Carbs Boost Performance

Dublin Marathon 2012We’ve all heard to carbo load before a big race. Eat pasta they say. Now a study proves carbs are even more important than fats.

Researchers at Australian Catholic University’s Mary Mackillop Institute for Health Research decided to test the performance of carbs related to running performance by blocking the body’s use of fat.

The study, published in Journal of Applied Physiology, included competitive, male runners. Researchers had them run on a treadmill until they reached exhaustion at a pace of 95 percent of their best half-marathon time. All ate a calorie-free or carbohydrate-heavy meal before and during the run, as well as took nicotinic acid to prevent them from using their fat stores.

Results showed that blocking the body’s ability to use fat did not affect the distance before runners became exhausted. It did also not affect use of carbs. Almost 100 percent of the total energy used came from carbohydrates whether the runners ate or not.


“Competitive runners should focus on dietary strategies that will increase carbohydrate availability before and during competition to optimize race performance in events lasting up to 90 minutes in duration,” according to Jill Leckey, who served as lead author on this study.

Leckey believes the study can apply to even those who are not competitive runners. It’s the runner’s maximum heart rate or oxygen uptake that determines usage of carbohydrates during exercise and not the pace you are running.

What can you do?

For morning runners:
Start out with toast and almond butter or oatmeal with steel cut oats and a drizzle of honey.

For mid-day runners:
Try eating a banana or a slice of toast before your run.

For night-time runners:
Eat around 4 p.m. so your body has digested the carbs properly. A sandwich of lean protein between oat bread would work.

 If you need calories for a longer run, try taking gels that are full of carbs and no fat for energy to make it through the workout.


Vitamin D for Runners

cropped-cross-country_1.jpgWe all know the importance of receiving a proper supply of essential vitamins and minerals. But do runners already get enough Vitamin D? Spending time outdoors in the sun will generate a good supply of Vitamin D, as the sun’s rays automatically provide it–and most runners soak in extra time outside, especially long-distance ones.

But the answer is yes.

According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, “Research suggests vitamin D’s active role in immune function, protein synthesis, muscle function, inflammatory response, cellular growth and regulation of skeletal muscle… It is apparent that the athlete is at an equal risk for vitamin D insufficiency.”  A lack of Vitamin D can cause muscle weakness and influence an athlete’s performance.

The summer months help, as there is prolonged daylight. But especially as shorter days approach, it is important to be cognizant of how much sunlight your body receives. Think of your body as a plant–you need sun to survive.

Who is at risk of a lack of Vitamin D?

If you spend your time running early in the morning, late at night or always indoors, you need to supplement your diet with Vitamin D (over-the-counter vitamins work well). As winter approaches, it is a good idea to make it a habit of taking Vitamin D already. Also, if you are darker skinned, your body will not absorb the sun’s rays as well.

How much is enough?

An ideal level of Vitamin D is greater than 50 ng/ml for optimal performance in runners. Be sure to stay above 40 ng/ml because if you dip below this level, your body will move all of your Vitamin D to metabolic needs.

See Your Doctor

Have your doctor test for your Vitamin D levels and also talk to him or her if you take any medications. They may play a part in how much Vitamin D your body is able to digest.

With the proper amounts, you’ll see a marked improvement in your running abilities.


New Year’s Running Resolutions

girl runningIt’s the first Monday in January, which means you’re probably back to work or back to school. Who hated their alarm clock this morning? I dislike the sound of mine so much I often shove it under my pillow when it goes off. But then my head vibrates 10 minutes later when the snooze alarms. It’s back to the grind and a new year has begun. Although I dislike getting back into the groove of early mornings, I do like the feeling of a life refresh. I get to start over again with new goals.

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions yet? If not, here’s a few to consider that will also make you feel good:

1. Give back. Every race I try to thank at least one volunteer. Those volunteers get up so early in the morning and freeze so I can get my water along the route. I can’t possibly see how it is fun for them. But they do it anyway. Thank them and maybe they’ll come back and help out again.

2. Donate your shoes. You know you’ll need a new pair this year from First to the Finish, so donate your old ones to charity instead of throwing them in the trash. Shoes are like gold to some in less fortunate countries. I traveled to Cuba this year and saw people on the street begging for my running shoes.

3. Do one charity 5K this year. I hate asking people for money, but I would be willing to if I knew it went to a good cause that is important to me and my friends. What causes interest you? Do you know someone who lost their life from cancer? Join Team in Training, or the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

4. Volunteer yourself. Instead of doing one race, volunteer at one.

5. Spend a day cleaning up a trail or a school track. You have probably have left something behind somewhere during a run (like a gel wrapper). Here’s a way to make it better.

Happy 2016!