Thursday, October 28, 2010

Junk Food as Super Fuel

Here's a picture of my favorite running partner(my dad!) and I warming up for a 5k this summer.

But this is not the issue at hand...

I have a little rant.

It's time it should come out, it involves two loves of my life.

Running and Nutrition.

Now that being said I am a novice at both topics, being a wee little 20 year old who has never run a marathon(read failed at training for a marathon...) and is not a registered dietitian so what I say is purely opinion. Based on experiences and much thought, reading, learning and discussion (with credible sources that is). Without further ado let me begin my rant...

I often hear people try to excuse bad nutritional choices with the rational that "marathon runners (or just plain old runners) eat it, so it must be ok for me to eat it". Some examples:

"Marathon runners drink Cokes to fuel their long runs, so Coke can't be that bad"

"Runners drink whole fat chocolate milk and the experts say it's the best recovery drink, so it's good for me"

"Runners eat gummi bears and other candy during long runs, so the sugar in gummi bears is just as good for me as the sugar in fruit"

My question to these people is, how many miles did you run today?

Yes. I know. My dad, finisher of marathons, ultra marathons, 100 mile bike rides, and the man who works out in his death trap of a garage gym every day is known to drink a Coke. Every. Day.

But that does not mean that you, couch sitter, potato chip muncher, working towards a gut that is about to bust the button on your jeans should be known to drink a Coke. Every. Day.

Or even you moderately active, healthy eater, working towards making it to the gym 5 times a week should be know to drink a Coke every day.

Now, why is it that my dad, or athletes stretching their bodies to the limit consume crappy high in sugar/fat foods for fuel? Because they are stretching their bodies to the limit. I know from my limited long distance running experience that when you're on mile 11 and have been running off water and self will for the past hour you start to get a little loopy. Your muscles begin to fatigue and your body turns into a vicious carb cravin' monster. Your body screams for some fuel RIGHT NOW! When you push your body to the limit and ask it to do something amazing for you, you have to give it a little encouragement. High sugar drinks/foods are the absolute FASTEST way to replenish your body.


Glycemic Index. No I am not talking about the South Beach Diet, although the concepts I learned from going on that diet apply here. Crappy sugar floods your system FAST. Ever heard of sugar high? They increase your blood glucose levels and leave you feeling satisfied immediately, but the love affair is short.

That sugar high has an evil twin, it is called the sugar crash. Your body burns up that rush of sugar immediately and leaves you back where you started. Cravin' carbs hardcore.

Now remember that Whole Fat Chocolate Milk? Yes, it is one of the very best drinks for recovery after hard runs. This is because it provides your body with that quick rush of energy from the sugar, AND then gives your body lasting fuel from the high fat content. If you're out running 30-50 miles per week your body can handle the fat and sugar content in Whole Chocolate Milk.

So now back to the issue at hand, runners surviving off of Cokes and Gummi Bears during a marathon. They can eat these things for fuel because their body needs fuel instantly. My dad drinks a can of Coke after every speed workout because he has totally depleted his body and needs to refuel it fast. Now, until watching t.v. marathons becomes a extraordinary physical feat, I am sorry to say you cannot begin to justify unhealthy choices by saying "b-b-but marathon runners eat it!"

(Chattin' about the race afterwards...maybe chattin' about nutrition?)

Now after all that my rant is still incomplete. What do I think about runners eating Gummi Bears to fuel their runs? I think they would feel and perform better if they fueled their runs with whole wheat bagels with peanut butter and banana on top. These are real foods, foods that have no fake ingredients, preservatives, and other weird chemicals (well depending on what brands of PB and bagels you buy) that only serve to confuse your body and slow it down. Just because gummi bears work fast does not mean they work the best.

Also I'll have you know that my dad and I can argue about whether or not you're body processes high fructose corn syrup from a Coke the same as sugar from an apple for so long that it becomes an extraordinary physical feat. Then we need some fuel. He drinks a beer, and I eat an apple. (Beer = sugar + carbohydrates = quick energy. In the middle of my second half marathon I had the most intense craving for an ice cold Corona...I satiated it with a Gu packet instead ;)

So in the end I have to say that one of the many reasons I quit training for a marathon was because I wasn't eating a diet that was efficiently fueling my runs. I'm still figuring out what does. For me drinking a Coke doesn't work. I just feel gross. After a long run I'd much rather eat toast with PB and banana. Because this post run snack has sugar in the banana and carbs in the bread for a quick energy replenish. But the banana and bread also have fiber to keep me energized. Finally the Peanut Butter has protein and fat to fully replenish my energy stores for the long haul.

There is no way Coke can do all that.

So why am I writing this post now? When I haven't been a very successful runner lately? Mainly because I need to remind myself how to fuel for running since I just set a goal time for the 5k Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning in my hometown.


Goal Time: Under 24 minutes.

Now considering my current schedule (19 credits, 8 of which are studios, 2 jobs, 12+ hours per week of student teaching, and an attempt at a social life.) I do not have a lot of time to train. Thus I have decided to make every workout count, the Roger Bannister way. Which means short high intensity workouts. This also means I can't have an "off" day because I ate 10 too many handfuls of peanut M&Ms an hour before my workout.

Now am I confident in my self-will to choose the right fuel versus the candy fuel? Not really. Am I confident in my self-will to force myself to go do a track workout when I have a spare hour...that could be spent watching House Hunters on HGTV? Not Really.

But you know what I am confident in? My extremely competitive nature. I just publicly declared a goal (someone reads this blog right??). Now I feel obligated to meet it. I don't know if I can do it...but I will try. And if I fail, it won't matter because I will at least have done a month of speed workouts. Now that is something that my body will thank me for.

So here's to a better diet to accommodate training runs at any time during the day.

Well and to waking up at 5:45 am, when it's still dark out, to run a speed workout on a treadmill because it's unsafe to run outside, alone, in the dark, in a large city. (Learning to survive a workout on the treadmill is an entire different post...)

Some Good Post or Pre-Run snacks:

-Toast with any high protein/fat topping like peanut butter, avocado, hummus, etc.
-Any fruit with Peanut Butter or nuts
-Greek Yogurt (especially if you mix in flax seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds...)
-Whole Chocolate Milk
-Veggies and Hummus
-Bean Burrito (whole wheat tortilla)
-Anything with Chia Seeds
-Fruit Smoothie with PB or Greek Yogurt and Chia Seeds
-Taco Salad with beans, avocado and olive oil based dressing.(Or sour cream and salsa dressing)
-Oats with PB and Banana

The options are really limitless just remember this equation:

Sugar + Fiber + Protein/Fat = Good instant energy and fuel for the long haul as well.

Oh and don't forget the most important nutrient of all- WATER!

What do you eat to fuel your long day/runs/workouts?

1 comment:

  1. I was long addicted to junk food which caused a lot of extra pounds. I knew that in order to lose weight I had to change my eating habits and lifestyle. I started going to the gym. I must say, it was very hard at the beginning since I was not accustomed to doing any sports from my childhood. I strongly needed some additional force to kick me off the sofa each time. I was thinking of some energy drinks, but finally decided to go the natural way. I’ve tried a nutritional supplement called Super Army Formula. It is available at amazon:
    The result was felt very quickly. I take it before going to the gym and in 1 hour I am full of energy. Now I’ve started losing my pounds and keep working on healthier nutrition.