Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Getting Rid of the Gluten Gossip – Why Going Gluten Free May or May Not Help Your Training!

What do YOU know about going gluten-free? Is it a healthier way to
eat? Why does it seem whenever I turn my head there are new products
popping up on shelves and different restaurant chains advertising
adamantly that they offer options that are gluten-free?

I’d think most runners out there who know about gluten feel that going
gluten-free would be pretty pointless (unless they have to avoid
gluten for health reasons) simply because much of the foods they eat
to fuel their training comes from wheat products. However, many
runners are also concerned about eating as healthfully as they can.
Often those who go gluten-free claim they’re feeling better because
they’re eating healthier as a result of forgoing gluten. Well, one
doesn’t have to give up wheat to eat healthy. I will do my best to
shed the right light on what seems to be a very confusing topic in the
health arena lately.

So why does anyone even care about gluten in their diet? Celiac’s
disease. Those with Celiac’s have a severe intolerance to wheat. Their stomach
cannot process wheat proteins and suffer a variety of ailments in
varying degrees if they consume wheat products. Usually he
or she suffers from an irritable bowel. The only way for one who has
the disease to stay symptom-free is to avoid gluten. According to the
National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’s web site, “Celiac’s is one
of the most common hereditary autoimmune disorders in the U.S., with
about 1 percent of Americans – that's one out of every 141 people –
suffering from the disorder.”

Having Celiac’s…well…sucks. One who suffers from Celiac’s disease has
to be very careful of any way they could possibly ingest wheat. One
might think that if any food isn’t bread it’s therefore completely
gluten free, and that’s it, it’s that simple. However, it can be much
more complicated than that. According to the Huffington Post article,
“Gluten Free Myths” (May 16, 2013), “Gluten can pop up in surprising
places. While bread, cake, pasta, pizza crust and other wheat-based
foods are obviously full of wheat and therefore gluten, unless
otherwise specified, some surprising foods can also offer a dose of
gluten. As Everyday Health reported, foods like pickles (it's the
brining liquid!), blue cheese and even hot dogs can be inappropriate
for those who eat gluten free. What's more, some medications and
cosmetics use gluten as a binding agent, so it's best to check those
labels as well.” And get this – I was at the dentist recently, and
found out several patients who have Celiac’s disease had asked if the
cleaning solution used on everyone’s teeth at regular appointments has
gluten in it! (Per my hygienist, it does not.) One with Celiac’s has
to live a very careful, aware, and informed life.

As I mentioned earlier, many runners get their energy from foods that
have wheat in them. But, what about a runner with Celiac’s? Can he or
she get the carbs he or she really needs and still avoid gluten?
Absolutely. According to the article, “Good Bye Gluten?” by Liz
Applegate, PhD, in the May 2012 issue of Runner’s World, there’s a
great assortment of carb-heavy foods that are completely wheat-free.
They include the following (along with some advantages of each):
•       AMARANTH – more protein than many grains
•       CORN – easy to digest and provides iron
•       MILLET – contains magnesium which helps energy metabolism
•       OATS – for the most part are gluten-free, however some Celiac’s
can't tolerate the protein it contains
•       POTATOES – full of potassium which boosts circulation
•       QUINOA – has manganese that aids in muscle recovery
•       RICE – contains both iron and B vitamins

Even professional runners who have Celiac’s succeed though their diet
must be gluten-free. Take Amy Begley, two-time U.S. 10K champion, a
Celiac’s sufferer. According to the article, “Fast and Gluten Free” by
Brian Metzler, from the November 2010 issue of Runner’s World, ever
since she was diagnosed with the disease in 2006, she’s had no
problems fueling her workouts on the road. She just has to be
creative…and picky. Both P.F. Chang’s and Outback Steakhouse have
separate gluten-free menus, and many other restaurant chains are
following suit. Sometimes, she just grabs some chili and a baked
potato at Wendy’s. Her favorite bread is Udi’s. Generation UCAN is her
main sports drink. She also works with a nutritionist that helped her
reduce her sugar intake and eat more whole and raw foods. Since eating
this way beginning in 2008, she then went on to win her second U.S.
10K title and PR’d in the 5K with a time of 14:56.72.

It’s outcomes like this along with testimonials from those with
Celiac’s claiming they feel better, healthier, and are even losing
weight after they discover they have Celiac’s and are eating
appropriately for their condition. Does this necessarily mean that
others, who aren’t suffering from Celiac’s, should try going gluten
free, in an effort to eat healthier?

Well, equating going wheat-free with eating healthier overall is
actually one of the biggest myths surrounding the gluten gossip. There
actually is no need to avoid gluten if you don’t need to, and you
still can be eating healthfully. The Huffington Post states that “for
the general population, gluten is not harmful. Forgoing gluten when
you don't have a problem digesting and processing it will not
necessarily help you lose weight or make you healthier. While many
gluten-free foods are our most healthful options (think: fruit,
vegetables, lean proteins), gluten-free diets are not by default
health promoting.” Eating less wheat may mean eating less carbohydrate
products which may mean eating fewer processed foods. However, there
is simply nothing wrong with eating a big fluffy nutty slice of whole
grain bread or some whole wheat pasta. (I do promote whole grains
because they are less processed, contain more nutrients such as fiber
and protein, and fill you up more than their white counterparts).

All in all, gluten itself, i.e. any product with wheat in it, is not
bad for you. Eating any food any food in excess, out of moderation, is
where detriment lies. If one eats more calories than what their body
burns, those extra calories are stored as fat.

So, if you don’t have a gluten sensitivity, there’s no need to go
gluten-free. Be grateful you can still eat bread! I’m even happier now
whenever I sink my teeth into a warm piece of seedy multi-grain bread,
slathered with melting peanut butter and sliced ripe banana!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I Have The Answers to the Most Popular Healthy Eating Excuses!

Excuses are pretty commonplace when it comes to trying to be healthy and fit. We can often find many reasons why we DON'T want to eat healthy or excercise. Huffington Post recently listed the top healthy eating excuses people make. And I have the answers to them!

Get ready to feel empowered and be healthier!!

Excuse 1: "But I Deserve This Chocolate"
You deserve even better...a healthy life! Reward yourself with something other than food. Thinking that a treat is a reward is actually incorrect thinking...especially if you're trying to lose weight...since the extra calories will add on extra weight!

You KNOW you deserve much better :)

Excuse 2: "I've Ruined It Anyway, So Why Not Go All The Way?"

This one always gets to me. I don't really understand it because I wonder why you'd want to feel worse than you already do about what you've eaten?

Try to live with the mindset of no regrets. So you made a mistake. You're HUMAN. At the next meal, try harder. You OWE it to yourself!

Excuse 3. "I Ran 3 Miles Today So I Earned This Splurge"

Hahaha! Do you KNOW how many calories you burned on that 3-miler? The average person burns about 100 calories per mile run so that equates to 300 calories.

What's 300 calories? Three large bananas. One Egg McMuffin. Two cans of Pepsi.

Working out does allow you a little extra wiggle room. But you really need to account for how much you actually can afford to eat calorie-wise.

Why not eat more of your favorite healthy food? For example, I have a little more tenderloin or another tablespoon of peanut butter on days I work out a lot.

Excuse 4: "Chocolate Is Full Of Antioxidants"
Ah, yes. Relying on research you've heard through the grapevine...someone read it on the news and told it to someone else who told their friend who told their mother who told her coworker and now you're hearing it.

I have some smart news for you. WHAT THEY'RE SAYING IS WRONG. Whenever it comes to "facts" like this, it's best to scope out the truth on your own.

In this case, chocolate does have antioxidants, but only the higher the percentage of cocoa in the piece. The milk in milk chocolate actually interferes with the absorbtion of the antioxidants in the cocoa.

According to the Huffington Post article: "Choose 80 percent cacao dark chocolate or more to reap the health benefits, otherwise you are just consuming chocolate-flavored sugar."

Excuse 5: "Britney Spears Eats Junk And She's Thin!"

What we SEE is Britney eating junk. That's what the pictures show. That's what the tabloids want us to see! She does NOT get that rock-hard body without working out and eating well. It just can't happen. I think it's great that Britney does splurge once in awhile, but, trust me, she doesn't eat that way all the time.

Excuse 6: "Guys Will Think I'm One Of Those Girls If I Only Order A Salad"

DUDES. This is a LAME excuse. Fine, don't order a salad. Most salads you get while out, unless you ask for the dressing on the side or without the croutons, bacon, and cheese, they're usually a bad bet anyway. The point I want to make with this one is that your guy friends are NOT REALLY friends if they pressure you to eat crap when you want to eat healthier. Stand up for yourself and tell them you'd rather be built in your shoulders than in your gut.
Excuse 7: "I Can't Let It Go To Waste"

YES you CAN. YOU CAN DO THIS. Just try it. Ask for a doggie bag right away, portion half of the meal, and only eat that. Eat the rest for another meal. Only eat until you're full. If you eat past that, what you've eaten will only be stored as excess calories that your body cannot use...and adds on weight.

Take CONTROL of what you put in your body! You CAN DO THIS and you DESERVE IT!

Excuse 8: "I Eat A Lot Less Than Some People/My Friends"

Perception is key here, just like the Britney Spears one. You DO NOT KNOW what ELSE that person has eaten that day. Everyone has different caloric needs and has engaged in different activity each and every day. Comparing to others isn't smart. Take care of YOU!
Excuse 9: "It's Mainly Vegetables"

Veggies? Great. But prepared with what? Drenched in what dressing? All too often I see people order salads in an attempt to eat healthier but they pour two servings of full fat Ranch dressing when they could have saved themselves calories and fat by eating a normal portion of steak, fish, or chicken, steamed veggies, and a baked potato.

It's always best to have your meal include some of each - lean protein, whole grains, fruit and/or veggies, and some healthy fats (maybe some olive oil on the veggies, a little full-fat cheese, or some nuts).

Want more excuses BLASTED out of the water?  Check out the whole article by clicking below - inform yourself and EMPOWER yourself!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Kashi products are not perfect!

Many of you runners have probably seen the Kashi commercial where Kashi's at a road race, handing out some of their cereal and making sure that all of us know that Kashi cereals have "as much protein as an egg." (Just so you know, the amount of protein in one egg is actually only 6 grams, albeit the purest form of protein available.) I never really understood this commercial, as Kashi seems to be well-loved by health-minded consumers.

Apparently they needed more business. And quite soon, they will need a LOT more business. Right now Kashi's being scrutinized after John Wood, owner of The Green Grocer, an organic foods store in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, removed all Kashi products from his shelves, leaving a note stating he did so because they contain GMO (genetically modified organisms) in their products.

According to an article by respected natural health expert Dr. Mercola on his Web site, “Kashi Cereal Stirs Anger - Exposed by Small Rhode Island Grocer”, May 19, 2012, “The Cornucopia Institute released a report, Cereal Crimes, back in November of last year, which details the presence of genetically engineered grains in a number of leading 'natural' cereal brands, including Kellogg's Kashi brand. Shockingly, many of the products tested were found to contain high amounts of genetically engineered grains—some, including Kashi, containing 100 percent genetically engineered grains!”

This info prompted the grocer to swipe the Kashi from his shelves and leave the note. It made the rounds of social media and now Kashi's facing a lot of scrutiny for supposedly misleading their customers.

Kashi's response? David DeSouza, Kashi’s general manager, says they’ve done nothing wrong. "The FDA has chosen not to regulate the term 'natural,' " he says. The company defines natural as "food that's minimally processed, made with no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or sweeteners." And, “Kellogg is not misleading people,” says Barbara Haumann of the Organic Trade Association in Brattleboro, VT. Consumers "are totally confused" and don't understand that the only way to get organic food is to buy organic, she says.

This is very interesting news to me, too, as I eat GoLean almost every day, and before just about every run. Did I think Kashi was organic? I did, as it’s usually sold along the other organic cereals in the grocery store.

Is this really that big of a deal, though? What ingredients in their products are genetically engineered? According to Elizabeth Weize on April 29, 2012, in her USA Today article “Kashi Cereal’s ‘Natural’ Claim Stirs Anger”, “The soy in Kashi cereals comes from soybeans that have had a gene inserted to protect the soybeans from the herbicide Roundup, which kills weeds."

Does this mean that Kashi products (most of which contain soybeans) are really all that bad for you? According to Dr. Mercola’s article, “Glyphosate is the active ingredient the herbicide Roundup, which is used on all genetically engineered Roundup-Ready crops, which have been genetically altered to withstand otherwise lethal doses of the chemical. It causes birth defects in frogs and chicken embryos at far lower levels than used in agricultural and garden applications.” His article states it mostly affects the development of the brain and spinal cord.

According to the WebMD feature article, “Are Biotech Foods Safe to Eat?” ( there’s no food that is totally safe (whether it contains GMO or not) and it’s very unlikely to have a reaction to a GMO food.

However, there is a pretty serious account involving Starlink modified corn. The WebMD article states that “In 2000, StarLink (approved by the EPA for animal feed in 1998 but not for human consumption because of concerns it contained a protein that could cause dangerous allergic reactions) turned up in many Kraft products, including their Taco Bell corn shells. Some corn crops were accidentally contaminated with the StarLink seed.” Some people got horrible allergic reactions and there were recalls. Federal tests didn’t indicate the GMO corn caused the reactions, but they also didn’t say that they didn’t cause them.

It looks like some of the GMO foods out there could affect us pretty badly. It’s hard to know what’s safe and what’s not. Is there any way to ensure we’re not consuming GMO products? Yes. The 100% USDA Certified Organic label.

According to Dr. Mercola, the breakdown of the labels goes as follows: products labeled "USDA 100% organic" must contain only organically produced materials, "USDA organic" must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients, whereas, "made with organic ingredients" can contain anywhere between 70 to 95 percent organic ingredients.

We can look at this from multiple perspectives. Discussions on Facebook have led some consumers of Kashi to be quite angry as they feel they've been misled, while some others ask what the big deal is, as it's difficult to avoid GMO packaged foods as it is.

Do I feel Kashi lied to us? Sort of. But, they did follow the rules even though they took advantage of a loophole.

And in an effort to appease those worried about what’s in Kashi’s foods, Kashi plans to make all of their products 70% organic by 2015. So at least they’ll be able to put “made with organic ingredients” on their packaging.

All this hoopla has got me wondering if my natural peanut butter contains GMO. I hope not, since I love it so! Maybe I'll call Peanut Butter and Co. and Naturally More to find out...

This article is meant to give education on the nutritional content of certain foods. It was not written by a licensed nutrition professional. Please consult your doctor if there are changes you'd like to make to your diet.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pre-Race Fuel and Carbo Loading: Eat Like An Elite

It can be said that the American who made the most history at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games was Michael Phelps. (I hear you ladies - hooting in the background!) He won eight gold medals, more than any other athlete in a single Olympic game. He may have been born with the perfect body to assist his swimming ability. He also has some of the most knowledgeable coaches in the world to guide his training. However, there is one thing you can control that can make you perform like Phelps. You can't argue against the fact that his diet greatly helps his talents in the pool, and you too can use food to fulfill your greatest talents while running a race.

Extreme super athletes who are the best in the world, like Phelps, require extreme super diets. So what does Michael Phelps eat that keeps him in tip top shape? Up to 12,000 calories per day. It sounds outrageous, but according to the New York Post article titled Phelps' Pig Secret: Boy Gorge on August 13, 2008, “Phelps lends a new spin to the phrase 'Breakfast of Champions' by starting off his day by eating three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise. He follows that up with two cups of coffee, a five-egg omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar and three chocolate-chip pancakes. At lunch, Phelps gobbles up a pound of enriched pasta and two large ham and cheese sandwiches slathered with mayo on white bread - capping off the meal by chugging about 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks. For dinner, Phelps really loads up on the carbs - what he needs to give him plenty of energy for his five-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week regimen - with a pound of pasta and an entire pizza. He washes all that down with another 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks.” [Long quote] An Olympic athlete such as Phelps, who trains consistently and is a professional, has extraordinary fueling needs to perform well at his sport. Although you may not train as often or for nearly as long as Olympic athletes, us mortals still need a proper diet leading up to our race that prepares our bodies for optimal performance.

What is the proper nutrition preparation you need for a goal race? Well, you want to be at the start line with a body that is well-fueled and well-hydrated. According to the book Endurance Sports Nutrition by Suzanne Girard Eberle MS, RD, “if you've trained properly and eat a normal diet the few days before the event, you can expect to store roughly 2,000 calories of glycogen [which is] enough fuel for approximately 90 to 120 minutes of vigorous activity.” Your muscles depend on carbohydrate as fuel at this time, as well as the efficient breakdown of fat, so it makes sense to carbo-load at this time to boost your glycogen stores.

There are, however, a few misconceptions out there about how to carbo-load. Many of us think that the best way to carbo-load leading up to a race is to eat pasta. A LOT of it. The best way to carbo-load in a way that your body can handle best is to eat until you are full, and not plate upon plate of spaghetti. According to Runner's World's article The Right Stuff in their October 2008 issue, “Flooding your system with more carbs than it can process may lead to digestive problems that will have you running to the porta-potty every mile.” They say to consume moderate amounts and not huge servings for several days before. “Massive amounts of any food throw your system a curve ball,” says Beth Janquet, RD, a nutritionist for Cherry Creek Nutrition in Denver. Think about what carbs you like best at each meal. Breakfast could include a bagel, pancakes or oatmeal; at lunch some potatoes or a few slices of pizza; [with] a plate of spaghetti for dinner. “Eat just to fullness, so you don't get indigestion or have trouble sleeping,” says Tara Gidus, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

Another mistake is to believe that you need to consume large amounts of water the week before the race. This is also not true. From the same Runner's World article, it is stated that “not only will chugging too much water before a race leave you feeling bloated, but it will also dilute your electrolytes [which are] minerals responsible for optimal muscle contraction. Diluted electrolyte levels can cause muscle weakness or cramping, and, in extreme cases, can lead to hyponatremia, a life-threatening condition triggered by abnormally low sodium levels.” Generally, follow the same guidelines as you would for carbo-loading. “For days leading up to the race, drink fluids as you normally would to stay hydrated. These can include water, sports drink, juice, even coffee and tea.” Then again on race day morning, drink a glass a few hours before the race. Then drink another cup of water or sports drink about ten minutes before the gun goes off. (I personally prefer sports drink so I have some extra electrolytes and calories to help my performance.)

What particular fuel you eat leading up to your race is very important as well. Not only is it smart to stick to more carbohydrate-rich foods, it's also vital that you stick with the foods your body knows. Avoid exotic foods you've never had before, such as fancy foreign cheeses or raw sushi (celebrate with interesting food AFTER the race), especially the night before. Runner's World says “You won't know how a food affects you until you've tried it - and last minute experimentation could send you bolting for the bathroom and leave you dehydrated.” Eat what is familiar to your body the whole week before the race. Find out what sports drinks and carb gels are going to be handed out at the race so you're sure you can use them along the course (and if you don't like them, bring your own). Also, it's completely your call when it comes to the typical pasta dinner the night before the race. If pasta's not your thing, many other good carb rich dinners include lots of vegetables, pizza, rice, potatoes, and bread. Actually, it's also recommended to go ahead with a glass of wine or a bottle of beer to help you relax prior to your race, that is, if it's part of your normal routine. When Deena Kastor dines on her pasta with pesto the night before a race, she toasts her friends and family with a matching glass of her favorite red wine!

In fact, there isn't one perfect way to fuel for any one person, since everyone's body and diet is different. It's a personal process. In the July/August 2008 issue of Running Times, an article called What the Elites Eat outlined the various foods elite marathoners eat the week and the night before their race.

Peter Gilmore, 31, who took 5th place at Boston Marathon in 2006 says this of his pre-race diet: “If the race is on Sunday, I'll typically start overloading a little at dinner on Wednesday. What I've learned being coached by Jack Daniels is that you can't just eat one big meal before a race because your body is only going to be able to store an extra 300 calories worth of carbs each day. So you have to eat a little more each day and then you can really top off your tanks. Really we're only talking about an extra bagel or an extra bowl of Grape Nuts.”

And Tera Moody, 27, who placed 5th place at women's US Olympic Trials Marathon eats as follows: “In the week before, I actually cut back on carbs for a couple of days and eat a lot of nuts and protein and fats. Then a few days before the race, I try to eat just simple carbs with only a little bit of protein and fats. I eat a lot the day before a race. At the trials in Boston, I had a corn dog and French fries the night before the race. My theory is, and it might just be a mental thing, that pasta doesn't really have enough fat in it. For a marathon, you're going to burn off carbs pretty fast, and what works for me is having a high-fat meal that is going to stay with me and fuel me for the race.”

So trust your body and go with what you know your stomach can handle, but do your best to eat more carbs leading up to race day. The key is to top off your glycogen stores so that you can do your best. You owe it to yourself since it's a component of race preparation that you can control - and it can have a huge impact on how well you do! Accompany all of your hard training work along with a good pre-race nutrition plan and you'll for sure have a great race. And who's to say you can't be like Michael Phelps someday? One can dream, right? Of fried egg sandwiches...or a pound of pasta...or an entire pizza...
I am quite surprised, however, to NOT see any peanut butter in this super athlete's diet! To make up for that, I've included a recipe from American record-holder for the fastest mile, Alan Webb, below, where the main component is PB. Along with it are other elite's carb-rich recipes. Enjoy!

From Scott Jurek, seven-time winner of the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run:

Sweet Potatoes with Garlicky Greens
Sweet Potatoes
4 sweet potatoes, sliced in wedges
1 TBSP olive or canola oil
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp rosemary
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss potatoes with oil and seasonings. Arrange on a preseasoned baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until potatoes are cooked through and lightly browned.

Garlicky Greens
1 TBSP olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and minced (optional)
1 bunch of kale, collards, or chard, deveined and coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp of sea salt
Preheat skillet and olive oil. Saute garlic and pepper for one to two minutes. Add greens and salt. Saute for five to eight minutes. Serves 4.
Per serving: Calories 230/Carbs 38g/Protein 4g/Fat 7g
From Deena Kastor, America's fastest female marathoner and Olympic medalist:

Deena's Caramelized Onion and Fig Pizza
Pizza dough for 1 pizza
1 TBSP olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 cup arugula leaves, packed
6 dried figs, sliced
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Roll out dough to fit baking pan. Preheat over to 450 degrees. Heat oil and saute onions with salt until brown. Add sugar and balsamic vinegar. Cook for 10 minutes. Spread onion mixture over dough, leaving an edge for the crust. Top with arugula, figs, and crumbled cheese. Place in oven for 15 minutes or until crust is golden. Remove from oven. Drizzle balsamic vinegar on top. Slice into sixths and serve.
Per serving: Calories 190/Carbs 24g/Protein 6g/Fat 9g

And of course, since we all love peanut butter:

'The Webb' Sandwich, by Alan Webb
2 slices whole grain bread
4-6 TBSP peanut butter (chunky or smooth - your choice!)
2-3 TBSP applesauce
Toast both slices of bread. Spread 2-3 TBSP PB on each piece of bread. Spread on a heaping TBSP of applesauce on each piece, over the PB. Try to spread on the PB and applesauce fairly quickly after toasting, and serve while still warm. Since the applesauce is refrigerated (unless you just got it from the store and it's at room temperature) when you eat it, you get warm toast and cool applesauce.
Per serving: nutrition facts based on type of bread, peanut butter, and applesauce you use.

This article is meant to give education on the nutritional content of certain foods. It was not written by a licensed nutrition professional. Please consult your doctor if there are changes you'd like to make to your diet.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Enough sleep keeps you smart and happy!

My previous post stated how getting too little sleep can potentially cause us to gain weight. There was another post I found which stated that getting enough sleep keeps you at your smartest, keenest, and most positive.

How the heck so, you may ask?

The blogger for Huffington Post, Terri Cole, therapist, life coach and CEO for the Live Fearless and Free movement (, talks about why getting ample sleep is so important:

"According to a study published in Sleep Medicine, sleep deprivation is associated with lowered self-regard, assertiveness, self-actualization and positive thinking.”


 She says that, even if you aren't an anxious person, "the nonstop motion and lack of sleep [can shoot your] anxiety levels up. Anxiety and fear feed off each other. They exist because of each other -- they are each other's host and parasite. The more anxiety you feel, the more fear is dominating your life. Anxiety presents itself because we are afraid of repeating old patterns (ruminating about the past) or of what could happen (projecting fearfully into the future). When we live in the past or the future, we lose the ability to be fully present in the here and now. Time flies when you are nowhere to be found."

Jeepers! Wouldn't it be better to just avoid all that and get some sleep?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sleep is underrated!

My wise and eloquent aunt, who I takes very good care of herself both physically and emotionally, told me today that she usually gets about 5-6 hours of sleep a night. This flabbergasted me. If I get less than 7 several nights in a row, I get sick. Do you get this little of sleep? If so…here’s an amazing reason from Huffington Post to get more.

“Being short on sleep affects the hormones that regulate appetite, stimulating hormones that signal hunger and suppressing those that signal feelings of satiety, or fullness. When we're low on sleep, we burn fewer calories during our waking -- and our sleeping -- hours. Lack of sleep also compromises judgment and willpower, leaving us more vulnerable to making poor food choices and to overeating. Making sleep a priority protects against these weight-gain risks.

A new study suggests that sleep is even more powerful than we knew, and has the capacity to influence weight gain at the genetic level. Researchers from the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center have discovered that the amount of time we sleep -- our sleep duration -- can affect how active a role our genes play in our weight.”

More info on their research…

Friday, June 1, 2012

Running Article: What's Your Nutrition Plan?

Hey there, athlete! So you've got that big race coming up. I bet you're getting excited since race day is soon. Gotta make sure you're prepared. What's your nutrition plan?

I remember someone asking this before one of my half marathons. My response was a pause, a puzzled look; I uttered "Um..." I had no idea what they meant!

Has anyone asked you this before a big race? What was your response?

I am surprised at the number of amazing and talented athletes that DON'T have a nutrition plan for their next goal race. It's very important for you to have an adequate nutrition plan for optimal performance. Any competitive runner or triathlete I know wants to perform at their best and/or get as much of an edge on their competition as possible. Honestly, having a smart and well-planned-out nutrition plan for your next race could be your key to making that goal time or being the best competitor out there!
What is a nutrition plan and why is it important to have one? The plan itself should outline what carbohydrate and hydration you will use and at what times to help your body perform its best in a race. It is necessary to have one to prevent loss of energy and "bonking," also known as "hitting the wall." According to Suzanne Girard Eberle MS, RD, author of Endurance Sports Nutrition, "if you eat a normal athlete's diet with about 60% of your calories from carbohydrate, you can store 1,400 to 1,800 calories worth of glycogen in your muscles on any given day. An athlete can burn through that in one to three hours of moderate- to high-intensity continuous exercise. [When you ‘hit the wall’], muscle fibers lack the fuel needed for contraction and fatigue takes over." Depleted glycogen stores mean your body can't turn fat into energy fast enough. The liver then no longer releases glucose at the right rate to fuel the brain and muscles, and you, in the end, lose focus, get dizzy, and become disoriented. In worse case scenarios, you may even hallucinate.

That is quite the scary thought! Remember, though, that this only happens in the worst cases. In order to be the most prepared, glycogen stores must be fully topped off and geared for whatever length of race you are running.

Here are some general rules of thumb based on different race lengths:

Marathon: 8 ounces of sports drink pre-race, water and/or sports drink when necessary to prevent dehydration (which means to drink enough so that you don't ever get thirsty, but not so much that the fluid is sloshing in your stomach or slowing you down), 100 to 250 calories per hour (or 25 to 60 grams of carbs), the first hour after the start

(Note: Caloric needs are based on the size of the athlete. Females under 150 pounds probably only need 100 calories per hour, whereas a male over 200 pounds would require 250 calories per hour.)

Half Marathon: 8 ounces of sports drink pre-race, water and/or sports drink when necessary to prevent dehydration, 100 to 250 calories an hour into the race

10K: 8 ounces of sports drink pre-race, water and/or sports drink when necessary to prevent dehydration (only one drink stop is probably needed unless you're a heavy sweater)

5K: 8 ounces of sports drink pre-race (or water if you've had a carb-heavy breakfast), then race to the finish!

Post-race, make sure to keep drinking water to replenish your muscles and the electrolytes you've worked off. Hydration is very important - even after the race is over! I've never had difficulty accomplishing this. I remember during some hot summer races (such as Bellin or Bret Younger) I was crazily craving that icy, refreshing bottle of water waiting for me at the end. It was all I could think about and it was what encouraged me to finish as fast as I could.

Now, for the fun part! You can choose which products will work best for you based on your tastes and caloric needs. What's even better is that most of these aids aren't very expensive and can be found at most sports stores. There are a variety of carb aids out on the sports market shelves that can help you during your race: different flavors of Gatorade, Powerade, juice (though it should probably be watered down to prevent an upset stomach), electrolyte drinks, carb gels (there are a plethora of companies that make a large variety of tasty flavors), and solid packaged carb aids. Even fruits (bananas are popular as they're the easiest to digest and contain lots of potassium for muscle function) or dried fruits are great quick[-]and[-]easy-to-carry carb sources. My personal favorite? CANDY! Gummi bears, jelly beans, Sweet Tarts...these are amazing for fast, simple carbs for instant energy!

If you're not sure what will work for you it's best to just buy it and try it out on your next training run. If you fumble with Gu gels (I once got it all over my face while racing - what a sticky mess) it might be better for you to try Shot Bloks or Sports Beans. Make sure to pick flavors that you like a lot, otherwise you won't want to take it on race day. Some people absolutely can't stand a chocolate-flavored gel, yet the owner of Fox Valley Running Company's favorite flavor of Gu is Chocolate Outrage! A fantastic idea is to find out what will be supplied at your race (tip: Fox Cities Marathon is using Carb Boom for its carb aids) and stock up on it long before race day so you know whether or not you want to use it during the race or if you'd prefer to bring your own nutrition.

There's also a huge selection of energy bars on the market. PowerBar was probably one of the very first quick energy, nutrient-dense, and extremely portable forms of nutrition out there; they're still around for those reasons exactly. If you've ever stood in front of the aisle at your supermarket that showcased all of these bars, it can be quite a conundrum figuring out which one suits you. According to Liz Applegate, Ph D and writer for Runner's World, "given all the [many different] versions, including women-only, high-protein, and meal-replacement bars, try to read labels carefully if you want to fuel up properly." She says that for the best fueling before and/or during a run, a bar should contain around 25 grams of carbs and less than 15 grams of protein (which isn't a necessary fuel source during exercise). It is also good to avoid fat, which slows your stomach's digestion of the carbs inside the bar. "Eat one bar about an hour before a run. If you're running for more than an hour, eat one high-carb bar per hour of running, along with ample water."

I did make the claim that a nutrition plan may be just what you need to beat your competition or to run your goal time. The only thing I can promise about whether or not a nutrition plan may actually work is that it must be practiced. Practice your nutrition plan as soon as you can into your training schedule in order to get a good idea for what timing, fluids, and carb aids work for you. Not only should your plan be geared towards what makes you feel the best (and you WILL notice an improvement in performance if you don't currently do this) but also something your stomach can handle. Make sure to pick something that is the most accessible. That is why there are pockets on most running attire. Running clothing companies WANT you to run your best! (A neat marketing ploy, huh?)

While we're on a roll with race strategies, the next column will discuss what you should eat the weeks leading up to that big race (more specifically half marathon and marathon) and the nutritional keys to optimal recovery post-race so that your body feels the best it can after all that hard work.
Although I tout the true benefits of race gels and carb aids, I have noticed that there are absolutely NO peanut butter-flavored gels out there! Peanut butter-flavored PowerBars are pretty good, but I prefer gel come race day. Maybe I should write Gu or Carb Boom and request peanut butter chocolate (think Reese's) or peanut butter banana flavors? Delicious! If they existed, I'd want to go on a long run just to try one out!

This article is meant to give education on the nutritional content of certain foods. It was not written by a licensed nutrition professional. Please consult your doctor if there are changes you'd like to make to your diet.