25 Nutrition & Training Tips

When I picked up my registration packet for the Dallas White Rock Marathon, I was given a booklet entitled RUN: Marathon Training Guide. In it, I came across the following article of the same name as the title of this blog entry. It was authored my Kim Brown, M.S., R.D., who is a registered sports dietician and competitive endurance athlete.

25 Nutrition & Training Tips to Help You Optimize Your Health and Fitness Performance

Are you looking for that "something" to take your health and performance to the next level? The following tips may be just what you need.

1. A mere 2% decline in body water can cause up to a 10% decline in physical performance. Be sure to drink half your body weight (in pounds) in non-caffeinated fluid ounces on a daily basis to help lubricate our joints, moisten your muscles, ensure optimal metabolic function and wash away bacteria before they cause infection.

2. Remember to tap off your fluid tank before exercising. Aim at sipping 8 ounces of hydrating fluids (non-caffeinated) for every 1/2 hour prior to starting.

3. To stay hydrated during exercise, aim at consuming 8 ounces of fluid every 15-20 minute. To avoid hyponatremia, or low blood sodium, and consequent cramps, headaches and lethargy, use a sports beverage containing carbohydrates and electrolytes rather than plain water when training longer than one hour.

4. Determine your individual sweat by weighting in pre and post-workout. For every pound that you lose during a workout, add an additional 16 ounces of fluid to your drinking regimen to avoid symptoms of dehydration. The goal is to lose as little weight as possible.

5. As a means to rehydrate and optimize recovery after exercise, make sure to drink 16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost. Sports beverages containing carbohydrates and electrolytes are ideal after strenuous exercise as the allow for both glycogen repletion and electrolyte replacement.

6. To ensure optimal metabolic function during training, make sure to consume small, mixed meals containing both carbohydrate and protein every 3-4 hours. Most athletes training at least one hour a day need about 21-25 calories per pound of lean body weight for maintenance of lean body mass. Athletes looking to drop some body fat shouldn't restrict daily calorie intake by more than 500 calories when in training season. If weight gain is desired, aim at a daily boost of about 250 calories.

7. On longer training days (anything lasting >90 minutes) or higher intensity training bouts (>85% max heart rate for at least 60 minutes), make sure to consume approximately 2 calories per pound of lean body weight for every hour prior to starting. These calories should consist primarily of easily digested carbohydrate (banana, yogurt, energy bars, low sugar/fiber cereals and toast) with a small amount of protein. Aim at one gram of protein for every four grams of carbohydrate. These calories will help tap off your liver glycogen stores, helping to keep your blood sugars stable during the initial stages of the event. Avoid carbohydrates with excessive amounts of fiber and fat before training as both can lead to GI distress.

8. Beyond 60-120 minutes of moderate to intense activity, aim at consuming approximately 2 calories per pound of lean body weight each hour. Remember that "fats burn in a carbohydrate flame." In order to prevent depletion of muscle glycogen stores and "hitting the wall," athletes must supply kindling, in the form of carbohydrate, to the fire. For events lasting greater than 2 hours, adding a small amount of protein to your calorie replenishment may help spare muscle glycogen by as much as 25%! Aim at consuming 1 gram of protein for every 4-7 grams of carbohydrate.

9. Avoid overeating when cycling. Cyclists need to replace only 30-50% of the calories expended on the bike. Overeating simply leads to diversion of blood, oxygen and water to the stomach to aid in digestion, which can cause a "dead-legged" feeling and bloating. The following chart given you an idea of calorie expenditure at different speeds:
10. For optimal recovery after a glycogen depleting workout, aim at consuming approximately 1/2 gram of high-glycemic carbohydrate and 1/8 gram protein per pound of lean body weight or approximately 200-400 calories within 30 minutes of exercise. This 30-minute window is essential since our body is very sensitive to the hormone insulin, which helps shuttle carbohydrate into our depleted muscles. Sample recovery foods include low-fat chocolate milk, nutrition beverages such as Gatorade Nutrition Drink or Slim Fast, energy bars, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a banana with low-fat cottage cheese.

11. Watermelon is one of the best recovery fruits. It contains 90% water for rehydration, an ample supply of fast-release carbohydrate for glycogen replenishment and antioxidant protection from lycopene.

12. Recovery nutrition does not end within 30 minutes of finishing an intense activity. Because glycogen repletion only occurs at a rate of 5-7% per hour, an athlete needs to continue to eat small, mixed meals containing both carbohydrate and protein every 2-3 hours for a full 24 hours after a depleting activity. Aim for a total of 3.2-5 grams of carbohydrate per pound of lean body weight in the 24 hours after a glycogen-depleting event.

13. Aim at a filling your plate with 25% starch (potatoes, whole wheat, bread, brown rice, pasta, etc.), 25% protein (soy products, fish, beef, poultry, legumes, pork, etc.) and 50% color (fruits and vegetables). Try to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day as a means to help boost immune function and reduce risk for chronic disease. Remember that restriction of any one of the major food groups specified on the Food Guide Pyramid can lead to a macronutrient imbalance and corresponding vitamin and mineral deficiency.
14. Avoid fat-free or very low-fat diets. Fat helps stimulate a chemical called CCK, which helps provide a feeling of satiety and ultimately prevents us from overeating throughout the day. Furthermore, some fats have been shown to reduce risk for chronic disease. Healthiest forms of fat are found in plant foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds and olives as well as in cold-water fish such as albacore tuna, herring and salmon.

15. Contrary to current eating trends, most people should NOT focus on eliminating all carbohydrates from their diet. Rather, we should limit the intake of nutritionally void carbohydrates such as snack foods (chips, pretzels, crackers, sweets and starches) prepared primarily with white flour. Instead, focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, 100% whole-grain breads, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice and 100% whole-grain cereals. When shopping for grains, cereals or bread products, look for products containing at least 3 grams of dietary fiber and less than 10 grams of added sugar per 100 calories.

16. Choose leaner cuts of meat. For beef products, the redder (bloodier) the meat, the leaner the cut. For poultry, trim off the skin and choose the whiter meats. Trim the white outer layer on poultry to cut back on fat. Bake, broil or grill meat products and drain excess fat before serving the meat.

17. Try to consume 3-4 servings of dairy or dairy alternatives per day. Calcium not only helps build strong bones, but it also helps optimize muscle function. Limit your intake of high-fat dairy (cheese, whole milk) to no more than 1 serving per day as the saturated fat content will elevate risk for cardiovascular disease. Samples of healthy choices from the dairy group include nonfat cottage cheese, skim milk, low-fat organic yogurt, part-skim cheeses (mozzarella cheese, string cheese, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese) and soy milk.

18. Take a daily multivitamin with antioxidants. Make sure to take the supplement with food as the fat content of the meal will help you to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins. Do not bother with time-release multivitamins or chelated minerals - they offer no advantages and cost much more. Look for the "USP" (US Pharmacopeia) seal on the label to ensure quality.

19. Try to limit your caffeine intake to no more than 300 milligrams per day (equivalent to two cups of coffee). While coffee can produce a quick zing that can momentarily make you feel more relaxed and confident, it also stimulates a stress hormone called cortisol, which makes you feel more stressed than you did before. If you add sugar, you also see a spike in blood sugar, which makes you more susceptible to moodiness and irritability.

20. Boost endurance with raw honey. A recent study performed at the University of Memphis Exercise and Sport Nutrition Laboratory showed that the blend of sugars found in the raw honey can significantly increase an athlete's average power and endurance. In its natural state, raw honey is an immediate source of energy, full of B-complex vitamins, amino acids and enzymes. The darker the honey, the more nutrient value there is. Add honey to toast, cereal or tea for added sweetness and a quick boost of energy.

21. Watch out for hydrogenated fats, also known as trans fatty acids, which are found extensively in snack foods (look for the word "hydrogenated"), fried foods, stick margarine, frozen foods and desserts. Trans fatty acids are more harmful to the heart than saturated fats. Look for no more than one gram of saturated or trans fat per 100 calories.

22. Instead of severely restricting food intake when attempting to drop body fat, boost the number of calories your body burns. Aim for 30-60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise during most days of the week and try to leave that "comfort zone" at least twice during the week. Also, engage in resistance training (weights, swimming, Pilates) 2-3 times per week for at least 30 minutes. For every 3 pounds of lean body mass you add to your frame, your metabolism will be 7% more efficient, which is like burning an additional 100 calories per day.

23. If body fat loss or calorie expenditure is your goal, schedule your exercise in the morning. Research has shown that basal metabolic rate stays elevated longer after a morning workout as compared to an evening hour. The end result is that you burn more calories while sitting at the office all day than you would if you hadn't exercised. Some athletes also report that they feel more alert and are able to get more done during the day when they plan their workouts in the morning.

24. To help improve flexibility, which is important for injury prevention, plan a stretching session late in the day or immediately after a workout session. Studies show that flexibility correlates well with core temperature. With an increase in core temperature, our muscle tissue becomes more pliable and elastic. Since core temperature tends to rise throughout the day as well as immediately post-workout, it is desirable to plan stretching sessions late in the day or after a workout. Aim for at least 15 minutes of stretching daily.

25. To maximize gains in strength, plan to perform resistance exercise in the late afternoon or early evening at least one hour a week. Research indicates that strength levels peak at this time, which means resistance exercises performed will produce greater strength gains and less delayed-onset muscle soreness. Note that it is not desirable to plan a resistance workout immediately prior to hard cardiovascular efforts as the muscle fatigue that occurs with weight training can alter your biomechanics, thereby increasing risk for injury.

RUN: Marathon Training Guide, Kim Brown, M.S., R.D.

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