Food For Thought…..

by Jeff Horowitz – Smart Training (excerpts also from Wall Street Journal’s Personal Journal)

In case you missed it, an article in the Wall Street Journal’s Personal Journal section of Novemebr 22, “Countdown To a Food Coma”, gave some unexpected support for running and other exercise. The WSJ reported that researchers had found that your body’s reaction to big meals can be an indicater of future heart problems. And interesting for runners, exercise immediately before a big meal — and a regular habit of exercising — can help insulate your body from this harm. Says the WSJ: “Th[e] post-meal recovery period is being studied by scientists who are increasingly finding that what happens in the body after eating a big meal doesn’t just bring on sleepiness, commonly known as food coma. It can also increase the risk of later health problems. “Everybody absorbs fats, sugars and other nutrients differently. These variations can provide clues about a person’s risk for common medical conditions, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes, research shows. Even in healthy people, cells that line the blood vessels temporarily function less efficiently after a person eats a high-fat meal.

“Researchers also are studying strategies for reducing risks in the period immediately after a meal, known as the postprandial phase. While going for a walk after eating might help digestion, for example, recent studies suggest that exercising 12 or more hours before the meal can prevent one of the most damaging effects—a post-meal spike in a type of fat called triglycerides.

One of the biggest tasks for the body after eating is to deal with fats in the blood. Cholesterol, particularly LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, infiltrates the walls of the arteries and forms plaques, which can block blood flow or eventually rupture, leading to heart attack and stroke. The condition is known as atherosclerosis.
     “Triglycerides, which typically peak after a big meal, are present in food and are also converted by the body from other nutrients, like carbohydrates. Triglycerides are particularly problematic because they are so good at penetrating the arterial wall.
    ”In a follow-up study, also published in JAMA, the research team found that testing for elevated triglycerides after eating was a better predictor of future heart attack than measurements taken while a person was fasting, which is the typical method during a checkup. Triglyceride counts after eating also were a more accurate predictor of stroke in women than were cholesterol measurements, according to a study published this year in Annals of Neurology.
     Light exercise like a slow walk, done continuously for 30 minutes or more, appears to reduce the peak in triglycerides that occurs after eating a meal some 12 to 16 hours later.
     It’s unclear exactly why there is a delay, but exercise induces a number of cellular responses that require different amounts of time before taking effect…Other research has suggested that the benefits of exercise on fat processing can last as long as 48 hours.
     The ideal is to be consistently active. But if people are more sedentary and want to time their exercise, it is best to take that long walk half a day before a big meal.

NUTRITION – HOW IMPORTANT IS IT AS PART OF YOUR TRAINING PLAN

Knowing about nutrition and what to eat is an extremely integral part of endurance sports.  What you eat can have a dramatic effect on your mood and running performance, so it is worthwhile to take some time and thought to what you put in your body when you want to perform well.  The most well planned and executed training plans can end quickly on race day if the athlete neglects any and all aspects of nutrition. That being said one can also get lost in the amount of information that is currently present in regards to what you should eat and how much.  Athletes can by overwhelmed with the amount of  information on television, magazines, race expos, training camps and the internet of so called healthy energy foods that over the years have become a multi-million dollar industry.

The simple truth is that the  foods that work best for most ahletes are the same ones our hunter-gatherer ancestors ingested: lean meats and fish from wild sources, vegetable protein sources, fresh fruits and vegetables that provide whole carbohydrates and natural unsaturated fats found in nuts, fish and vegetables. Not only are these foods not processed but they are mainly alkaline in nature thus help fight inflammation in the body.

Once you are able to improve your lifestyle diet you can start incorporating training specific or race specific nutritional products such as sports drinks, gels, bars and other powders that provide training/racing benefits. The number of products in the market in this category is too many to mention in this article but CK SPORTS supplies a majority of the industry leaders. The key is to experiment with these products during training so you know they agree with your system and when it is necessary to take them.

In general you should incorporate the following points to help improve your nutritional habits:

  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables as they will provide you with most of your daily carbohydrates and they help keep body inflammation at a minimum.

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently which aids in proper digestion, doesn’t shock your insulin levels and stops you from over-eating.

  • Avoid saturated and trans fats as they increase inflammation in the body and are one of the causes of cardiovascular disease.

  • Eat lean protein as this will help you recover from harder workouts, promote lean muscle mass which burns the most calories and balances out blood sugar levels.

  • Avoid high-glycemic foods and drinks other than when your body needs them which is immediately before, during and after workouts.

  • Stay hydrated with water your main drink of choice.

  • Monosaturated fats such as olive oil, flax seed oil, canola oil and avocados are the healthiest fats to consume.

With all the information out there, if nutrition is a main concern for you, it is important to search out a qualified sports nutritionist who can help you make informed choices and limit those choices that are hampering your performance.

Some of the information in this article was provided by Dr. Jake Oergel; an accomplished Ironman triathlete who has competed in over 75 endurance events.