Tag Archives: nutrition

Healthy Monday for Runners: Carb Loading

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If you are going over all the details of your upcoming race, trying to figure out how to do things the best way, then you are probably wondering if you should carb load.
But what exactly is carb loading, should you do it, and if so, how to do it right?

 
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The technical mambo jambo, ADD version:

 
Our bodies store energy in the form of glycogen, in our muscles and liver.
Carbohydrates, or carbs, are our main source of glycogen.
Our bodies store enough glycogen for about 90 minutes of exercise.
See? That’s it.

 
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Should I carb load?

 
Eating enough carbs before a race is not only beneficial for longer races, but it will also give you extra energy for races where you’ll be running less than 90 minutes.
Even if you are planning on consuming carbs before/during your race, carb loading a few days in advance will ensure you have the maximum energy available come race day.

 
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However, there are a few negatives to carb loading to consider before you make the decision:
Feeling bloated: a change in diet, especially consuming extra carbohydrates, may make you feel bloated.
Water retention: Our bodies store 3 grams of water for every gram of glycogen.
Stiff muscles: extra carbs can make your muscles feel stiff and less flexible.
Change: sometimes the uncertainty of change doesn’t sit well on our minds, especially close to race day (see “make a plan” below).

 
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The right way to carb load:

 
Do the math: By using a nutrition app like myfitnesspal or sparkpeople, figure out what percentage of your daily calories comes from carbs, so you can gradually increase them. Keep in mind you’ll want to eat around 7-8 grams of carbs for each KG (2.2 pounds) of your weight (this is what works for me, some suggestions go up to 10 grams per KG).

 
Practice: General guidelines are great to get an idea of what to do, but they are guidelines. Your body may respond better to a bit less or a bit more carbs than the recommended range, so take the time to experiment.

 
Make a plan: Figure out in advance what you will eat and drink every day during the carb loading phase, calculate the carb and calorie content to make sure you are on track with your needs.

 
Start 3-7 days before the race: The last 2 days before the race, consume 80% carbs, the days before that, range between 50% and 80%.

 
Choose wisely: Despite what you may have heard, carb loading is not about eating a lot of starchy junk food. Chose simple and nutritious foods, without a lot of extra fat and salt. Go for complex carbs the first few days (whole grain bread, whole wheat pasta, oats, etc.) and stick to simple carbs (white breads and flours) the day before the race.

 
Get them in: Some people actually enjoy eating a lot of bread, pasta and rice. But for others it is more difficult to eat a larger amount of carbohydrates. Healthy drinks are a great way to get some additional carbs without the extra feeling of fullness, think smoothies, shakes, and natural juices.

 
Don’t overeat the night before the race: Eat a medium sized meal, 12-15 hours before the race. You want to feel comfortably full after dinner, and actually wake up hungry the next morning.

 
Race day breakfast: Don’t go overboard with your race day breakfast, so you don’t feel too full and heavy when it’s time to run. A 200-300 calorie breakfast of mostly carbs, 2-3 hours before the race should be enough.

 

Have you ever tried carb loading? Did it work for you?



 

Running Tips

I want to share with you some of the things that have really helped me improve my running in the past year.  I know the internet is full of tips and advise (and thanks for that!) but personally I have really enjoyed reading what average runners had to say via blogs and message boards, it makes it more relateable for me.

So if you are hoping to start running more and/or faster, some of these tips may help you.

Out of shape

We’ve all been here, am I right…

1) PROPER FORM: Some big contenders for first place, but in my opinion the most important thing to keep in mind is proper form.  No matter how fast or slow you run, how many miles, or what your running goals are for the future, as long as you are running with the correct form you will be able to avoid injury and move forward your goals.

Running Form

And a very interesting (short) article on the subject:

http://running.competitor.com/2013/06/training/the-five-most-common-running-form-mistakes_48731/1

2) GRADUAL INCREASE: Another big one.  Yes, we’ve heard it before a million times, but that’s because it’s so true.  No matter where you currently are in your running, increasing your distance/speed gradually is not only the best way to see actual results, but to avoid injury.  Nothing to set you back like a month of not running because of injury.

 Soon enough you'll be where you want to be

Soon enough you’ll be where you want to be

Increase distance by 10% weekly, and don’t run hard two days in a row.  I love the ‘hard day, easy day’ rule, even those weeks where I run a few days in a row, I always alternate between easy runs and hard runs.

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3) TRAIN SMART: There are a lot of training plans online, for free or for a fee, that can help you achieve your goals.  I ran for years, always at the same level of effort and usually twice a week for a total weekly distance of 15 KM / 9 MILES.  So no wonder I wasn’t seeing any progress.  Eventually when I started running more and reading more on proper training I realized that I had to do things a better way.  Not only increase my weekly distance but mainly adding different kinds of runs to my training.

Run

It took me some time but I got to where I’m now, running 5 times a week, about 60 KM / 37 MILES, and doing a different run every time (during a week period): a long run, an interval run (short bouts of running at a higher speed than the rest of my runs, an easy (recovery) run, a tempo run, and a fartlek run (longer intervals, not as fast as the short intervals).

4) RUNNING GEAR: There’s a lot of hype about running/fitness gear, you may love it or not..  I do enjoy all the options and pretty colors and designs of running gear.  But “pretty” and “fashion” aside, there is actual benefit to owning a few pieces of good running gear.

runningclothes

  • Running shoes: The most important piece of running gear you need, you must have shoes that fit YOU right.
  • Running clothes: A few basics, sweat wicking, cool for summer (shorts and short sleeve/no sleeve top), warm (but light) for winter (tights and long sleeve top), running socks (totally worth the investment!), and if you are a woman a supportive/non-chafing sports bra and strong hair bands.
  • Music: Personally I can’t move without music.  The day my Ipod battery dies in the middle of my run is the day I stop running in the middle of my run
  • Watch: you can buy a GPS watch with/without a heart monitor, but even a regular digital watch to keep track of your time is useful, you can then figure out your speed based on how much you run (google maps measuring distance tool).  You can do most of this with your phone too, although I personally like to run as light as possible and don’t usually have my phone with me.
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Really, you don’t need that many.

5) BEFORE AND AFTER: Like running is not hard enough or time consuming enough… but yes, you must do before and after care.

Before: some people stretch, some people don’t.  I don’t, but always start with a warm-up of 5 minutes walking and 10 minutes of slow running.  Trust me, I hate every minute of it, I don’t like running so slow or walking during training, and I’m in enough of a hurry to move on with my day, but it’s a necessary evil.

After: stretch, stretch, stretch!  I’ve also started foam rolling a few months ago and love it.  Sorry I meant to say I hate it, but it works so at least I love that.

 Keep your friends close and your enemies closer I guess..

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer I guess..

6) CROSS TRAIN: Now some people don’t have a problem with this and actually love doing other things other than running, and some people just want to run-run-run!  I might go into full running mode but I’m too afraid of getting injured or losing the strength that cross training gives me.  I think the smart move is to keep doing other things besides running, especially strength training and another form of aerobic exercise (elliptical, zumba, biking/spinning, swimming, to name a few).

funny-fitness-cartoons

7) WATCH YOUR NUTRITION: I’m going to keep it short on this one because it’s such a huge subject I don’t want to get into.. so let’s just put it this way: to run your best you have to give your body the best nutrition you can get for it to be healthy and strong.  Whatever that means to you, go ahead and make it happen.

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Well? Go eat your veggies!

8) REST: We all need our ZZZ’s to function as best as we can.  A bad night’s sleep means a bad morning run, for sure (if you even make it out the door).  So for the sake of running, your health, your mood, and everyone around you: get the sleep you need.  For me it’s 7 hours a night although I usually get about 6 or 6 and a half hours.

tired or bad mood

Hope you had a great run during the weekend!