Category Archives: published articles

Nutrition Nightmare – Traveling healthy

Our Latest installment in Miles and Minutes. PDF link here

Nutrition Nightmare

By Paula Inserra and Wesley Smith

So, you’ve decided to branch out and sign up for an out-of-town race. What could be better than traveling to some exotic place AND running? Your hopes are high! You picked a flat, fast course. Your training was spot on. You’ve endured set-backs, sure, but you’ve pushed through the nagging injuries. You’ve put in the hard work and hammered out a ton of miles in preparation for race day. You’ve done well staying hydrated on runs and your recovery drinks, well, let’s just say they were magical! You’ve eaten right; enough calories, but not too much. High carbohydrates, check. Moderate protein, check. And low fat. You’re fit, your muscles are strong and your glycogen stores are topped off! You are ready!

Then, three days before the big race you pack your bags and head out to the airport. Going through security; “better toss my water bottle”. Uh oh, flight delayed. “I better get something to eat. Hmm, only fast food here. What, $6.25 for a liter of water?! Maybe I should just wait until I get on the plane?” Then the flight attendant hands you a measly 14 pretzels and 6oz of water. “Well this isn’t going to cut it; I’m running a MARATHON in a few days! I guess I’ll just make up for it when I get to the hotel.” You arrive. Your running buddy is dying to try this Italian restaurant he’s heard about. You think, GREAT, finally I’ll get some good carbs. You both order the specialty, lasagna; and I guess one glass of wine can’t hurt, right? Here comes the meal, wait…I thought it came with marinara sauce? This is alfredo!Panic sets in when the waiter explains that they are out of marinara and to make up for it the manager is giving you a BOTTLE of wine on the house….

Does this sound familiar? All of your months of preparation can be jeopardized in a few short days. So what’s a nomad runner to do?

Prepare. Pack healthy snacks and an empty water bottle you can easily refill at water fountains. Search restaurants and come up with healthy options to order in advance. Hit a grocery store when you arrive at your destination to stock up on sports drinks, snacks and to pick up your tried and true pre-race breakfast foods. Don’t leave anything to chance. Most hotel rooms have refrigerators or at the very least an ice-machine. If your room includes a free breakfast, find out what is offered when you check in and if they will be serving early enough for you to make it to the porta-potty before the gun goes off. It’s also always a good idea to have your own foods ready to go. You can always take advantage of the hotel breakfast for the non-necessities like plates, utensils, toaster and condiments; this way you can avoid any extra pre-race anxiety in the event they do run out of bagels and bananas…

Here some power packed options for the nomad runner:

Shopping list (no refrigeration needed)

Fruit: bananas, apples, oranges, raisins, etc.

Bagels, breads, crackers

Cereal

To-go peanut butter or chocolate hazelnut spread

Salty pretzels

Nuts

Sports drinks

Bottled water

Juice boxes

Shelf-stable chocolate milk or soy milk

 

Restaurant Options

Sushi: It’s low in fat, high in carbs and has moderate lean protein. Just make sure it’s fresh and from a reputable place. Add an extra bowl of rice and some miso soup for added carbs and sodium.

Mediterranean: Hummus, pita, rice, grilled skewered meat or chicken, tabouli; great sources of carbs and low in fat.

Italian: Avoid lasagna, ravioli, stuffed shells etc. Stick with plain pasta with a small amount of marinara or other red sauce. Consider non-cream based seafood sauces for all the carbs plus some natural sea salt. Add some bread on the side for an added punch, but skip the butter or olive oil.

American/Pub: Keep it simple. Order some plain grilled fish or chicken, baked potato, small salad or veggie. Add some bread or rolls and avoid sauces, mashed or fried potatoes.

Asian: Simple stir fry with extra rice and soup. Avoid tempura or other fried options to keep it low in fat but max out the sodium with a nice dose of regular soy sauce.

 

Paula Inserra, PhD, RD, is an associate professor at Virginia State University, where she heads the Didactic Program in Dietetics. She holds a doctorate in nutrition science from the University of Arizona.

Wesley Smith, BS, is completing a post-baccalaureate certificate program in nutrition and dietetics at VSU.

Cha Cha Cha Chia….

Another article for the Miles and Minutes Richmond running magazine!

 

Cha Cha Cha Chia…

2012111915400853324_lrgWhat do nutrition, barefoot running and goofy Christmas presents have in common? The Tarahumara; a Native American people of northwest Mexico, described in McDougall’s national bestseller, “Born to Run”.  Tarahumara, literally means “runners on foot” or “those who run fast.” These are the guys who run long distances through rugged terrain, barefoot! Turns out, they also eat chia seeds. Other Central American natives called the chia seed “Indian running food” and warriors would use them as fuel in battle. And yes, it’s the same “cha cha cha chia” that sprouted magical fur in the mid-80’s on those clay figurines.

 

Chia seeds are now in everything from unique tea blends to energy bars. For health and running performance, chia seeds offer fiber, numerous minerals and healthy omega-3 fats, which is all the rage these days. While being a good source of plant protein, chia seeds also contain loads of calcium and are gluten-free, if you’re into that sort of thing. Although you probably tossed that Christmas present long ago, along with the stale fruit cake from Aunt Mabel, we may have you rethinking at least one of those decisions.

 

Let’s start off with what the chia seed is, and then we’ll move into what it is not. Chia seeds come from an annual herb, similar to mint, which is native to parts of Central America.  The word chia comes from the Aztec word chian meaning “oily”. Since you can extract about 30% of its weight in oil, the name is appropriate. For the nutritional nerds out there, its oil is 55% omega-3 and 18% omega-6 which can help balance the ratio of omegas in your diet. The chia seed is very small at about 1mm and can absorb vast quantities of water; up to 12 times its weight, which can help you stay hydrated. It has good fats, is high in plant protein, fiber, and minerals, and it helps reduce blood sugar spikes; when mixed with water it creates a gel which slows the absorption of sugar into the blood. Remember that paste you spread on your chia pet? That’s actually nutritionally beneficial too.

 

You might have already heard about some of these benefits, but is there a downside to these seemingly magic seeds? Of course no food is perfect. Let’s dispel some myths around chia seeds. First, the omega-3 in chia seeds is plant based, like flax seed, which is less useful than the fatty fish omega-3’s. When chia seeds claim to have more omega-3’s than salmon, it’s true on a gram for gram comparison, but it’s quantity over quality. Fish omega-3’s are in a form that packs more of a punch, so much less is needed to give your body what it needs.

 

There’s another myth that says chia seeds will help you lose weight. The idea is that if you eat the seeds dry, they will absorb water in your stomach causing them to expand, making you feel full and hence, reduce your appetite. One study tested this hypothesis; for 12 weeks subjects added 2 oz of chia seeds per day to their diet, but this did not make any significant changes in body weight or health markers. While it may not be a weight loss magic pill, the protein is good, the carbs are slow to break down and the fats are healthy, making chia seeds an overall good choice and a welcome addition to a balanced diet. Caution should be taken when adding any new regiment to your diet, especially before a run or race. We suggest you try it out before race day just in case the added fiber, let’s say, makes you a less than desirable running partner….

 

What makes chia seeds unique, compared to other healthy foods is their ability to absorb water. Leave a teaspoon of chia seeds in half a cup of water for an hour or so and you’ll have something akin to pudding. The soluble fiber in the chia seeds forms a gel, which slows down the digestive process, giving you a more controlled release of carbohydrates and water. Eating this “pudding” after a run will help you rehydrated as your body breaks down the water logged chia seeds.  Putting a serving of chia seeds in your coconut water, or your homemade hydration drink (check last month’s article for recipes), can help you prevent dehydration and recover after a long run.