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

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Motivation Comments (0) |

Running during your periods

Have you ever wondered how that time of the month affects your (or your loved one’s) running? Radhika Meganathan talks about running and the menstrual cycle.

The discomfort, the mood swings… yes, periods can be a pain, but here’s the more important question: does it have a negative effect on your running performance?

Menstrual cycle, explained

Most women have a 28-day menstrual cycle which is split into two halves. The first half is known as the follicular phase, characterized by increasing levels of Estrogen. Day 1 is when your period starts. Ovulation, or the release of a fertile egg, happens around day 14, give or take a couple of days.

The second half of a typical menstrual cycle is the luteal phase, when the lining of the womb (endometrium) thickens, to prepare the body for pregnancy. Progesterone levels and body temperature increase during this second phase.

If the egg is not fertilized on time, then all the hormones levels fall over the next few days, triggering your next menstrual cycle. Rinse and repeat until pregnancy or menopause occurs; sometimes, severe physical and/or mental trauma can also delay your periods and throw you off your regular cycle.

Timing your training

Often, the best time for any kind of physical training is during the follicular phase. This is when your body temperature is lower, and all stored energy and regular fuel are broken down rapidly without the interference of hormones; thus, this is the best time for short, high-intensity workouts.

After Day 14, when your body temperature increases, it may not be an ideal time for intense workouts. But this time if perfect for endurance training, as many runners have found out.

Now we come to the dreaded week before Day 1; technically, the last week of your menstrual cycle. This is when most woman feel bloated, lethargic and restless. The scientific explanation is this is when your body realizes your egg is not fertilized that month and progesterone and oestrogen levels fall sharply. Your best running performance may not happen during these few days, but the good news is you can still do gentle runs on Week 4.

Running during your period

Some women hardly feel their periods, but some are so adversely affected that they take time off from their work. One size does not fit all when it comes to menstrual symptoms, so you are the best judge on how you want to draft your running schedule around your periods.

If you have heavy periods with painful cramps, you may be tired and anemic. You may also be feeling dizzy (some women report fainting) and have concerns about leakage. At this time, we advise gentle runs, good hydration and a sensible approach to training and diet. After the first two days, everything is good, and you can resume your normal running schedule during this awesome follicular phase.

Finding your best running days

Keep a menstrual cycle diary for a few months. Jot down the quality of your run during certain days, and note your energy and mood level. This will help you to identify your best days and schedule your training. Use the ‘bad days’ to concentrate on core work, cross training.

But what is you get your periods during a race? What if D-day falls on the first two days? Well, Uta Pippig, winner of Boston marathon in 1996, crossed the finish line with red-streaked knees and shanks. Clearly, her periods didn’t stop her from her win, so don’t be stressed about it. Just make your body work for you!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

A published author and an avid rambler, Radhika Meganathan is a recent keto convert who may or may not be having a complicated relationship with bacon and butter.

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Training Comments (1) |

The relationship between sleep and running

Sleeping well and for the right amount of time can increase your running stamina, writes Nandini Reddy

We live in a hyper active culture that has us on our toes constantly. We have over committed our time an energy to a a ton of obligations. But the most important factor that needs to remain unchanged irrespective of our lifestyle is the number of hours we sleep. You have probably read that you need 8 hours of sleep but it is highly likely that you are clocking in less than 5 hours a night. As a runner, sleep is as important as nutrition and exercise.

Maybe if we understood why we need to sleep then we can be more convinced to actually give it the attention it needs.

Weight Loss

A regular sleep schedule can do wonders for your weight loss efforts. When you get less sleep your hunger hormones run haywire making you carve food at the wrong times or feeling less sated after a meal. All marathoners tend to carb load before a race but if you don’t get enough sleep then the glycogen energy reserves that you need for the race will not build up properly and you will hit the fatigue wall sooner than you expect.

Body Repairs

Distance runners need sleep to ensure that their muscles recover from their training. It was observed in a research that athletes who got enough sleep showed a marked improvement in their running performance. While you sleep, the growth hormone is released when you are in deep sleep which helps recover your body. This hormone is essential to help the body rebuild from the affects of workouts. The growth hormone also helps in converting fat to fuel and keeping your bones strong. Too little sleep means you will feel more stressed and your recovery time will also increase.

Water Re-absorption

While you sleep, the kidneys help in establishing the water balance in your body. When you run in summer and sweat a lot, there is a high risk of dehydration. Just drinking more water is not the solution to ensure your body stays hydrated. It is also important to let the kidneys do their work to balance the sodium, electrolytes and water in your body. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and muscle pain. So a good night’s sleep can do wonders to ensure that you are not dehydrated and your body electrolytes are in balance every morning.

Mental toughness

Sleep helps clear your mind and improves your concentration and helps you run with a clear mind. Sleeping better also improves your ability to analyze training plans and race day performance. A mentally tough runner can overcome every hurdle that he might encounter during tough races.

Maintaining a Schedule 

You need to set a sleep schedule. It will take you up to four weeks to get habituated to it but if you can set up a schedule then you will see that all other things will also fall into place. You will start to eat and train at a scheduled time. Sleep also helps you combat pre-race anxiety, improve your memory and decision making ability.

You might be able to get by with a few nights of bad sleep in a month but on the whole you need to have a sleep schedule that you stick to if you want to improve your running performance.

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.

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Lace up to Lose Weight

Running is a great form of exercise if you are looking to lose weight. Nandini Reddy talks about how  you can run right to achieve your weight loss goals. 

Every time a new diet or exercise comes on, you are probably ready to try it, if it promises that it would knock off the pounds. But aside from the age old sage advice of ‘eat healthy and exercise’ sometimes it is difficult to find a programme that shows consistent results. Running in that sense is a great form of exercise that shows significant results in weight loss if done right.

Be Consistent

Running is hard in the beginning. It gives you sore muscles and you probably can’t even run a full kilometre without losing your breath but if you keep at it, it pays off. Look at a long term approach and plan your running schedule for the next 8 weeks and you will definitely see an improvement in all aspects.

Find a Programme 

If you are unable to come up with a running programme yourself then either find a running club or an app like Nike Running to help you formulate a running programme that suits your current fitness levels. Start with a run/walk programme and then you can slowly graduate to slow continuous jogs and then to full -fledged running.

Increase mobility

You need to strengthen your muscles so that you become a stronger runner. Body weight exercises like squats, push-ups and lunges are a great way to start strengthening your muscles. These will help increase your mobility and also reduce instances of soreness.

Interval Training

Fast running is an excellent tool for weight loss. Sprints will get your heart rate up and will burn more energy and uphill sprints are even more effective. This sort of interval training helps in higher weight loss. You can start with 30 second intervals of sprints and brisk walks. Then graduate to sprints and jogs.

Runner’s High

If you are trying a new exercise programme then it is important that you enjoy it. Running comes with an inherent advantage of feeling exhilarated after you finish your planned run. Running is known to release ‘happy hormones’ that stay with you through the day.

Any form of exercise is good exercise, but when you want to lose weight then its very hard to beat the results that running gives you.

 

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.

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Training Comments (0) |

Rest & Recovery during Marathon Training

Runners need to understand the need to rest and recover between training runs. Nandini Reddy talks about the need to rest to avoid injury and over-training syndrome.

There are many different kinds of runners. Everyone has their own schedule of training for marathons. But while most experienced runners do understand the importance of recovery and rest, many of them need to be forced to rest as they tend to be over-enthusiastic to keep training without a break.

Scheduling Rest

When charting out a training plan it is important to have rest days, recovery days, light workout days and heavy workout days. This will help take care of several issues that most runners face including fatigue and injury. Rest should be a scheduled day in a week. Regular and healthy runners need just one day rest in order to recover. New runners might need extra time to recover as their body gets acquainted to the stress of running. Recovery days are different from rest days. Rest days mean doing absolutely no physical workout. Recovery days are days we do alternative workouts that will help stretch and relax the muscles that we have been working. They can include activities like swimming, yoga, static stretches or even a leisure cycle ride. Strength training cannot be counted as recovery day as it required immense effort and does strain the body. But it can be part of your heavy workout day schedule once a week at least.

Refueling on Rest Days

Nutrition is a huge part of training for a marathon. It generally get overlooked by amateur and professional athletes but it should be part of your training plan. Nutrition plays an important role in helping muscles recover faster. Recovery and rest days try an reduce the amount of carbs you have and go for more light meals with fresh food like salads and soups. Hydrate well on rest days also. Don’t leave hydration only for running days. On those days increase your hydration but make it a habit to hydrate well on rest and recovery days as well.

Ice is your friend

Muscle soreness can be recovered to a large extent with ice packs and cold compress treatments. Running can cause inflammation your joints such as ankles, knees, hips and feet. Using ice packs helps in reducing the inflammation and helps in faster recovery.

Massages can be effective

Pro-athletes and newbies all support that massages are a good way to recover. On your rest day you can plan a massage if you are feel you are not able to adequately recover with other methods of rest. There are special muscle relieving massages and it is important to brief your therapist about your reason for it to be more effective.

Following such simple plans can make a huge difference to your endurance as a runner. Whether you choose all or a few rest and recovery methods, you are likely to see the difference. These small changes will have a big effect on your running performance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

IMG_20171011_095150

 

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.

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Nutrition Comments (0) |

Healthy eating tips for runners

Sowmya Ganesh talks about why runners should know that is food is fuel and eating right alongside training can determine the level of your performance as a runner
Running requires a lot of stamina, and to keep you going, make a few healthy choices that will be rewarding to your body both before and after the run. Here are some healthy eating tips for runners to get you started. When adopted as daily habits, these will do you immense good in the long run.
Eat your veggies
Prioritize vegetables. They are high in nutrients, fiber, and water. They can satisfy your hunger and keep you going for long. It is best to include a portion of veggies in both lunch and dinner everyday to reap the benefits that these natural foods have to offer. Healthy salads with fibre rich veggies and essential fat-rich dressings make for a perfect lunch as the minerals will help in post-run recovery while the fibre will keep you going for long.
Drink healthy fluids
Whether on the track or off, drinking plenty of water is vital to your body’s functioning. Your body requires water to function smoothly, and as a runner it is important to stay well hydrated to avoid the dangerous effects of dehydration. When water gets too boring, you can always switch to a healthy cold pressed juice to help you hydrate. A beet juice, for example, makes for a perfect runners drink as the nitrates in beets help boost performance. Tender coconut water based drinks are ideal too as they help replenish the body of lost electrolytes.
Eating pre-run
What you eat before you start your run determines how well you will be able to enjoy the run. And the amount you consume would depend on how intense your run is. If you feel a burning sense of hunger, a light bite before the run would help, but ideally, most runners prefer running on an empty stomach (if it’s a short run). If the run is going to be more intense, something easily digestible like bananas would help. High fibre and high fat foods take longer to digest and eventually slow you down during your run.
Eating post-run
What you eat after a run would be responsible for the recovery your body needs, and to replenish you. It’s best to eat within 30 to 45 minutes after your run, and fuel up with foods rich in protein such as a fibre rich smoothie to keep you going, preferably based with potassium-rich bananas and nuts – important elements in a runner’s diet, as they help with reducing any inflammation caused by running.  Later, you can have your actual meal which would be a course filled with whole, natural, and real foods.
Take it slow
Eat slowly, calmly, and allow yourself to enjoy your meals. It takes roughly 20 minutes for your brain to receive the signal of “fullness” from your stomach. So if you rush your meals, you eventually end up overeating. And to focus on what you eat, remove distractions such as the television or a smartphone.
Eat what’s real
Processed foods are a straight up ‘no’. They are filled with sugars, preservatives, and fats, and also stripped of all real nutritional content. Stay away from all the junk food as much as possible when shopping for groceries, and choose real, natural foods. These foods are fresh, and whole, and extremely rich in nutritional content. Fresh salads with seasonal produce are a great way to introduce real foods into your body.
These small changes would leave your body being forever grateful to you!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sowmya (1)
Sowmya Ganesh’s career path at different stages and today started Coubutu, India’s first subscription based health food and beverage company along with husband Ganesh Krishnan. Starting small with one product and having added a whole range of products spiraling it in to an impressive nutrition brand, successfully transforming people’s lifestyles every single day.

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