Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “carbs”

Running Research to Consider

I’ve been in school for 26 of the 34 years I’ve been alive. In many ways, who I am has been defined by my presence in the classroom for as long as I can remember. I have three degrees, two certificates, and a nice balance of general and specialized knowledge to show for my troubles. I’ve made a career out of the classroom and enjoy my time there, whether as a student or a teacher. Either way, I’m always learning. Heck, if I could find a wealthy benefactor to support me, I’d probably spend the rest of my life in school. As it stands, I’ll have to “settle” for the joy of constant learning. I always happen to be juggling a dozen different topics in my mind, and my “great” reading list would make Robert Maynard Hutchins proud.

All of this is a long way of letting you know that my thirst for knowledge clearly spills over into my passion for running and endurance sports. This means I end up doing what I can to stay as up-to-date on current running-related research, and pouring over journal articles I’m not technically qualified to interpret. Nonetheless, I pick my way through them, look up what I don’t know, and add it to my bank of training knowledge as I constantly shape and reshape my training decisions. Luckily for me, I live in a university community with a wide range of like-minded academic runners, and we have access to a ridiculous amount of research due to our university affiliation. So, I thought I would share a few articles you may find interesting, and that may (or may not) have an impact on your future choices, or the sport as a whole.


As a mainly qualitative researcher, I’m comfortable with small sample sizes and different notions of reliability and validity. In many quantitatively focused fields, of which I would include exercise science and related disciplines, samples garner a great deal more scrutiny. For this reason, I’ve found it interesting that much of the seemingly relevant literature on running related topics typically involve relatively small sample sizes. There is of course no single definitions of credibility, validity, and reliability. However, I offer this observation as you consider any research you come across.

I’ve also noticed that running research seems to focus on three main areas:

1. The impact of running on health/mortality (generally speaking): this may include specific questions about potential correlations between running and various diseases or physical ailments, or may more generally explore links between running (physical activity) and life expectancy. It may also look at the impact of such variables as heat, cold, and distance on the body or more specific portions of the body.

2. Running Nutrition & Hydration: What products offer the best fuel during a run? How do our bodies process energy while running? Is there a benefit to carb loading the day before a race (probably not)? Is there a perfect fat/carb/protein balance for endurance runners? Should you cut gluten from your diet (not necessarily)? Does the paleo diet benefit runners (not generally)? What is the proper electrolyte balance? How much sodium should you take in during a race?

3. Shoes, Shoes, and more Shoes (and maybe some other gear thrown in for good measure): The debate over the perfect running shoe has been raging for decades and shows no sign of letting up. Companies continue to try and stay ahead of the “next big thing” in running, as they offer minimal, and now maximal products to meet the needs (really, just the interests) of as many runners as possible. Much of this research is (gasp!) sponsored by the shoe companies themselves as they seek the scientific proof that their new, proprietary toe box/sole compound/upper weave, etc. best aids runners in as wide a group as possible.

Photo Credit: Runners Connect

Photo Credit: Runners Connect

Shockingly (ok, not really), the most important thing that all of the reading I’ve done and continue to do has taught me is that running is a personal, individual experience. I can say that it’s clear we’ve lost touch with our bodies over the years as we become more dependent on external products, and less dependent on the ability to listen to what our bodies have to tell us. The only silver bullet that will always universally benefit EVERY runner is training. If you put in the miles, you’ll see results, no matter what your goals might be along the way. Now, this doesn’t mean I don’t see value in the wide variety of running-related research being done. Obviously I do, or I wouldn’t be reading it. I think much of the research being done, regardless of the results, can help us learn how to listen to our bodies, understand our bodies, and become more in touch with our running.

With that being said, here are a few recently published articles that may surprise you (or not, if you already knew this about yourself because you are listening to your body).

1. Researchers found that the level of cushion in the mid-sole of the  shoe had no impact on running-related injury rates. This certainly calls into question various shoes trends, eh?

2. The role of increased carbohydrates on endurance performance is being studied as well. Researchers stated  “We conclude that altering total daily carbohydrate intake by providing or withholding carbohydrate during daily training in trained athletes results in differences in selected metabolic adaptations to exercise, including the oxidation of exogenous carbohydrate. However, these metabolic changes do not alter the training-induced magnitude of increase in exercise performance.” In other words, carb-loading doesn’t seem to have a significant impact on performance.

3. Remember the tales about the impact of running hurting your bones? It turns out that impact may have the opposite effect and encourage bone strength and growth, especially as we age. Run on! On a side note, the title of this article is “Physical Activity and Bone: May the Force be With You”. How can you not love a group of researchers that produce titles like that?!

I’ll try to pull in more research as I come across articles that I find interesting, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you pay much attention to the research? Have you made different running choices? Is there amazing research happening out there that you’d like to share?

Running Clean: The Gluten & Allergen Free Expo

I don’t claim to be an expert when it comes to gluten-free eating, but I’ve learned quite a bit over the past year. In large part, that has been the result of tagging along on the beautiful epicurean’s dietary adventure. As I’ve learned more about it in general, I’ve found myself giving more thought to the role it already plays and could potentially play in my training. Just as gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance  and full-blown Celiac’s Disease diagnoses have exploded in recent years, so too have the products marketed at those living with these conditions.

I find it very interesting that these products typically find their way into the health food section of most supermarkets. They have been quickly embraced by the health-food community, and folks have flocked to adopt a gluten-free diet without much information on the overall benefits of these products. As I’ve indicated before, I have fully embraced many facets of a healthy diet, and I continue my quest for the perfect running fuel to sustain me during longer and longer distances. As such, I’ve made it a point to keep my mind open to as many new nutrition products as possible in the hopes that one of them will provide that perfect energy!

Enter the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo. These events, which are being held across the country, bring together food and natural health product vendors from across the country, all hoping to make their mark on the gluten-free demographic. We had read about the expo several weeks ago, and were already planning on going when we entered a drawing at our local grocery store for free tickets. As luck would have it, we both won a ticket, so we were able to attend the expo as guests of HyVee!


After driving around for a bit more time than either of us had patience to accommodate, we found the expo nestled in a convention space that was located on the grounds of an amusement park of some sort. After living in Iowa for 8 years, I’m sure I’ve heard of the park before, but I really had no idea what it was, and it proved to be a strange cross between a wild west ghost town and Pleasantville. There were over 100 vendors on hand to display their wares, so we had plenty of exploring to do. While walking around and sampling food, it was refreshing (especially for the epicurean) to be able to casually taste all of the samples without worrying about the gluten content. We tried everything from soup to beer, although a large majority of the vendors were showcasing various baked goods and mixes.


Can you see what I mean?

What was fairly consistent among the vendors was the reality of processed food. Now that I’m looking more intentionally at gluten-free products while shopping, I’ve increasingly noticed just how similar the products really are to everything else on the shelf. Stores are placing gluten-free products in health food sections and marking them as such, but they often contain just as much processed sugar as their gluten-laden counterparts. Now, I will definitely say that a larger percentage of these products are going to be better for you overall, but I have no doubt that as the demographic increases along with diagnoses, I will see more and more gluten-free versions of the same foods I avoid already.

Vendors at the expo.

Vendors at the expo.

Part of the difficulty in trying to flush out the role of gluten-free products seems to be the marketing and regulation of gluten-free products in the food industry. The FDA has been discussing how to regulate gluten-free products since 2005, and is just now reaching a conclusion on industry standards that they can enforce in content and labeling. They have been holding open forums and inviting feedback and questions from the public, much like they do with other new regulations they are considering implementing. It looks like they are going to settle on a designation of 20 ppm as the threshold for a product being labeled gluten-free. Many products claim to have far less gluten than this, but the scientific testing hasn’t advanced far enough for these claims to be substantiated. In addition, many products right now may indeed be free of wheat gluten but still contain rye or barley gluten. The choices for consumers have never been more difficult! There are currently two organization, the Gluten Free Certification Organization, and the Celiac Sprue Association, that certify products as gluten-free, so looking for their logos can give you some indication that the product has been tested for all possible sources of gluten, including vague classifications such as artificial flavorings.

A GF product explosion!

A GF product explosion!

Now, much like so many other subsets of the population, the running community has been swept up in the gluten-free discussion as well. There are countless recipes out there for gluten-free nutrition, energy sources for runners, and post-workout meals. In addition, gluten-free living is being linked to cleaner eating, and vegan diets more and more. Although these are not the same thing, there are some connections. Amazing runners, such as Scott Jurek and Rich Roll are making this healthy diet trend that much more compelling! However, if you don’t suffer from CD or Gluten-Intolerance, then simply giving up gluten but continuing to each processed foods is not going to aid your running performance. Nutritionists will still tell you that a diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains is important for energy, endurance, and recovery. In addition, the stories I read about ordinary runners who are cooking and eating gluten-free tend to all have something else in common- healthy, fresh foods, and a lack of processed sugar.

In the end, the expo was a good reminder for me that eating healthy isn’t simply a matter of buying the right products. I certainly enjoyed hearing more about a host of products I had never tried before, and we walked away with quite a few samples to try. Choice is everywhere in our lives, and eating healthy needs to be a part of a healthy lifestyle, which ultimately permeates everything I do. The increase in gluten-related sensitivities will certainly continue to play a significant role in the health of our population, as well as the products we consume. For those individuals that are forced to adjust to these changes, the influx of gluten-free products is definitely a positive sign of increased awareness on the part of the general public. As with most things, however, increased choice and increased access to information means being a responsible consumer is that much more important. Running clean will always be more than simply what you eat. Running clean is about how you live!

Na & NaCl: My Mobile Nutrition Laboratory

As you know, I’ve been giving my running nutrition quite a bit of thought lately. The next few months of training runs will serve as a running laboratory for my nutrition intake, as I seek the perfect combination for my body during ultra-distances. I’ve used the pinole wafers on a few runs now, and have been pretty happy with the results, although I am going to try and make them smaller, and find ways to add a bit more flavor. However, the combination of pinole and water on my long runs got me thinking about my sodium/salt intake as well. Most electrolyte drinks and gels contain some level of sodium in order to help regulate the levels in your body. While cutting these items out to some degree is certainly lowering my sugar intake, it also has the potential to throw off my sodium balance since there is no added salt in the pinole. I am going to experiment with adding salt to the pinole to be certain, but I also started thinking and reading more about the need for added salt/sodium in my nutrition plan, and I discovered some interesting things.

First, I should note that I have been using the terms “sodium” and “salt”, but there is a difference. Some nutritional supplements will list “sodium” content, which includes sodium chloride (NACl), as well as the possibility of several other sodium containing salts, such as sodium citrate. It’s easier for companies to list the sodium content than it is to calculate the pure salt (Na) content, since NaCl typically has a higher chloride to sodium ratio. Since it’s also easier to add salt (NaCl) to your diet, I’m basing my decisions on the use of this compound. Now, to say that the evidence varies in terms of the need for added salt in your nutrition is an understatement. The only reliable answer to the question “should I be supplementing my salt intake on longer runs?” is “it depends”. This is certainly not the most helpful of answers, but it drives home the need for experimentation prior to race day.

There has been a great deal of focus lately on eating a low-sodium diet as a way of combating high blood pressure. In reality, the research is pretty clear that unless you are among the 30% or so of Americans who already have high blood pressure, cutting back on the sodium isn’t going to have a significant impact on your health (assuming you aren’t grossly overdoing it, of course). None-the-less, pre-packaged foods love to add “low sodium” to the labels in the hopes of enticing health-conscious but relatively uninformed consumers. Since we started mass-producing food and moving away from locally grown sources, our average sodium intake has gone up substantially due to preservatives and additives for flavor. The recommended amount of sodium for the average adult is 2400 mg, which is much less than the 3400 mg average in the U.S.

Now, as a runner, I’m well aware that I lose salt through sweating while I am working out. In fact, this is the main reason that sodium supplements have proliferated on the market. The research is quite varied when it comes to the need for sodium replacement to prevent hyponatremia (low sodium concentration in the blood), with some studies indicating that sports drinks with varying levels of osmolality had no impact on absorption or the prevention of muscle cramps, whereas other studies have found a significant impact. Whether or not it has a positive impact on the absorption into the bloodstream, it seems safe to assume that moderate levels, based on sweat replacement, can’t hurt.

In order to calculate fluid loss during running, you need to accurately measure weight change and fluid consumption. Once you do that, you can plan accordingly for how much fluid you should be consuming, preferably at 20 to 30 minute intervals. This also tells you how much sodium you are sweating out, as sweat contains between 2.25 and 3.4 grams/liter, and the average runner will sweat out 1 liter of water per hour. I plan to couple this fluid consumption with my nutrition, based on needing around 250 calories per hour (this seems to vary between 200 and 300 based on height, weight, pace, etc.). Ideally, I’ll be getting a majority of my calories from carbohydrates until I’ve been running for 4-6 hours, after which point I can start adding in 25% protein to my nutrition. There is really no needed for added fat, since you body has enough to run on for days, but it’s unavoidable in most nutritional supplements. Ideally my nutritional choices will allow for the 500-700 mg of sodium per hour recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine.

There is no question that this is a complicated puzzle, and I feel as though every time I think I might have one piece figured out, the rest start moving again. This is the curse I must endure as a quintessential inputer!

Who ate the last piece!!!

Pinole Wafers- Looking for the Tarahumara Energy!

As I’ve hinted at previously, I am clearly not the chef in our household. Luckily, I live with a delightfully talented kitchen maestro so I typically get to sit back and serve as the official taste-tester for some wonderfully delicious recipes! However, as I indicated in my last post, I have recently been on a quest to find low-sugar nutrition options for my long runs. The gels and chomps just seem so much more sugary now that I’ve given up most refined sugars in my diet. Incidentally, after reading (and loving) the book Born to RunI’ve been wanting to make some variation on the Pinole utilized by the Tarahumara, as wonderfully described by the author. I also went through a brief phase where I wanted to run long ultramarathons through the desert, but I got over that after realizing I didn’t really like the heat all that much.

Since my training for the fall is just beginning to ramp up, I thought this seemed like the perfect time to boldly venture into the kitchen and try my hand at a Pinole recipe. There are quite a few recipes out there, but they all contain about the same ingredients and proportions. I happen to read one of the blogs that came up high on my Google search, so it made it that much easier to pull up a starter recipe. Thus, I assembled my main ingredients, and began the process.

Corn meal, Agave nectar, chia seeds, cinnamon

You can see the basic ingredients above. Ideally, I would have used masa harina instead of corn meal, but I live in Iowa, so it’s a tad harder to come by on a regular basis. I should also note that the Agave is raw, which is key. Processed Agave nectar actually has more fructose than High Fructose Corn Syrup, which would defeat the whole “no or low refined sugar” thing just a tad, I think 😉 The basic recipe (with my additions) is as follows:

Pinole Wafers

1/2 cup Cornmeal (finely ground)

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp Agave Nectar

2 oz. Chia seeds

1/2 tsp ground ginger (highly anti-inflammatory)

1/2 tsp vanilla paste

I chose to add ginger and vanilla paste to hopefully add a bit more flavor and anti-inflammatory properties, as I had read many reviews that remarked on the bland nature of Pinole. You could certainly add just about any other spice combination you’d like, as it won’t disrupt the chemistry of the final batter/dough/mixture. Hot peppers are especially anti-inflammatory, so perhaps some ground peppers would add a kick, although I’m not sure my stomach would take too kindly to the peppers during a 4-hour run!

Toasting the cornmeal

First, toast the cornmeal on medium heat, until the grains take on a light brown color. It will start to smoke, so you may want to disable your smoke detector first!

Mixing the ingredients together

Next, mix the dry ingredients together, and then add the agave nectar. You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned water yet. At this juncture, you have a few options. Pinole can be made and eaten as a paste, as a wafer, or as a drink.  If you would like to eat it as a paste, I would suggest starting with 3/4 cup of water, and adding more until you reach a desired consistency. At that point, you could very easily portion it out into small zip-lock bags, and simply bite off a corner of the bag, much like tearing the top off of an energy gel. If you are looking to use the Pinole as a drink, you can now add 1 tbsp of the mixture to 2 cups of water, and dissolve it as best you can. It will give you a rather grainy drink, but might be easier to consume for some.

I chose to bake the pinole into small wafers, which I thought would be portable and allow me to easily experiment with different portions during my runs. I added 1/2 cup of water to the mixture, which proved to be perfect. However, if the mixture still seems dry and crumbly (depending on the add-ins you threw in), go ahead and add more water, 1 tbsp at a time. Pretend you are making little energy snowballs- you want the snow to stick, but it should break apart upon impact for maximum coverage (I do not, however, encourage using the mixture for this purpose, although a good food fight every now and again isn’t a bad thing either!).

The completed mixture resembles cookie dough in consistency, only more grainy.

Before adding the water, go ahead and preheat your oven to 375 degrees. After adding the water, you can form the mixture into bite-size balls, and lay them on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. You can choose your own size, but I wouldn’t make them much smaller than a quarter when flattened. Once the oven is ready, bake the wafers for 10-11 minutes. You can check them at this point, to see that they have firmed up a bit, and leave them in a bit longer if they still feel too doughy. They aren’t going to harden, but the edges will start to separate a bit as they bake.

Before baking

After baking

Once they come out of the oven, go ahead and lightly dust them with your flavor of choice. Cinnamon, cocoa powder, powdered ginger, or even a flavored salt would work great. If you aren’t quite ready to give up on the sugar yet, you could even sprinkle some powdered sugar over them. The nice thing about these wafers really is the flexibility you have to add additional ingredients without disrupting the consistency of the mixture too much.

I headed out yesterday morning for my first big test with these wafers. I am sure you will notice, as did I, that the grainier consistency of these wafers means it takes a bit longer to chew and swallow them, but they also break up in your mouth pretty easily, which allows you to go at your own pace. I ended up consuming 1-2 every 30-45 minutes, which at the time seemed like enough. However, later in my run, I could tell my energy wasn’t as high as I would like. I’m going to shift to 3 wafers every 30-45 minutes and see how much of a difference it has on my endurance. As with all nutrition, it’s important to play around with the proportions and find out what works best for you. I haven’t reached a verdict yet on the viability of Pinole as a nutrition substitute, but I’m pretty happy with this first round of tests, and I’ll no doubt be experimenting much more in the weeks to come! If you have tried any of the Pinole recipes out there (or other alternative nutrition recipes), I’d love to hear about them. 🙂 Happy running!

Pour Some Sugar On Me…

Everyone has a collection of music that defines their youth. For me, one of those songs was Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me“. **I’ll pause now so you can click the link and sing along to the music video, and then ask yourself at the end why music just isn’t as good as it used to be** Anyway, in addition to it being a great up-tempo song to run to if you happen to carry music with you while you run, this song could also be the anthem for most of the nutritional supplements we, as runners, are fed every day. Not only are we burning calories like wildfire when we train, but it is very easy to get into the “I’ll eat what I want, I just ran X miles!” mentality. In addition, most folks know that if you are going to be running more than 90 minutes, then you should get into the habit of carrying some form of nutrition with you. The gels and chomps that have become the mainstay of any distance runner have almost come to be synonymous with longer races. They end up in our race packets, they sponsor races, they set up tables at expos and hand out free samples, and we very quickly factor them into our race preparation.

By in large, I think it is safe to assume that many (although not all) runners eat healthier than the average American. Granted, that isn’t terribly hard to do considering the horrible diets and increasing obesity epidemic in our country. However, how many of you have given much thought to the nutritional content of the gels and chomps you toss into your pocket or pack on your way out the door for a long run? I certainly hadn’t, and I think I was like many, who never looked too closely at the nutrition label, but assumed they were good for me and doing good things for me as I piled on the miles. I vaguely understood the need for balancing carbs, fats, and proteins, but not in enough depth to be of much use.

Photo Credit:

As a society, we have developed a collective sweet tooth. Refined sugar (and its many aliases) has found its way into untold thousands of processed foods without us even realizing it. I encourage you to look through your pantry and count how many items have some form of refined sugar in them (I differentiate refined sugars from natural sugars, such as those that come from fruits and vegetables). On average, Americans eat 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, which comes out to around 140 lbs of sugar a year! We certainly do like our soda, flavored coffee drinks, and energy drinks…just ask any college student. The body of research elaborating on the negative health effects of refined sugar is multiplying exponentially- this list does a great job of summarizing the numerous consequences of our processed diets.

What can you cut out of your diet?

In the past few months, my diet has shifted quite a bit. The beautiful epicurean and I have made a commitment to eating an even healthier and more anti-inflammatory diet. Part of that choice has meant cutting out refined sugars. This was certainly a significant commitment for us both, but the size of my sweet tooth meant it was that much more of a challenge for me. The joy of high quality milk chocolate, thick ice cream, or a piece of homemade pie really can’t be beat for flavor, but the sugar levels are also off the charts. Granted, I have probably committed to giving up sweets at 80% compared to her 100%, but considering where I was coming from, that is still a huge shift in my diet. Aside from sweets, cutting out refined sugar has been a rather interesting adventure, and has led us to discover many wonderful new recipes that we wouldn’t have otherwise explored.

Perhaps the biggest change for me, though, has been the calibration of my taste buds. Foods that never used to seem sweet (but contain refined sugar) now seem extremely sweet to the point of being unappetizing. This has extended to all corners of my life, which includes the gels and chomps I have used for nutrition during longer training runs and races. I have found myself struggling to choke down once delicious GU chomps, overwhelmed by the sweetness. Now, seeing as how I’m training this fall for a 50-mile trail race, it is important that I have a handle on my nutrition plan. As such, I’ve begun to explore more natural nutrition sources. Dried fruits and nuts seem to have their place, and I’ve been eating peanut butter (the natural kinds…even regular peanut butter has added sugars). I plan to try some of the other nut butters as well, and we’ve recently begun using coconut mana (imagine coconut made into a spreadable butter).

At this point, everything is an experiment. I have yet to find any natural nutritional products marketed to runners that limit refined sugars, although some do a better job than others.I’ll be trying some recipes I’ve found online for some homemade nutritional sources as well, so be on the lookout for recipes!

Summer To Do List

Normally Memorial Day week brings with it comfortable temperatures and signs that summer is just about here. However, this hasn’t been a normal weather year, so the fact that it was in the 90’s today somehow is not a shock to me. None-the-less, it did prove to be quite a sunny afternoon for the loads of yard work that awaited us, an ongoing project courtesy of some less-than-attentive prior home-owners.

In addition to the constant project that is yard work (which is quite a new item on my to-do list, having grown up without a yard, and been an apartment dweller my whole life up until now), this long weekend is a great time to not only reflect on our history, but also to think about running to do items or goals for the summer. With the exception of a few shorter races, the months of June, July, and August are off limits for racing- the summer heat is not my friend, and if you saw how much I sweat on a regular basis, you’d agree!

I’ll be running Dam to Dam (20K) next Saturday, and then driving up to Minneapolis with some friends to run the Minneapolis Marathon. Dam to Dam was my first long distance race, and I love the Minneapolis area, so I’m looking forward to a final race weekend of the spring season. After that though, it’s time to start thinking about my summer training goals, and where I’d like to focus my energy. I’m sure you are doing the same, either because you’ve already committed to some fall races, or because you are thinking about whether or not you should commit. Here are some “goal” areas to consider for the summer.

Speed Work: Summer is about the only time that I think more intently about working on my speed, and the local high school track, which is only a few blocks away, and always open, will provide a great venue for that work. The proximity and ability to easily stay hydrated will make this a no-brainer…hopefully 🙂

Ok, maybe not quite that fast…

Hills: I’ve done much better about my hill-work so far this year, but I want to be even more intentional, so I’ll be looking for as many opportunities for hill-work as possible. This isn’t necessarily an easy task considering I live in Iowa, where corn fields make up a rather large percentage of the landscape, but there are a few hills that can still offer some challenge!

Biking: Aside from the fact that I committed to ride the entire week of RAGBRAI, I have found that I love cycling in general and the window of opportunity for getting on the saddle is much smaller so I’m planning on taking advantage!

Or quite that intense…

Nutritional Experimentation: This will be happening on two fronts. First, the beautiful epicurean and I will be trying a plethora of new summer recipes as we strive for healthy and anti-inflammatory eating. In addition, I hope to use the summer months to experiment with some new running nutritional items, so stay posted!

Change of Scenery: When I started running, I quickly learned the roads of my small Iowa town much better than I ever did while driving on them (I’m a bit directionally challenged). However, there are still some roads in the areas where my feet have yet to fall, so I aim to change that.

but definitely a change of scenery!

Now, “speed’, “hills”, and “food” mean many different things to different people, so perhaps these goal areas can serve as a jumping off point for your own summer to do list. Once you start setting those goals, I’d love to hear them!

Carb Loading: Entering Final Race Prep!

Ok, it’s finally here…the race is less than 48 hours away! I’ve run plenty of races at this point, and my nerves haven’t been much of a factor. However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad bit nervous. Luckily, I’m equally excited and ready to dive in 🙂 Now, I’ve always read plenty of anecdotal commentary on the importance of carb-loading before a big race, but I hadn’t looked into it nearly as much. Once I started doing some reading, I found that it was actually much easier than I thought, and at the same time all the more important!

In order to effectively carb load, the old standby has always been pasta. I can’t tell you how many races include a pasta dinner the night before. This is certainly a great first step, but you can do much more for your body. Ideally, it seems as though there is a fair amount of agreement on the value of beginning to carb load a full three days before your race, in order to give your body adequate time to increase its glycogen stores. In that time frame, your body will begin to store more glycogen because you are running much less (the beautiful taper!) and thus not using as much.

Advice varies on the amount of carbs you should be consuming, but a recent Runner’s World article suggested 4 grams of carbs for every pound of body weight (i.e. I should be eating 4 x 160 = 640 grams of carbs, which equals around 2560 calories). Although I love pasta, I don’t know that consuming 2500 calories of pasta is my best bet. Luckily, there is a much wider variety of foods to consume when upping your carb intake.

Photo Credit: boulder Running Company

Running Times has a great article, with a full list of available foods to consider:

Starches: bread, pasta, rice, cereal, bagel, oatmeal, pancake, English muffin, tortilla, couscous, low-fat muffin, gnocchi, polenta and quinoa

Starchy vegetables: potatoes, peas, pumpkin, squash, beans and lentils

Fruit: bananas, apples, peaches, pears, pineapple, oranges, cherries, mango, kiwi, any form of dried fruit, canned fruit

Dairy: flavored low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt

Snacks: pretzels, animal crackers, Fig Newtons, low-fat granola bar, low-fat crackers, baked chips, and graham crackers

Beverages: flavored low-fat milk, juice, sports drink, Boost or Ensure, low-fat smoothie

Sports Bars/Energy Bars: PowerBar Performance Bar, Clif Bar, Honey Stinger Bar
(Some sports bars are geared toward high protein, not high carb. These are not the bars to choose when carb loading.)

Extras: honey, fruit preserves or jam and maple syrup

In addition to consuming the correct amount of carbs in order to get your glycogen stores up, it’s also important to remember not to over-do it on the fiber, lest you find yourself making frequent stops at the porta-potty! It’s also a good idea to eat smaller meals at more frequent intervals. You’ll feel less heavy and sluggish, and be able to draw on the energy you are consuming more easily.

Most of all, trust your body. I’m going to try my best to remember that more than anything. I’ve trained hard over the past 4 months, I know what it feels like to hit longer distances, and I can tell when something is or isn’t sitting well in my stomach. I know I’m not going to be breaking any course records, and that as long as I finish, I’ll be achieving a PR (the beauty of running a distance for the first time), so I’m going to go out there and have fun!

If you are interested in digging a bit deeper into pace and nutrition calculations, I’d highly recommend the endurance calculator as well.

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