What are Macros and Why are they Beneficial?
Tips & good vibes by Jillian
Fueling your body is important for everyday life. If you are active, it’s even more important that you are adequately replenishing your energy stores with the right nutrients at the right time. If you are a runner, you have likely experienced “good” runs and “bad” runs. First of all, I don’t believe there is ever a “bad” run for the armature runner. If you chose to get up and move your body in a healthy way that’s a win! Some runs may feel better than others. One day you may feel like you can run for miles and other days it’s hard to get through the first mile. There are a lot of factors that come into play when that happens. Stress, sleep, hydration, environment, and the topic of this blog post, nutrition all affect how you perform during a run. If you are a professional athlete your needs will be different than an amateur runner. There are, however, basic nutrition concepts that will improve your overall performance regardless of your running level. What you eat matters, it’s not the only thing but it’s very important.
To move your body, you need a steady source of energy. If you are active you need to match your energy (calorie) intake with how much energy you are expending. Carbohydrates are a macronutrient that is made out of sugars linked together. It’s your body’s main source of energy. Glucose, which comes from carbohydrates, is the brain’s energy source (1). There are two main types of carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are made out of monosaccharides and disaccharides (small carbs) that are found in milk, fruits, processed foods, table sugars, candies, and other sugary drinks. Complex carbohydrates consist of oligosaccharides and polysaccharides (big carbs) that are found in foods like vegetables, peas, beans, and whole grains. Fiber is also a form of complex carbohydrates that the body doesn’t break down, it helps with digestion. When you eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into simple sugar molecules, like glucose, and digested primarily in the small intestines and absorbed into the bloodstream. Glucose is stored as liver and muscle glycogen (1). When you are active the glucose that is stored in your liver and that is already in your bloodstream is used for energy and to maintain your blood sugar (glucose) levels.
If you will be running or exercising for more than an hour aim to get some carbs in through foods such as an English muffin with jelly, a banana with nut butter, yogurt, dried fruit, dates, gram crackers, granola, bread with honey, and applesauce. You can customize this to what you like but make sure you aren’t taking in too much or too little. Excess calories may cause weight gain and too little will mean you don’t have enough to utilize for your run.
For post-run/exercise try to get in both simple and complex carbs as soon as possible. Simple carbs are important for your cells and muscles to have access to quick energy to promote growth. Complex carbs take longer to digest, they help keep you sustained and prevent sharp spikes and drops in blood sugar. If you are exercising for more than 90 minutes, try to eat carbs within at least 2 hours (2). Good sources of carbs after a run include but are not limited to oats, walnuts, yogurt, berries, whole wheat bread, and cottage cheese with fruit.
Protein is found everywhere in your body. It’s in your muscles, skin, hair, and bones. Proteins drive enzymatic reactions and metabolic processes. Protein is not a significant contributor to fuel during exercise; however, muscle breakdown does occur and can be used as a source of fuel (3). When you run the first source of energy used is from carbohydrates. If you deplete your carbohydrate energy source protein will be used as energy. Ideally, you want to use glucose as your first energy source and not protein. Protein is important for muscle growth and repair of damaged tissue from exercising. Eating protein before a run is good but make sure you combine it with carbs. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that the average person needs a dietary reference intake (DRI) of 0.8 g/kg of protein to prevent muscle loss (3). For professional/endurance runners needs increase. There is no need to excessively take in more than the recommended amount of protein for your exercise level. Excess protein will not promote muscle growth (2). If you are taking in enough calories to maintain weight, you are likely consuming enough protein.
Healthy fat is part of a balanced diet and should never be eliminated from the. The recommended amount of fat for professional/endurance athletes does not differ much from what is recommended for non-athletes. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend that 20-35% of caloric intake should come from dietary fat for the average adult (3). Essential fatty acids such as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) are healthy fats that should be incorporated into the diet. Good sources include “fatty fish” such as salmon and tuna, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, avocado, flaxseeds, and avocado/olive oils (4).
The key is to make sure you are properly fueled for your run. Adequate hydration throughout the day along with proper fueling from nutrition allows you to reach your fitness goals. The proper pre-run fuel allows you to feel energized during your run while utilizing energy properly. Post-run nutrition allows you to recover from your workout and build strength for future exercises. With proper nutrition, hydration, and rest endurance improves and so does the quality of your running.
THE POWER OF SLEEP
Tips & good vibes by Jillian
Recovery is an important set of actions that allows the body to heal, helps prevent the potential risk of injury, and ultimately improves athletic performance. Exercise or any prolonged/intense taxing of the body causes muscle tissue breakdown, fluid loss, and depletion of energy stores. Most athletes are aware that recovery is an important part of achieving peak performance. Recovery encompasses a range of actions that include short and long-term practices. Short-term recovery (active recovery) is directly after intense exercise. The goal is to keep the body moving at a lower intensity and not repeat the same intense movements during the workout while keeping the heart rate above a resting state. During short-term recovery, the goal is to promote protein synthesis, replenish energy stores and fluid status through proper nutrition. This is the time when your body is actively repairing soft tissue and removing the buildup of metabolic waste products from intense exercise (1). Long-term recovery refers to periods that are built into a training schedule. This includes cross-training, modifying workouts, and changing training variables. Sleep is a critical form of recovery that promotes physiological and mental recovery in athletic and exercise performance.
What is sleep?
While sleeping, your body is disengaged and unresponsive to the environment around you. During this time your body goes through two major sleep stages. Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM). Throughout the stages of NREM, your body is relatively still, brain waves are low frequency and higher voltage, heart rate is slow and regular, and blood pressure is low (2). During the REM stages, brain waves are of higher frequency (similar to during wakefulness), eye movement is rapid, and the body is in a state of paralysis (2). The quality of these sleep patterns affects physical and mental wellbeing and ultimately athletic performance.
Why is sleep important for athletes?
Deprivation of sleep is associated with increased catabolic and reduced anabolic hormones, which ultimately inhibits muscle recovery by impairing muscle protein synthesis (2). Researchers that published a study in the Biological Psychiatry, A Journal of Psychiatric Neuroscience and Therapeutics, provide data that indicates that sleep disturbances and not getting enough sleep are risk factors for increased inflammation (3).
Sleep allows the brain to process information, rebuild muscle, and allows organs to rest and recover. During sleep, the body releases several hormones that promote recovery. For example, the Human Growth Hormone (HGH), stimulates growth and cell reproduction (4). Sleep allows your sympathetic nervous system to relax, stress hormones like Cortisol decrease, and supports immune system health. A consistent lack of good sleep results in inadequate hormone levels that are related to muscle recovery, stress, and mood. All of which factor into the short and long-term performance of athletes.
How much sleep is needed for athletes is variable and depends on the type of sport/exercise, duration, and intensity. How much sleep athletes need is beyond the scope of this short review, however, it is worth noting that athletes may need increased sleep along with the general guideline that adults receive between 7-9 hours of sleep in 24 hours (5).
Sleep optimizes recovery in athletic performance, making it just as important as the training itself. So, make it a priority to get in the extra Z’s! Your body will thank you.
BUSTING NUTRITION MYTHS
Tips & good vibes by Emma
Nutrition can be confusing. There is so much information out there, and much of it is flawed, misinterpreted, or flat-out false. Why do nutrition myths exist?
Some reasons relate to who is putting the nutrition information out there. Many writers or bloggers who write about nutrition do not have the relevant educational and professional backgrounds.
Other reasons relate to the messages themselves and how we share them. The core elements of evidence-based nutrition are not appealing or seductive; for example, “eat your fruits and vegetables.” This statement might be erroneously re-written as, “cure cancer by eating carrots.” Such a statement may lead to a myth about the “powers” of eating a certain vegetable.
Like in all sciences, we continually learn more about nutrition through research. There is still a lot we don’t know about food and nutrition.
Lastly, what we choose to put on our plates is rarely simple.
How do we choose what to eat?
What we choose to eat is complex. Factors that affect what we eat include our tastes and preferences, our family’s tastes and preferences, cultural traditions, budgets, values, accessibility, convenience, time, social pressures, and yes, nutrition myths. There is no one way of eating that works for everyone because we are navigating all of these factors when we choose what to eat.
Some nutrition myths persist because of how some people draw on their personal experiences and the experiences of those around them. For example, if me and my friends try a diet and it works for all of us, then our human bias might lead us to believe that this diet works for everyone. We might want to share it on our Instagram pages in an attempt to help other people. While well-intentioned, this is a flawed way of interpreting nutrition science and sharing advice.
We should embrace the many reasons why we choose what to eat. However, we should leave nutrition myths out of this decision. Let’s look to credentialed health professionals to separate myths from facts.
What are examples of common nutrition myths?
Myth: Carbohydrates cause weight gain.
Fact: No one nutrient, food, or food group causes weight gain
Weight gain is complex and cannot be attributed to just one food or food group. In general, weight gain will result when we consume calories in excess of what our body needs to maintain body weight. However, there are other factors that affect body weight
A diet for optimal health includes many foods with carbohydrates, which are our body’s preferred source of energy. When it comes to carbohydrates, consider the quality. Choose carbohydrates that offer other nutrition including fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Complex carbohydrates with fiber digest and absorb more slowly than simple carbohydrates.
Examples of high-quality carbohydrates include whole grains, fruit, vegetables, beans, and lentils.
Myth: Foods with gluten are unhealthy.
Fact: Only some people need to have a gluten-free diet.
Gluten is a group of proteins found in cereal grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. People who are diagnosed by a doctor with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity should avoid foods with gluten. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which eating gluten results in damage to the small intestine. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity is an intolerance to gluten that results in similar symptoms to celiac disease but is not diagnosed as celiac disease. With both conditions, a gluten-free diet will help manage symptoms.
For a person without these conditions, foods with gluten can be part of an overall healthy diet. Emphasize foods that offer more nutrition, such as choosing whole grains over refined grains. Whole grains with gluten include wheat berries and farro.
Myth: A vegetarian or vegan diet does not provide enough protein.
Fact: Many vegetarian foods have protein. Vegetarians and vegans can meet protein needs through careful planning.
There are many types of vegetarianism. Some vegetarians eat eggs, dairy and/or fish. Other vegetarians choose mostly or all plant floods [vegans].
Plant food sources of protein include beans, lentils, soy products (tofu, edamame, tempeh), nuts, and seeds. Whole grains also have protein, although they wouldn’t be considered a source of protein or a protein food.
Vegetarians should choose sources of protein at each meal and snack. Consult your doctor and registered dietitian about your protein needs.
Myth: Snacking is unhealthy.
Fact: Snacking can be part of healthy eating, even when weight loss is a goal.
Depending on our needs and a meal’s size and composition, a meal with carbohydrates, protein, and fat will keep us full for an average of 3-4 hours. In general, most people have a greater time window than 3-4 hours in between meals.
Snacking can help curb hunger while providing fuel to have energy throughout the day. Choose a balanced snack with both protein and a fruit or vegetable. Examples include peanut butter and apple slices, a hard-boiled egg and berries, roasted edamame and carrot sticks, or hummus and celery sticks.
A snack with just carbohydrates, like pretzels, will be digested quickly. This may result in the quick return of hunger and may potentially lead to overeating at the next meal or snack. A balanced snack with protein, carbohydrates, and fiber digests more slowly, keeping us full for longer.
Another reason to include fruits and veggies in snacks is because many people may have trouble fitting them into mealtime. Snacks are an easy way to have an additional serving of fruits and veggies.
Myth: Juicing or cleansing is required to “detox” your body.
Fact: Our body has natural mechanisms through which to detox.
Juices or cleanses claim to aid weight loss, improve skin health, and detox the body by removing toxins, etc. However, there is no one food or diet that can deliver on these promises. In fact, some cleanses, diets, and supplements may be harmful. Talk to your doctor and registered dietitian before taking supplements or following a diet.
We do not need specific foods, drinks, or diets to detox because our body does that for us. Specifically, our liver and kidneys remove waste from our bodies while helping maintain hydration and process medicine and alcohol, among other functions. The lungs and skin are also involved in detoxification.
The best way of eating to promote overall health is a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and lean protein. This way of eating can include other foods too but eaten in smaller amounts less often.