Wednesday, April 9, 2008

a true sugar addict: a nutrition discussion

hello, my name is julia, and i am a sugar addict. for the past 90 days (with a few exceptions) i have abstained from refined sugars for my upcoming half marathon. i'm not gonna lie, it sucks. i am waiting for april 19th anxiously, when i can sink my teeth (with little to no guilt) into pf chang's great wall of chocolate, ooooh, or a bag of skittles, or gail's chocolate chip cookies. i would top it off maybe with a milk shake or my all time favorite candy, the BIG strawberry flavored laffy taffy. i am getting sick just thinking about it. :)

but given the subject of food, i get asked all the time if i can eat whatever i want because i run. my real and honest answer: no. twinkies and diet coke on a friday night do not equal a great run on saturday morning. being a runner naturally pushes you to eat healthier because your body, as a runner, demands it. what i'd like to discuss is what i eat regularly, the night before a run, right before a run, during a run, and then after. i am not a nutritionist (though i'd like to be someday), and do not profess to be an expert. but what i do works for me, and that's what i'll share. i'd love to hear the same from you.

what i eat regularly: now that i've moved to the east coast i've had a little more time to prepare meals. it's refreshing after six years of wendy's, chipotle, and cereal. jonathan and i will sit down every sunday together and plan our meals for the week and go grocery shopping together the next day. true story. our favorite meals include trader joe's mahi, mahi; kaylynn's famous spinach, bell pepper chicken salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar; black bean chili; whole wheat blueberry pancakes; and well - chipotle. what we try to gravitate towards is fresh (sometimes organic) ingredients that have nutritional value. we make sure each dinner has a vegetable, a simple carbohydrate, and protein. nothing is ever processed or refined - if possible. breakfasts usually include kashi or nature's path with skim milk with simply orange to wash down a multi-vitamin. costco carries all of our breakfast products, so we can get it relatively inexpensively in bulk.

the night before a race: this is where the traditional carb load comes in. my carb of choice is spaghetti - whole wheat if i can get it. because whole wheat is a simple carbohydrate it is more easily absorbed in your body for energy storage (sugar = glucose) and is ready for the next day's events. i like to eat some sort of spinach or vegetable for that extra psychological vitamin boost and TONS OF WATER. drink all day long. staying hydrated for me is crucial for a race. the more i drink, the better. on that note: i have the hardest time drinking water - my body either craves it or hates it. yes, these are the symptoms of dehydration. so, i don't practice every day what i preach, but at least the day before a race, i'm drinking h2o like it's going out of style.

race day: everyone has their own ritual, that's for sure. mine includes waking up at the last possible moment (kaylynn, rebecca, maren, lindsey - any of you could attest to this right?) and eating a peanut butter and jam sandwich. (whole wheat bread, natural peanut butter, and just yummy jam) mmmmmmm. what this equates to me is again a carbohydrate (bread, jam) and a protein (peanut butter). i drink a bit of gatorade and water, but not too much to give me fishbowl stomach, and out the door i go. the experts will tell you to wake up at least two hours before you run and eat a 300 calorie meal before you run. personally, i just can't get my butt out of bed that early. :) i also make sure to down a few pepto bismol tablets to make sure i don't hit the porta potties too often, or at all. yes, runners - you know what i am talking about.

during the race: GUUUUUU. i load up my fuel belt with my choice of gatorade (3 flasks) and water (1 flask) and pack in my GU and iPod and i'm ready to roll. for a half marathon i like to take a GU at mile 5 and 10 (gives me something to look forward to) and at a marathon every 5 miles and then another 1/2 GU around mile 23 for a psychological boost. all these little suckers are, are 100 calories of pure sugar gel. yum. i make sure to take each GU with water to help digestion. (keep in mind that after gatorade, GU, and your PB&J before, you've ingested around 700+ calories for a long run). experts tell us to drink six fluid ounces of sports drink every 20 minutes or so - my needs are much less. what i tell people is drink when you feel like you need to drink - but before you become dehydrated - because once you've gone there, your body won't recover and you can kiss that PR goodbye.

after the race: YAY!!! celebration time. this is where my sugar comes in. wait - i've done all that work and now i eat whatever i want?! it sounds awful, but true. the body's metabolism is sooo high at this point your body will accept anything to replace all the calories you've burned. (ps, did you know it takes 3,500 calories burned to lose 1 pound?) ideally it should again be whole foods, full of vitamins and protein and good carbs, but what's the fun in that?! yes, i am awful. generally jona and i head to chipotle after a really long run - and walgreen's for our hit of sugar and candy. yum.

i hope this stuff makes sense and is somewhat helpful. sports nutrition (and general nutrition for that matter) is a really interesting subject. i hope to become an expert someday!


  1. thanks for posting this. I have such a problem eating before running because of digestion issues, even several hours before a run....

  2. Haha...seems like everyone is talking nutrition. Here's a link to one of my other favorite blog sites:

    In the mean time....I have always wanted to consult with a nutritionist. I wanna know if I'm truly getting the 'right' blend of carbs, protein, veggies, etc. for my body. Maybe I'll put that on my to-do list?!?! Along with everything else....

  3. Oh how I wish I were eating healthier. I have been eating a lot of fruit, not enough vegetables, a salad here and there, and too much junk. My half is tomorrow, so I'm drinking a lot of water today thanks to this blog post. I always forget to drink water and you reminded me. I'll make sure I have wheat pasta and salad tonight. Sometimes I'm just too lazy. Thanks for the perfect post just in time!

  4. And now that I think about it, the first thing I'm going to do after my half tomorrow is buy gummy candy so I can hang out in front of the TV all day. I'm considering it my last calm day until next Monday. Isn't that funny that a half marathon is part of my "calm" day?? I love it. Mmmmm. Gummy candy...

  5. Great post! Thanks for the tips!