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On the Seventh Day of Christmas My Run Coach Taught to Me...

Welcome to our holiday gift to you:
Twelve Days of Healthy Running Tips

On the seventh day of Christmas
my run coach taught to me:
7 Cardinal Rules of Nutrition
cultivate neutral feet
recruit my hamstrings
how to use gravity
3 key running phases
to use my Achilles tendons
and a proper foot strike...

At some point in your life as an endurance athlete there will come a time when you find yourself not recovering fast enough to meet the demands of your training. You have two choices: chalk it up to physical limitations - none of us are getting any younger… OR you can change your strategy. Choose the latter, you are not a quitter. Today we talk about the seven nutritional rules every endurance athlete should follow for optimal recovery and performance.

  1. Eat Real Food 
    We love bars and gels as much as the next marathoner, they're super convenient when we're on the long runs. But what are you eating when you're not running? Uber-busy athletes tend to look for convenience and it often comes in the form of "healthy" over-processed nutritional pods… unless you live on the Space Station, eat real food. Want a kick start? Try the Whole30® program - we recommend this to all of our clients to help them get on track quickly.
  2. Eat Appropriate Serving Sizes Frequently
    We've all been programmed to eat three meals a day since we were little, right? Studies indicate that smaller portions consumed more frequently are actually a better way to nourish our bodies. We find that most endurance athletes are not hitting their ideal target caloric formula, either eating too much or not enough. Eating more frequently allows you to adjust your daily caloric intake in smaller increments and have the will-power to say no to that Chunky Monkey that’s beckoning you from the freezer. If you don't track it, you can't manage it… try an app like myFitnessPal, it'll be your new best friend.
  3. Drink Before You're Thirsty
    Think you’re tired because you’re training so much? Think again, and then pour yourself a tall drink of water. Recovery, digestion, nutrient absorption, healthy skin, optimal brain power—you name it. They all improve with proper hydration, which is about achieving the right balance of fluids and electrolytes - minerals not only essential to our sports performance but our overall health. Leave a full glass of water on your nightstand and drink it immediately upon waking. The American Dietetic Association recommends athletes keep up their fluid intake before, during and after a run. Drink about 16 ounces of water two hours before your run and about 8 to 16 ounces 15 minutes before to stay hydrated during your run.
  4. Practice Meal Timing
    In terms of recovery, eating isn't just about what you eat - it's also about when you eat it. Joe Friel, in one of his best-selling books, "Your Best Triathlon," states that "there are actually five stages to recovery throughout the day and that each of these stages is unique in terms of what foods are eaten." 

    For short and/or high-intensity sessions, Friel says athletes can benefit from consuming liquid-based nutrition such as a sports drinks or gels before the workout (stage 1). For sessions more than 90 minutes, Friel recommends consuming 100 to 400 grams of carbohydrates during the workout (stage 2). What you eat after a workout (stage 3) - when your muscles are primed to accept nutrients - is key to recovery. Immediately after a workout, take in at least three calories of carbs for every pound of body weight along with a small portion of protein.

    Stage 4 lasts as long as the workout lasted minus the time spent in stage 3. In this stage, Friel recommends shifting away from liquid sources of carbohydrates and towards solids. It’s a great time to eat starchy foods like potatoes, yams and grains and real protein from animals (tofu, tempeh, or quinoa if you're vegetarian) - no powdered drinks. In stage 5, your body's carbohydrate stores are now well-stocked, get your veggie "on" and get a kale, broccoli and beet salad - or throw them all in a blender a make a nice veggie smoothie - Rich Roll style.
  5. Monitor your Macros
    Don't lose sight of the overall, macro-level picture of how you're fueling your body. Your daily ratio of macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats and proteins - is crucial to recovery and easy to lose sight of among the minutiae of meal planning. According to Jamie A. Cooper, author of "The Complete Nutrition Guide for Triathletes," the exact percentages of each will vary depending on what type of athlete you are; a long course athlete will need slightly more carbohydrates (the body’s primary energy source) than a short-course athlete logging fewer training hours. But as a rule of thumb, he says athletes should aim for getting 45-65 percent of daily calories from carbohydrates, 15-20 percent from protein and 20-35 percent from fat.
  6. Have a Healthy Relationship with Food
    Endurance athletes are obsessive types - we've been doing this for over 30 years collectively - we get it. Many of us treat our bodies like a science experiment, logging what we eat, how much and when we eat it. Our relationship with food becomes a little tricky when we aren't training. What happens when we've finished the race, or are in the off-season, or even worse, injured (and feeling depressed)? 

    Once your goal is accomplished (or put on hold), cravings can overpower you and give you that perfect excuse to eat garbage with a promise that you'll “get back on track on Monday.” You risk unraveling all the gains you made previously because your willpower has been depleted. Think of your relationship as a marriage, not a one-night stand... long-term versus a single event… "Eating should always be healthful but it should also be pleasurable," says Marni Sumbal, clinical dietitian and age-group triathlete. When she counsels her athletes, she looks for bad habits like eating behind a computer screen, skipping meals and negative emotions surrounding food, and steers them toward a more forgiving attitude.
  7. Do Not Experiment on Race Day
    Using something new in a race without having tested it in training is one of the cardinal rules for all athletes. However, we're amazed about how many times our clients break it. Unless you're absolutely desperate and willing to accept the consequences, do not try anything new in competition - your body is under enough stress on race day! Plan appropriately... bring the same nutritional products that you've been using - your body has been acclimated to these - don't risk wasting all of those hours spent training because of poor planning.

We hope these tips serve you well in your quest to become a healthier, lifelong runner! Stay tuned for more TIPS TOMORROW and we wish everyone HEALTHY and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

Keep on Running!

Julia, Patrick & Jo-Jo

Pose, RRCA, USAT and ITCA Certified Coaches


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