Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “chocolate”

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.

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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!

Calorie Recovery: Post-Run Nutrition

Did you know that it’s Cadbury mini-egg season?! You probably aren’t aware of the significance of this fact, so I’ll tell you. Simply put, they are some of the best chocolate on the planet (without spending way too much money!), and the fact that they are only available for a limited time makes them all the more desirable. There are certainly other varieties of chocolate that I enjoy a great deal, but there is just something about Cadbury that makes my heart start to race. Needless to say, when I saw them on display, next to the cheap Valentine’s chocolate that was still on display, my heart skipped a beat, and immediately grabbed a bag. It’s because of these little eggs from heaven that I will never give up chocolate!

So, when I was out for a run following this little adventure, it occurred to me that I look forward to chocolate and to those little mini-eggs of goodness even more after a long run. This got me to thinking about the various post-run food and drink items I have tried, so I thought I would share. Perhaps you have some special snacks of your own that you prefer to indulge in post-run.

Overall, I think of eating and drinking after a run as serving two purposes- regaining the calories I burn, which can be as many as 3000 on a long run, and aiding in recovery (i.e. keeping the pain to a minimum). To varying degrees, these items have accomplished those two goals.

Chocolate Milk: Ever since hearing about the research demonstrating the benefits of chocolate milk as a recovery drink, I’ve been hooked. As you can guess, I love it to begin with and the fact that it’s a great recovery aid just sweetens the pot.

Sports Drinks: If I’ve mainly consumed water out on my run, a sports drink such as Gatorade or Powerade can give me a nice burst. However, after eating gels or GU Chomps during a run, the sugary sweetness of most sports drinks is a bit much. I typically cut them 50/50 with water to lessen the blow to my stomach.

Chocolate: I know this one probably comes as a shock to many of you! I’ve found that a small amount of chocolate after a run can give me enough of a boost to keep going until a more thorough meals takes place. I also focus quite a bit on chocolate during the last few miles of a run, which certainly helps get me through it!

Oatmeal: In terms of an overall breakfast, nothing beats a warm bowl of fresh oatmeal. I’ll typically pack in as much goodness as possible by adding some ground flaxseed and chia seeds, as well as nuts and fresh or dried fruit. A bit of fresh cream or brown sugar on top rounds out a filling, nutritious post-run breakfast.

Going The Distance Muffins: These compact, energy-filled muffins are great pre- or post-run. The beautiful, talented blogger over at Midwestern Exposure has a great recipe for these nutritious and delicious treats.

Photo Credit: Midwestern Exposure

I’ve found that the key to nutrition after a run is to keep it simple. When you body is working so hard to recover as it is, putting the extra strain of trying to digest complex foods can be too much. Of course, more than anything else, the best recovery item is still good ol’ H2O. I am guilty, as are many runners, of not drinking enough water during the run, no matter how hard I try, so rehydrating at the end of a run is still vital!

These are a few of my go-to items- how about you? Feel free to comment and share your favorite post-run nutrition items.

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