners who need extra salt are the ones who will be exercising for more than three hours. Yet, if you are a person who sweats heavily and has salty sweat (as indicated by a crust of salt on your skin), consuming some extra salt before and after the run might help you stay better hydrated and you’ll feel better overall.
If you will be running in hot weather, consuming a salty food before the run helps retain water in your body and delays the rate at which you become dehydrated. Note that a bagel with peanut butter offers about 500 milligrams sodium, a bowl of cereal with milk, about 300 to 500 mg sodium; and a Cliffbar, about 150 mg sodium (depending on the flavor). Many salt tablets and electrolyte replacers offer less sodium than standard foods so be sure to read the labels. You might be surprised to learn that eLoad eDisc have only 37 mg sodium; Endurolytes, only 40 mg sodium per capsule, and a SaltStick, 200 mg. You can save a lot of money just by putting an extra shake of salt on your food.
Q: Can I pre-hydrate? What I mean is, if I load up on water and sports drink in the days leading up to my marathon, will that help me on marathon morning? Mark Rodriguez, La Canada, California
A: Yes, you can fully hydrate your body by drinking extra fluids the days before the marathon. But you should be doing that every day anyway, because you can only train at your best if you are well hydrated on a daily basis. You should be voiding pale-colored urine every two to four hours every day, not just the week before the marathon. When hydrating, skip the sports drinks. They are designed to be taken during endurance exercise. No need to drink them at other times. You can get far more electrolytes in foods—plus far more nutritional value.
Q: I don't like to eat red meat or pork, but I like chicken and fish. I believe eating chicken and fish is healthier than eating red meat. Is it? Also, by not eating red meat, am I missing any essential nutrients? Cindy Rowland, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
A: The fewer legs on an animal, the healthier the flesh. That means, chicken (with two legs) and fish (with no legs) are healthier choices than beef or pork. You want to choose proteins low in hard (saturated) fat. Soft fat—such as chicken fat and the oil in fish—is the preferable choice. By not eating red meat, you might miss out on some iron and zinc, but you can enjoy chicken legs and thighs, and darker fish like tuna and swordfish as alternate sources of those minerals. You can also choose enriched breakfast cereals, such as Wheaties and Kellogg’s Raisin Bran, that offer iron and zinc. Or, simply take a multivitamin and mineral pill.
Q: I eat a pretty healthy diet. I'm training for a marathon and want to know whether I should also take some vitamins, especially C. Are vitamin pills necessary? I assume they aren't absolutely necessary but during marathon training would you recommend taking them? And if so, anything else other than C? Mary Davis, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
A: Given that you are “eating a pretty healthy diet”, you are likely already eating more than enough vitamins, including vitamin C. That is, hungry runners don’t drink just eight ounces of orange juice (with 100 percent of their daily need for Vitamin C); they drink 16 ounces and get double the recommended intake. They don’t eat just one spear of broccoli (with 100 percent C for the day), but eat three spears (and get 300 percent of the C they need). You might want to track your food intake at www.fitday.com or www.sparkpeople.com to discover how many vitamins you are already consuming before you rush off to buy pills. Food, after all, is your best source of all vitamins, as well as other bioactive compounds that protect your health. When you enjoy vitamins from wholesome foods, you consume them in the right balance, as nature intended.
I vote for spending your money on colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy foods, and lean proteins. Also, read food labels of cereals and energy bars, many of which are fortified and a vitamin pill in themselves. You might be surprised at how much vitamin C you already consume!
Do you have a sports nutrition question for Nancy Clark? If you have a question you’d like her to answer, send it to Shoeguy@Mizunousa.com. If we pick your question for Nancy to answer, we’ll send you a beautiful Mizuno DryScience T-shirt.