Q&A with running nutrition expert Nancy Clark - July 2011
Q: I'm training for the New York City Marathon which will be my first. I'm very excited about the race and think I eat well. But some of my marathoning friends are extremely weight conscious and I feel like they are obsessed about what they eat. They say any fat is bad. I know that's not true, but should I consider restricting the amount of fats that I have in my diet? And if so, how? Jennifer, Branford, CT
A: All too often, weight-conscious runners forget that the better-fueled runner can perform better than the lighter-at-any-cost runner. I encourage my fat-phobic clients to think about food as “fuel” (not the “fattening enemy”) and fat as “essential lipid.” Some fat is indeed essential to:
--absorb certain vitamins (A, D, E, K).
--contribute to normal functioning of nerve and brain cells.
--add flavor to food.
--reduce inflammation bye eating the healthy unsaturated fats from plant foods (olive oil, peanut butter, nuts, and avocado) and oily fish (salmon, trout).
--enhance athletic performance.
Small amounts of fat are stored within muscles and contribute to endurance. Research suggests that runners who switch from a very low fat diet to a moderate fat intake perform significantly better. In my opinion, each meal should include some healthy fat, such as a bagel with peanut butter for breakfast, or tuna on a salad with olive oil for lunch.
Warning signs of dehydration
Q: Where I live it’s extremely hot and I'm very concerned about dehydration. But how do I know if I'm dehydrated? Are there warning signs? Emily, Tampa FL
A:You can tell if you are under-hydrated if you:
-- fail to urinate every two to four hours throughout the day.
-- eliminate urine that is dark colored, like the color of beer. (Your urine should be pale yellow, the color of lemonade.
-- feel headachy, tired, nauseous and cranky.
-- are thirsty (although lack of thirst may poorly indicate that you are well hydrated).
To prevent dehydration, learn your sweat rate by weighing yourself (naked) before and after a one-hour workout. If you lose two pounds during the workout, you’ve lost 32 ounces—a quart—of sweat lost. In the future, you want to match that loss by drinking at least eight ounces every 15 minutes.
Are sports drinks the best?
Q: If I need to replace my electrolytes on long, hot summer runs, should I only drink sports drinks? Or is it better to alternate sports drinks on long runs with water? Does it matter? John, Dallas TX
A: If you are exercising for more than three hours in the heat, you should choose endurance sports drinks because they offer more sodium than regular sports drinks. If you are exercising for less than three hours, you are unlikely to deplete your body’s salt stores.
Sports drinks actually contain very little sodium compared to what you get in “real food.” That is, the bagel and peanut butter you enjoyed before the long run offered about 500 mg sodium, and the quart of Gatorade during the run only 440 milligrams. There’s no need to alternate with water. You’ll miss out on both the carbohydrates that enhance long runs plus the sodium.
On long, hot runs, plan to add some sodium to your pre-run meal: put salt in your oatmeal or enjoy a handful of pretzels, a few olives or pickles or some brothy soup. By getting the sodium into your system, you’ll retain water better and delay the fatigue associated with becoming dehydrated.
Easy to eat pre-long run food
Q: I know I should eat something before long runs, but I don't like to eat anything. If there were one food I should try and eat before marathon training runs, what would you suggest? (It has to be something light and easily digestible).Michael, San Francisco
A: There is no one food that is the best, but rather you need to experiment to learn what your body tolerates best. Start with a few pretzels, half an English muffin, a chunk of banana or something that you think would settle well.
If you have tried to train your body but still end up with intestinal distress, you have a few options:
1. Eat your breakfast the prior evening before you go to bed. That will help maintain a normal blood sugar level. (Blood sugar usually drops over night, without a bedtime snack).
2. Fuel during the long run, starting within the first hour. The goal would be to consume about 200 to 350 calories per hour, depending on your body size and intensity of exercise.
Q: I have a terrible problem before races. It seems like I have diarrhea before every race. I seem to eat OK and it doesn't ordinarily happen in my life, but the mornings of a race are awful because I have to hang around the Portajons and even during the race, I carry toilet paper. Can you help with any advice? Marion, Buckhead, GA
A:• If you have no problem with diarrhea during long, hard training runs, I suspect the problem could be triggered by pre-race nervousness and/or the higher intensity of race-pace.
• You can try to figure out if the diarrhea is food-related by keeping food records for the two days prior to long runs and high intensity workouts, duplicating on race day what you ate before the workout.
• Some marathoners have used anti-diarrhea medicines such as Imodium, taking the recommended dose 1 hour pre-event.
• Try to think positive, and use your mind to visualize yourself running carefree. The more you worry about undesired pit stops, the more likely you are to have “fecal urgency.”
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.