Nutrition Comments (1) |

Eating Right for runners

Marathoner, Dharminder Sharma, talks about the kind of food that is good and bad for the Indian runner.

You can eat whatever you want to, because you are a distance runner so you can digest everything – how many times have we heard this advice from the so-called experts to newly christened long distance runners!

Another statement often heard is that I run long distances so that I can eat whatever I want.

There cannot be two worse statements about diet than these!

Eating right is as important for a long distance runner as it is for anybody else. One can never overstate the importance of eating the right kind of food and food supplements to ensure a life-long injury free running experience. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats take up a major part of our daily diet although fibre, vitamins, minerals and water are also indispensable.

What are carbs?

In India, carbs are generally considered to be wheat and rice and most do not know much about what other foods contain carbs. Fruits, salads, vegetables, nuts, sweets and legumes (daals) all contain carbs.

What are simple and complex carbs?

A general advice given by Dietitians to health conscious individuals and runners is to go for complex carbs rather than simple ones. Without going into the science of the advantages of complex carbs and the disadvantages of the other, a simple listing of the items would help a runner or a fitness enthusiast choose the right diet. The common examples of simple carbs that a runner should avoid or restrict in quantity are white breads, sugar and sugary products like candies, toffees, chocolates (except a small piece of dark chocolate) and mithhai (traditional Indian sweets), fruit juices (especially canned ones), white rice, most bakery products, potato chips and cold drinks, this list is, however, not exhaustive.

The complex and healthy carbs that one should prefer are whole grain breads, chapatis made of whole wheat, Bajra, Ragi and other coarse grains/millet, brown rice, beans, nuts, oats and oatmeal, quinoa, fruits especially less sugary ones like guava, papaya and pineapple, sweet potatoes and leafy greens.

What about protein in diet?

When it comes to proteins, there is a popular myth that only the body builders or hard core gym enthusiasts need to consume proteins. That is not true because our body needs proteins to build muscles that provide the necessary support during runs. Proteins help build the muscles and they are required to recover the muscles after a long strenuous run. Therefore, a runner’s diet requires proteins in good quantities.

A long distance runner under training should have at least 0.8 gm of protein per kg of body weight per day in order to stay injury free. Some of the protein rich ‘foods’ that one can add in daily diet are chicken breast, fish, sunflower seed, almond, quinoa, egg white, low fat cottage cheese (paneer), chick pea (chana), whole lentils (chhilka daal), oat, beans, soya milk, broccoli, brown rice and peas, to name a few.

How do fats help?

Besides, the carbohydrates and proteins, fats take another major part of human diet. We often hear of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats – good are the ones that should be more in quantity. However, often when people get their lipid (fat) profiles checked through blood tests and come across technical terminology, it is little difficult for them to correlate in the laboratory reports as to what are the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ fats. Even if they are able to make out what these are, they often do not have an idea as to how to increase or decrease their levels in our bodies. The best way to increase good fats is to eat the food that naturally contains large quantities of ‘good’ fats.  Some of the ‘foods’ that contain high to very high quantities of these ‘good fats’ are almond, walnut, flaxseed, olive, canola, chia seed, pistachio, fish oil especially cod liver oil.

Never forget the Vitamins & Minerals

One can never over-emphasize the importance of flaxseeds in the daily diet. They are a rich source of natural omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 and B6 and are one of the most nutrient rich foods that also contain protein, dietary fibre, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and selenium. Flaxseeds are low in carbs and therefore, very useful for someone looking to shed weight. They are also good for cardiac health as they lower cholesterol levels and the antioxidants in them slow down the process of aging.

How much fibre is enough?

We often ignore the importance of another ‘food’ in our diet and that is dietary fibre. Some of the above-mentioned foods do contain dietary fibres in large quantities and should form a part of the daily diet no matter whether the person is training or is in the midst of an event. I say this because a lot of literature on the internet advises against eating fibre and protein rich diet the day before the event and in fact advises eating pasta. Since most of the literature is from the perspective of the West, this advice may hold well in that context but my advice to an Indian runner would be to go for the same diet that one is used to eating which may be Roti, Idli, rice, Dosa, etc.

The night before the big race

If you are used to eating Daal, Roti, Kheera, rice and Dahi as your regular diet, there is absolutely no harm eating it the night before the event. There is absolutely no sense going on a hunt the evening before an event for a restaurant that serves pasta if you have gone to a new city to run in an event. Just stick to familiar foods that have worked for you during the training, if they have worked for you so far they would surely work now. Remember, the day before the event or a marathon is not the right time to try a new food in a new city! In fact, eating familiar food will actually prevent the constipation on the morning of your event and save you precious time to enable you to reach the event fresh and in time.

Fitness and a healthy eating has to be a continuous journey and not a time bound target for a runner or a fitness person. I would conclude by giving another important advice – spicy and oily foods the day before the event whether or not you are used to eating them, are an absolute ‘No’!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dharminder Sharma is an Indian Forest Service Officer (IFS) who has been running long distances for more than ten years. He has attended most of the major marathons in India and a few abroad. He has also started many running clubs in the Northern Indian region and organising quality runs for runners is one of his many passions

Read more

Motivation Comments (0) |

Overdoing Health Tracking

Wearable devices, fitness apps and a dozen more ways in which you can monitor your health, but when does it all become too much, ask Nandini Reddy.

So did you strap on your wearable device the moment you jumped out of bed? Logging in hours slept, monitoring water intake, counting steps, tracking heart rate, calculating calories and walking the extra mile to meal goals sets. Ever since wearable devices became a fitness trend. All of us have been guilty of doing this – even me! But when does it become too much?

I am not against the FitBits and Garmins of the world and I do know that they are a great way to track your health but when tracking becomes obsessions and if you are getting more upset than happy using the device then it cannot be a good thing right?

The Dark Side of Health Trackers

Have you ever run a marathon and used a different app to track your run. I did that once and noticed that even though both of us started and stopped at the same point, I had run 9.7kms and my friend had run 10.2kms. My app didn’t congratulate me on reaching the 10k mark and felt more than a little deflated. But it didn’t make sense because we had run the same track and in the same time and yet we didn’t achieve the same encouragement from the health apps.

The next victim of tracking was my sleep. I was so intent on getting the right curve and the congratulatory note for achieving the right amount of sleep that I couldn’t have slept worse. The stress of sleeping right overwhelmed me and if I slept deep woke up refreshed with 5 hours before, now I was feeling worse for the wear with 7 hours of shut eye.

Heart rate tracking became another obsession ever since I read that interval training can work wonders when you want to lose weight. But that meant constantly interrupting a perfectly good workout to check if my heart rate hit the goal mark.

How do you use them better?

Health tracking is not all bad if you know how to use them properly. They do help you get fit if you use them right. So instead of letting it rule you, make it a way to change habits.

  • Forget the calorie counting – Trackers have approximated calories and most may not store all the food options that you consume based on your local preferences.Also they never take into count that with regular movement you will be losing calories but they never get accounted for. So instead of counting calories set nutrition goals that you want to meet in terms of protein, carbs and fibre for the day.
  • Adjust daily goals –Do not use the preset goals. Your lifestyle may require different goals. Compare each week to see if you have found the right mix. It may take a while before you finalized on the set of daily goals that works for you, until then its perfectly find to make tweaks and adjustments.
  • Focus on movement – Avoiding being sedentary is more important than counting steps. Most of us have desk jobs that require us to sit for hours. So try and make it a habit to do desk stretches or just stand up and take a walk to water cooler every hour. The idea is to move for 5 mins every hour and your health tracker can be set to prompt you to do the same.
  • Work with small challenges – The fitness tracker should be used to create new habits that are good for your fitness regime. If you want to really make a change then instead of concentrating on recording everything try and set challenges for yourself. It may be about walking or running 10k three times a week. You can even set targets like the number of floors you will walk up every day.
  • Find a friend – Health apps generally allow you to train and track progress with friends. When you know others are watching your progress you tend to be less lazy. It also works as encouragement when they congratulate you when you achieve set goals.

Health trackers themselves are improving so it all works to syncing the device to your fitness requirements instead of the other way round

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

Read more

Nutrition Comments (0) |

Going Non-Diary

Lactose Intolerance or becoming vegan, whatever your reason, non-diary products are making their way into your daily diet, says Nandini Reddy.

The diary market has faced many lows since early 2011 because of contamination and accusations of chemical enhancers in cattle feed. This has lead to a wave of people switching to alternative forms of milk including nut milk, grain milk and bean based milk. Fitness enthusiasts looking for alternatives without the fat content of milk and people switching to vegan diets have been the biggest adopters of the alternative milk trend.

Like every good food it is important to understand why their alternative milk forms are good and bad for us. Let us consider the various factors that you would need to weigh in before switching over to a particular milk alternative.

Nutrient Value

Nut milks are power houses of nutrients such as Vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, zinc, pottassium, phosphorous and calcium. They also contain flavonoids which are lower the levels of bad cholesterol.  On the downside nut milk and rice milk are low in protein and calcium and lack Vitamin D and B12 which are essentially found in animal milk.  Soy and Rice milk are also great sources of nutrients and have no saturated fats. They have have anti-oxidants that help in supporting the immune system.

Flavour 

Nut milk definitely taste better than any other milk even diary. Rice milk is bland so it blends well as it does not affect the taste. Soya milk has a specific taste that will grow on you. These milks can be added to most breakfast cereals and can also be had alone. For cooking, coconut milk has always been the favourite but almond and cashew milks are also finding their way into desserts as great alternative to cow milk.

Health Benefits

Alternative milks all have the right nutrient values to promote cardio-vascular health. Blood pressure and cholesterol are lowered because of the magnesium rich composition of these milks. Rice milk helps increase iron and copper in your blood thus boosting red blood cell production, and giving you better oxygenation and vitality. Soy is a good alternative if you want to add more protein but its continued use isn’t recommended for women because of its high phytoestrogen content. Rice milks are very starchy and are not suitable for diabetics.

Cost

Alternative milks are more expensive than cow’s milk. Most of them retail at nearly twice or thrice the cost. Most of them are hard to find and are generally available at specialty stores in big cities. Using online sources and buying in bulk might prove more economical in the long run as the shelf life of sealed packages is from 6 months to one year.

Whether its change in lifestyle or beat an allergy or just for overall health, alternative milks do have a space in our diets.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

Read more

Motivation Comments (0) |

The Challenge of being Healthy

From being engrossed in her books to winning cycling and duathlon events, Dr Sruti Chandrasekaran has come a long way in her fitness journey. She shares her story with us.

The Early Days

I was never a fitness person during my years in school. I was the class nerd who would only study and participate in academic competitions. Any kind of sports was my arch enemy! I abhorred Physical Training period and also skipped assembly if there was anything related to sports happening then. My entire lack of interest in any sort of sport related activity was because of the physical effort it involved. I was so unfit in my school and college days but I topped my tests and joined medical college. That was the the first time I walked on a regular basis.

My college was in Kilpauk (KMC) and I used to get down at Chetpet and walk for 800m to college. Those 800m were an incredible physical challenge for me. Apart from that I had no exercise during my 5 1/2 years of medical school. My books took up all my attention and energy. I always was on the chubby side ( to put it in a nice way!) with a BMI that was in the overweight range. Yet it never bothered me and after my graduation I moved to USA for my medical training. It was during my first pregnancy that I gained another 30kg. I was 25 yrs old, weighing in at a 100kg after my pregnancy and looking at everyone around me who were super active.

My Epiphany

My professor of medicine used to cycle to work and another female professor used to run 3 to 4 times a week after having 4 children. That is when it hit me. I now decided that I have to take care of my health and stop ruining my body. Fortunately despite my lack of exercise, incredible weight gain and erratic eating habits I did not have diabetes or other metabolic problems like PCOS/PCOD.

So after assigning the back seat to my health until the age of 26, I had finally decided to take control and for the first time I started exercising. Naturally the first few weeks were terrible. My body was ridden with aches and pains and I gave up many times. It took me 6 months to get into a routine and start regularly hitting the gym with cardio and weight training.

The Runner in Me

The road running obsession began 4 years later when I turned 30. That was probably the best birthday gift that I IMG-20171115-WA0020gave myself. My first 10k run at 30 yrs and then came the second pregnancy and a break in between. I took 6 months break after my C-section and then resumed exercising again and since then have done 10k and half marathons regularly. For the past 1 1/2 yrs I have also taken up road biking as my husband is an avid biker who bikes to work. I instantly fell in love with cycling as it was fast, the effort you put in cycling was very different and I lapped up the constantly changing scenery. I began to realize that with proper training one can definitely do well with any sports that you choose.

On the Podium

My recent podium finish at the Duathlon and Datri cycle ride proved to me that it is always better late than never.  I started exercising very late and I do feel bad for not taking up sports during school and college days. As an endocrinologist who manages diabetes, PCOS, dyslipidemia and other metabolic problems, I do emphasize the importance of exercise to my patients. Now instead of just giving advice I would like to set an example to them and also to my daughter. Seeing the rise in lifestyle related diseases like diabetes I want to be a healthy woman, healthy mom and raise healthy children. Running and Cycling has been a great way for me to sustain this healthy lifestyle and inspire others to start their journey of good health.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

srutichandrasekhar

 

Dr Sruti Chandrashekar is an avid runner and cyclist who went from being a bookworm to a fitness enthusiast. A doctor by profession and a passionate runner and cyclist, today Sruti wants to lead by example.

Read more

Training Comments (0) |

The Power of 3 – Building a comprehensive fitness plan

If you are a beginner runner or amateur athlete, Im pretty sure you have or at some point will wonder how to organise your training. If you download training programs from any number of fitness sites on the web, you will see things which look incredibly complex. 400m x 8 reps, 1600m x 4 reps, and so on. In this article, Im going to try to simplify training plans so you can design one for yourself and suitably substitute exercises when you find something you cannot do.

Continue Reading

Read more