Why Carbs are good for your Running

Source: active.com

Source: active.com

You’ve probably heard it enough – lose the carbs, lose the weight – that you’re thinking carbohydrates is your worst enemy. Most diets and diet-fads alike support the theory that carbs contribute to weight gain when in truth it is calories and consuming more than you burn that does that. On the other hand, carbohydrates are necessary for the proper functioning of your body. In fact, The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates make up 45% to 60% of your daily calories. So, if you get 2,000 calories a day, between 900 to 1,300 should be from carbohydrates (The Mayo Clinic).

The Power to Choose (Wisely)
The problem is that not all carbs are created equal and so, it comes down to choosing your carbs wisely. Generally, nutritionists agree with choices that include whole grains and fruits and vegetables while watching your intake of naturally occurring sugar, and restricting foods with refined gains and added sugars. Particularly for the runner though, a diet rich in carbohydrates can help maximize training and performance; emphasis should be on the kind of carbs chosen, such as whole grains, beans, fresh fruit, milk and vegetables. The benefits of whole grain to your general health and wellbeing will be the subject of a later post, but suffice to say for now, your quality of life depends on it.

Power for the Run
Carbs are the brain’s main source of energy and the body’s preferred fuel source says dietician and strength coach Marie Spano R.D., C.S.C.S. It is the primary source for producing energy for all exercise including both long distance and resistance training. It follows that if you cut carbs, your energy will drop. Spano advises that decreasing the levels of your body’s stored carbohydrates will decrease your ability to produce force and power; we know the result of that.

A Running Times article on Runners World titled “Fueling the Runner: Carbohydrates –Battling a Bad Rep” by Jackie Dikos, R.D. and 2:45 marathoner, highlight a key issue that unsuspecting runners fall prey to – fatigue. She stipulates that further investigation of such a complaint may reflect a diet lacking in carbohydrates the cause of fatigue either purposely done, as part of low carb diet, or with the runner totally in the dark as to the amount of carbs needed to perform efficiently. As already stated, our bodies prefer carbohydrates as the main fuel source when we run. But did you know that if it is not present, the body will convert fat and protein into carbs for energy. According to Dikos, this is a very inefficient form of energy for an endurance athlete. When you don’t eat enough carbohydrates and continue training, your body snowballs into a state of mental and physical fatigue.

We Determine Carbs
We see then that carbohydrates are thus fuel for runners. For running efficiently and effectively we therefore need to throw away all our misgivings, all the misinformation and misrepresentation about carbs that we’ve sucked up for so long. No low-carb or no-carb diet can do the trick of making us the runners we wish to be, our responsibility is to make healthy food choices. Balance, variety and moderation should be our watchwords.

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In Honor of Heart Month

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Most of us think of February and think Valentines: cards, chocolates, romance, flowers. How many of us see it as an opportunity to love on ourselves and others in a lasting way? I believe the commercializing of this day has reduced our focus on its true meaning as we get caught up in a shopping frenzy that really amounts to very little left with us beyond the day itself. The American Heart Association (AHA) dedication of February as Heart Healthy Month gives us the opportunity to correct this wrong and create a lasting relationship between our bodies and ourselves.

I like to think that people who are active are aware of the importance of the heart and the necessity of caring for it as well or even better than they care for the outward person.  To think that the minute it stops beating, that it could be your last, is food for serious thought not just for the active person but for all of us. This month we are reminded of the number of deaths caused by heart disease, the number one cause of deaths in the US.  According to the AHA, 1 in 3 americans die of this silent killer, more than all cancers combined.  This should give us pause, cause us to consider among other things what we are doing to give to this unnaturally high rate. Put another way, how can we help reduce our risks and that of those we care for.

There are five ways in which we can help reduce our risk of heart disease:

1. Don’t smoke.  For years now we have known that smoking causes lung cancer. What some of us may not have known is that it contributes to many other types of cancers and chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, as well. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and reduces the health of smokers in general (Center for Disease Control).

2. Exercise.  The benefits of daily regular exercise cannot be overstated. Whether it’s running, aerobics, a cardio workout, whatever it is to keep you moving, breathing properly, sweating out toxins, burning unnecessary calories, generating good blood circulation and producing the endorphins and energy you need is good for your heart and good for you.

3. Eat a Healthy Diet.  The AHA is recommending a mediterranean diet: plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil. Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month and eating fish and poultry at least twice a week.
Drinking red wine in moderation is optional. The diet also emphasizes enjoying meals with family and friends (Mayo Clinic).

4. Reduce Stress.  Stress can influence the risk factors to many types of illness such as high blood pressure, over consumption of alcohol, smoking, physical inactivity, overeating. This can create havoc in your body resulting in all sorts of pain and ailments. Exercising, not smoking, reducing coffee intake,maintaining a positive outlook, a healthy diet and a healthy weight are good ways to deal with stress.

5. Educate and Empower yourself with the latest research and findings that has bearings for your health. Also share your knowledge with family and friends to encourage and empower them as well. Knowledge has no power if it remains in a box.
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Setting yourself up for a GREAT. RUN. this Spring

imageYou may have gotten over the initial excitement of Spring only to be faced with the harsh reality of life: that it’s not all a run; there are stumbles and stops and even falls but to reap the benefits of success, we must pick up and press on, and on those odd times when we fall off the proverbial wagon, begin again.

There are two perspectives that lie in tangent: seeing Spring as a season of growth, change and newness in other living things or living each day as Spring and applying the growth, change and newness to include oneself, since we fall under the category of living things. The latter allows for facing each day with an attitude of challenge and expectation. I have always maintained that running is a sport of the mind performed by the body. Since the mind is where it all begins, it follows that perspective makes or breaks a runner. With the right attitude, there is no race that is unattainable and no run that is unconquerable. Whether it’s 1 mile, a 5k, 26.2 miles or even an ultra marathon; through mud or fire, over obstacles, in color, whatever it may be, it all begins the same place, which by the way, is half-way accomplished when its been committed to. Believe it or not, that was the toughest part; setting the goal and coming up with a plan to follow through.

imageWith that out of the way, we can now focus on fun things like gearing up, partnering up, diet and motivation. Since Spring is one of the best seasons for running, running gear is pretty easy to select and readily accessible. Running shoes are very important and therefore, one should select wisely. Here, I recommend going to a running store and using the treadmill there so that the sales associate, who is generally more knowledgable on these matters, can asses your gait and stride to get you a right fit. While brands abound with regards to design, color, fit, taste and price, one should be careful to never sacrifice on fit and comfort. A tip here is to always buy one size up your normal shoe size and to ensure you have enough support for your heels if that’s where you place emphasis or in my case, the balls of the feet. Now shoes in hand or more likely, on feet, we can look for comfort and style in choosing breathable running clothes that fit properly. Here, try to avoid all-cotton materials and restrictive clothing. Choose something functional but fun as I’m sure you also want to look good. Being able to wear shorts and tanks are way cool after three plus months of layers so that’s half the decision made. We’re geared up and ready to hit the tracks, roads, trails..whatever your passion..be careful to fuel up before, during and after your runs to stay hydrated. Some drinking options include: Gatorade, Powerade and coconut water, while chocolate milk and fruit or vegetable smoothies with granola make a great recovery drink. In addition, it is always wiser to eat a couple of hours before your run so there’s ample time for digestion. If eating later on, after your run and closer to late evening and night-time, then foods that are easily digested and low in calories and fat are recommended.

imageMotivating yourself through Spring may become a bit difficult from time to time as the weather can be quite crazy: wet, windy, chilly etc. But the trick is to stay on target by friendly reminders from partners, friends, your phone and written goals, and to surround yourself with like-minded people who will encourage and allow you to not only dream, but to run those dreams and become the champion you are. Plus, we do get those oh-so-gorgeous-sun-shiny-days..so grab those ear buds if that’s your fancy, make sure to choose ones that stay put while running; those that go around the ears or over the head are fine, with proper kick-ass music and strap on your watch or timer and keep it moving.

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