What Should You Eat and What Should You Avoid In the Hours Leading Up To Your Event

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Hello Runners,

In the last post, I discussed the importance of a hydration and nutrition strategy for your event, and offered some tips. I also discussed what to eat the week of your event, including the day before. In this post I will discuss what to eat the morning of your event, including foods to avoid.

The principles to follow during the hours before the start of the race

  • In the two to four hours before your race, eat a meal with some protein and simple carbohydrates, and drink lots of water or sports drink. The more time until the race, the larger this meal should be. Minimize fiber and fats, since they can cause digestion issues. So, if you’re going to eat something like a bagel or toast, this is one time when you should go with white over wheat. Most importantly, don’t try anything new on race day!
  • Some good pre-race foods: gluten-free bread and/or cereal, fruit, smoothie, almond butter (not too much though). The more liquid and easier-to-digest these foods are, the better.-
  • In the hour before the race, don’t eat very much. Most experts recommend only water, sports drink, or energy gels at this point. I personally don’t drink much at this stage, to avoid having to use the bathroom during the race. Standing in the start corral already having to pee is no good, as this causes unnecessary stress and Porta Pots at the early aid stations will be jammed.

What to avoid before and during your event

  • Sports drinks or solids that include fructose or malodextrin, these can cause gas, bloating, and GI distress. Also avoid wheat, dairy, and fermentable fruits, including apples and pears before your event.
  • Artificial sweeteners and other chemicals including sugar alcohols, sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame potassium
  • Large amounts of caffeine
  • Large amounts of fiber

What to eat before your event

  • Blended and juiced foods
  • Small amounts of caffeine – in research studies caffeine shown to improve endurance performance
  • Easy-to-digest carbohydrates including white potato, sweet potato, yam, white rice
  • Easy-to-digest fats including MCT oil and coconut oil
  • Easy-to-digest proteins such as vegan protein (pea, rice, or hemp containing digestive enzymes), essential amino acids, or hydrolyzed collagen protein

In a future post, I will introduce future considerations as far as nutrition for your next event. These can help you better utilize fats more and spare the limited amount of carbohydrates you have available. Thus, reducing fatigue and enhancing performance.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this post, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

References

Bob Seebohar “Triathlon Nutritional Strategies” USA Triathlon Level I Coaching Certification Clinic June 7, 2013, Englewood, CO.

Luke Humphrey with Ketih & Kevin Hanson. Hansons Marathon Method. Velopress, Boulder, CO, 2012.

Ben Greenfield. Beyond Training. Victory Belt Publishing, Las Vegas, NV, 2014.

Matt Fitzgerald . Marathon Roadmap The Plant-Based Guide To Conquering Your First 26.2.

What’s Your Hydration and Nutrition Plan for Your Big Race?

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“Plans Are Nothing: Planning is Everything” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Hello Runners,

So, you’ve put in some great training, and you have a goal, and maybe even a purpose higher than yourself, which can get your through some of the toughest portions of your marathon. The weather on your race day is ideal. You’re able to run without any injuries. But, you could still fail to achieve your goal on race day due to dehydration or fatigue caused by burning up all your available carbohydrates.

Therefore, you need a plan before and during your event to make sure you stay as hydrated as possible, and don’t run out of available carbohydrates. Basically, we don’t have enough available carbohydrates in our body to complete a marathon. We need to take on additional carbohydrates during our event.

Where so many runners fail on race day is not having a game plan for how they are going to hydrate and fuel themselves during their event, or they have a game plan ahead of time, but don’t follow through. Also, many runners rely on what’s handed out at the event without practicing with it ahead of time (sports drinks, gels, etc.), and sometimes found out the hard way that what’s handed out is not best for them.

So, what’s your hydration and nutrition strategy for your event? How often will you drink? Will you use a sports drink? If not, what will you eat, so that you have enough energy to finish your marathon? Hopefully, you have been practicing your strategy during your training and have a plan you will use during your big race.

Practice Hydration and Nutrition (Fuel) Strategy During Your Long Runs

Your long training runs are a great time to practice hydration (how often and how much you will drink) and figure out what you will use for fuel during your event, as well as when you will consume this. There are lots of options available as far as fuel, including sports drinks, gels, beans, chews, real food, etc. You may want to practice what will be handed out at your event, that way if it works for you, then you don’t have to carry your own fuel.

Most likely your event won’t have these, but here are some fuel options you might try: SuperStarch by UCAN, Infinit-E by Millenium, and Vitargo. Some other options which are lower in calories, but provide electrolytes include Osmo Nutrition and Skratch Labs. Ideally, practice under similar conditions that you will experience during your event.

The Week Before Your Event

Before I talk more about your hydration and fueling strategy during your event, I will mention what you should do both the week of and the day before your event. After all, you want to start out with a full tank, otherwise, you will be trying to play catch up during your event, and that won’t work and will negatively impact your performance.

So, be sure to hydrate well throughout the week before, and especially the day before your event. Limit alcohol consumption during that week, as well, especially the day before your event. At a minimum you should be consuming half your body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should consume at least 75 ounces of water per day.

During the week of the event, this is the time to load up on carbohydrates, including grains, starchy vegetables, and fruits (such as blueberries). You should also be consuming proteins including nuts, seeds, beans, tempeh, fish, other meats, if you normally eat them. Fats are the nutrient you need least during the week of your event.

It is popular for events to have pasta dinners the night before an event. This is more traditional than beneficial. This pasta will really not help you during your event. In fact, you may want to have a salad with some nuts or a small bowl of pasta or white rice for dinner, and eat a larger meal for lunch or in the early afternoon. This larger meal should consist primarily of easily-digestible carbohydrates (such as white rice and white pasta), with some protein, and little fat. Avoid spicy foods and any new foods. Beware of eating a lot of fiber the day before an event and FODMAP foods (beans, onions, garlic, dried fruit, apples, pears, etc.), which can cause gas and bloating.

During Your Event

Don’t consume anything on race day that you haven’t practiced with during your training. Several years ago, when I was living in Maryland, I made an annual habit of running the Baltimore half-marathon. I really enjoyed that event and the crowd support throughout much of the event was great! Within the last few miles of the event there were people who traditionally would hand out gummy bears. Boy, was it tempting! Many people indulged. I passed and recommend you do the same. If you want gummy bears, have them after the race.

General guidelines for hydration

Water loss through sweat of as little as 2% can negatively affect performance, if fluids aren’t replaced because of:

  • Decreased blood volume resulting in the heart having to work harder
  • Increased usage of carbohydrates which can lead to fatigue happening sooner
  • Ability to dissipate heat is reduced
  • Imbalance of electrolytes which can cause cramping and weakness
  • Possible cognitive impairment

Keep in mind this will depend on your sweat rate and the conditions of your event. If you sweat profusely you will likely need to include electrolytes as well. In general you should consume 250 to 500 mg of electrolytes per hour. See previous post. During your event drink 3-8 ounces of fluids every 15-20 minutes (a gulp is ~ one ounce), basically drink to thirst.

General guidelines for nutrition

The main cause of fatigue in those participating in endurance events is running out of available carbohydrates in the body. You will need to determine if you will use fluids or solids for your carbohydrate fuel, and which you will use. If using solids, you may want to wash these down with water, don’t use a sports drink to wash them down. During your event, make sure you using something that doesn’t bother your stomach, contains little or no fiber and that you consume 30-60 grams of carbohydrate (~120-160 calories) every hour. For events lasting 4 hours or longer you may want to consume ~60 grams/hour.

Other Considerations

Keep in mind that you may need to carry your own fuel, whether it’s a sports drink or solid, during your event. This has been pretty much the case for me in every marathon I’ve run. I don’t do well with the sports drinks typically handed out at events.

Even if you have a strategy, you may need to develop a plan B and possibly plan C. What if you encounter heat and humidity during your event? What if they run out of sports drink or water at an aid station? (This happened at the Chicago marathon several years ago).

You should be well-hydrated before the start of your event. You should have eaten a well-balanced diet on the day before your event to ensure that carbohydrate stores in the body are maximized. Also, you should start calorie and fluid replacement early in your event.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this email, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

References

Bob Seebohar “Triathlon Nutritional Strategies” USA Triathlon Level I Coaching Certification Clinic June 7, 2013, Englewood, CO.

Luke Humphrey with Ketih & Kevin Hanson. Hansons Marathon Method. Velopress, Boulder, CO, 2012.

Ben Greenfield. Beyond Training. Victory Belt Publishing, Las Vegas, NV, 2014.

Matt Fitzgerald . Marathon Roadmap The Plant-Based Guide To Conquering Your First 26.2.

Should I Take Salt Tablets During My Long Runs and Half and Full Marathons?

Fueling-for-marathon-hydrating

“Strive for balance. Then shall you find harmony.”

Hello Runners,

In my last post, I discussed strategies you can use for running in the heat.

Another important consideration, when running in the heat, is replacement of electrolytes.

What Are Electrolytes And Why Are They Important?

An electrolyte is a substance that will conduct electricity when dissolved in water. They are essential for many of the body’s functions such as:

  • Skeletal muscle contraction for you to run (specifically the muscle needs calcium, sodium, and potassium and when these become unbalanced this can lead to muscle weakness or excessive contraction)
  • Heart function to deliver the oxygen and nutrients to your muscles to produce the energy you need to run
  • Nervous system function
  • Fluid balance
  • Blood pressure regulation
  • Maintain proper blood pH

All important functions necessary to keep you alive!

An imbalance of electrolytes through loss can result in cramping, twitching, weakness, and if not addressed, seizures and heart rhythm disturbances.

The important electrolytes include: sodium, potassium, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium, phosphate, and chloride.

How Are They Lost?

Electrolytes are lost in sweat when we run. They can also be lost during a bout of diarrhea or vomiting.

How Should You Replace Them?

There are a number of different options for replacing electrolytes lost during exercise. Since balance between different electrolytes is important for them to function properly, I don’t recommend taking something that replaces only one or two electrolytes, like salt tablets.

Also, I don’t recommend many of the popular sports drinks including: Gatorade, Powerade, Propel, Vitamin Water, Accelerade because they usually contain lots of sugar/high fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients, which can upset your stomach.

Here are some sources of electrolytes you might try (disclaimer: I have no affiliations with or investments in any of the companies that produce these products):

Tailwind nutrition endurance fuel

Nuun tablets

Lyteshow liquid concentrate

Ultima replenisher mix

Optimal Electrolyte by Seeking Health

Vega Clean Energy

Skratch labs mix

Coconut water in the refrigerated section of the grocery story by any of the following brands: Harmless Harvest, Unoco, Liquitera, Vital Juice or Juice Press

Another option is to make your own using by combining the following:

  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ cup of lemon juice
  • ¼ cup of lime juice
  • 1 ½ cups of unsweetened coconut water
  • 2 cups of cold water

I recommend experimenting with at least a couple of these during your training to find the one that works best for you to use for your event.

The amount of electrolytes you will need to take depend on several factors including: the temperature, humidity, your sweat rate, as well as your initial levels of electrolytes. The recommendations for electrolyte replacement typically focus on sodium. Typically, it is recommended to replace 500-1000 mg/hr of sodium for long runs and events, such as half- and full-marathons, as well as ultras and triathlons. However, you may need to adjust this depending on sweat loss. And remember, you will also be taking other electrolytes, along with sodium, to stay balanced.

You should continue to consume electrolytes after your long run or event (~500 mg sodium, along with other electrolytes).

In addition, it is important to include a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet because they are a great source of electrolytes.

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of help in any way.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

 

P.S. If you know anyone who might benefit from this post, please share this with them. Also, if this was beneficial, please “Like” our page. Thank you.

 

References

Bob Seebohar “Nutrition for Triathletes” presented at USAT Certification Training 2014

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/electrolyte-water#what-it-is

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153188.php

Chernecky CC, Berger BJ. Electrolytes panel – blood. In: Chernecky CC, Berger BJ, eds. Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures. 6th ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:464-467.

DuBose TD. Disorders of acid-base balance. In: Skorecki K, Chertow GM, Marsden PA, Taal MW, Yu ASL, eds. Brenner and Rector’s The Kidney. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 17.

First Steps To Achieving Your Running Goals for 2019!

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“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”  – Lao Tzu

Hello Runners,

Happy New Year! I hope that 2018 was a great year for you. If so, and even if not, I hope you a looking forward to an amazing 2019. I know that I certainly am! This year is my 35th year of running and I will be training to improve upon my marathon PR, with the ultimate goal to break 3 hours. My plan is to run a late summer or early fall marathon and will begin training next week. I plan to use the first couple of months of training for fitness training, before I transition into marathon-specific training, since I took about three weeks off from running while recently visiting New Zealand, which was awesome!

This fitness training will allow me to build my aerobic base and focus more on my running form (running economy) to make myself an efficient runner. The emphasis for my marathon-specific training will be to continue improving my running economy and aerobic fitness and then to build speed.

Depending on your goals and current fitness level, you may not need to train as long, however, if you have taken some significant time off from running, or if you are a beginner who is planning to complete your first marathon, you might consider taking at least 1-3 months to progressively build your aerobic fitness before engaging in marathon-specific training. I also strongly recommend performing strengthening exercises that will help you improve your form and minimize the risk of injury.

Next week, I will begin daily posts of what I did for my training, as well as recommendations and tips. You can access these posts at denverrunningcoach.com under Blog Posts. For those who opted in through my website to receive emails with tips and recommendations, I will send weekly summaries, so that you are not being constantly bombarded with emails! However, you can also access the daily posts, as I just mentioned. The tips and recommendations can help guide you to improve your running performance, although you may consider a more customized training program to meet your specific needs.

I believe the beginning of each year is a great time to assess your health, fitness, and running form. This is a great time to meet with your physician, if you haven’t recently, to assess for cardiovascular disease risk factors, hormone and various vitamin and mineral levels.  Assessing these can help you identify any areas that may need addressing, so that you can maximize your running performance and your health.

I strongly recommend the following post for guidelines on what assessments to do before you begin your training for this year:

http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/get-ready-to-achieve-your-running-goals-for-2017/

http://www.denverrunningcoach.com/what-are-your-vitamin-d-levels-and-other-important-testing-for-runners-and-triathletes/

I want to talk a little bit more about iron and vitamin D, which I mentioned in the articles above, since these are commonly low in runners, and so vital for performance and health.

Iron:

  • Why it’s important
    • Iron is a primary component of hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your exercising muscles for energy production to allow you to run
    • Thus, iron levels can affect running performance
  • What test(s) are best to assess iron levels?
    • Serum ferritin test
    • Tissue-mineral analysis, very accurate, but very expensive!
  • What do I do if my iron levels are low?
    • You should discuss your test results with your physician, and if your levels are low discuss supplementation options with your physician
  • What should you consider as far as selecting a supplement
    • Most important factors are safety, absorption, and effectiveness
    • Choose natural forms: ferrous fumarate, ferrous gluconate, and ferrous sulfate, NOT the ferric forms of these
  • What type of supplements are best?
    • I recommend a whole food as opposed to a synthetic supplement
    • Whole food supplements will display: “100% Whole Food”, “From Whole Food Source”, “Naturally Occurring Food Sources”, “Food-Based” or something similar
    • Beware! “Natural” does not mean whole food based and is often primarily synthetic
  • Why are whole food supplements better?
    • Generally, more effective and safer than synthetic supplements
    • You get a better balance of nutrients and synergistic effects, which are better for your health and performance
  • Are there health issues with high iron levels?
    • Yes, so you should be tested and discuss supplementation with your physician before taking any iron supplements
    • High levels of iron are toxic and can lead to heart disease
  • Who doesn’t need an iron supplement?
    • Generally, men and postmenopausal women because body’s stores are high enough

Vitamin D:

  • Why it’s important
    • Affects all aspects of health including: bone health, maintains nervous system, heart function, normal blood clotting, fights colds and flus, plays an important role in cancer prevention
  • What test is best to assess Vitamin D levels?
    • 25 hydroxycholecalciferol (yes this is a mouthful and not super easy to say!) test
  • Best source
    • Production in the skin when contacted by the sun’s UVB rays
    • This is a problem though in most areas of the U.S. during the winter months because it’s impossible to get enough UVB exposure then, therefore you will most likely need to supplement during winter months
  • What do I do if my Vitamin D are low?
    • You should discuss your test results with your physician and if your levels are low discuss supplementation options with your physician, especially for the winter months
  • Should I supplement all year around?
    • Probably not, because your body can most likely produce enough vitamin D from sun exposure, except for the winter months. Again, you should discuss this with your physician
    • For the non-winter months you should get enough vitamin D as long as you are getting about 10-15 minutes of sun exposure at noon or early afternoon at least twice per week on the face, arms, hands, or back without sunscreen
  • What are the best supplements for Vitamin D?
    • Food-based which specifically say vitamin D, mixed form of vitamin D, or primarily vitamin D3 (active form of vitamin D)
    • Probably the best is high quality cod liver oil (although not super yummy), although be weary of mercury toxicity
    • Another option is a vitamin D-only supplement, I usually take the one by Thorne Research (vitamin D3/K2). You can check ConsumerLab.com, which is a great source for quality of supplements (they do charge $35 per year)
    • You should take any vitamin D supplement with food, especially fat to help with absorption
  • Are there health issues with high vitamin D levels?
    • Yes, so you should be tested and discuss supplementation with your physician before taking a vitamin D supplement
    • High levels of vitamin D have been associated with certain cancers

Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can help in any way.  Next, we’ll talk about running shoes and attire, as well as running in the cold and wind.

Be your best self today.

Your friend and coach,

Brian

References:

–              Beyond Training by Ben Greenfield. Victory Belt Publishing, Inc. 2014.

–              Super Nutrition Academy, Yuri Elkaim (Registered Holistic Nutritionist)

Disclaimers:

All the information presented in this blog post is for educational and resource purposes only.  It is there to help you make informed decisions about health-related fitness issues.  It is not a substitute for any advice given to you by your physician.  Always consult your physician or health care provider before beginning any exercise program or taking any supplementation.  Use of the advice and information contained in this blog post is at sole choice and risk of the reader.

Coach Brian Hand has no ties or investments in Thorne Research and does not receive any form of compensation for mentioning Thorne Research or their products in this blog post.