Saturday, June 23, 2012

Food Facts Friday: Fueling for a late day race.

This year, I will not be running in the local 5K Lager Run. 

I have been running very slowly and cautiously and can't risk hurting my knee again. At least I've been running, and beggars can't be choosers!

Last year after this race, I was disappointed. I thought I could have run much faster. I blame my less than optimal time on the fact that I ate lunch too late in the day, I ate too much and I ate the wrong food. When I ran, I felt like the food was sloshing around in my stomach and I was really uncomfortable.

After the race, I remember meeting up with Miss Fast-ee Pants and telling her that I wish I ran faster. I blamed my lunch. She proceeded to tell me what she ate. Of course, it was all the right amount and type of food, which was probably why she blew by everyone (even the guys in our running club), took first in her age group and made the local high school track star run home crying ...or something like that!

So all year, I planned and plotted what I was going to eat before this race. But what the heck, it doesn't matter now - I could eat a pint of ice cream before the race ...
But if I were to run, I would plan 24hours in advance. 
"Cause everyone knows, true pre-race meal
planning starts 24hours before the race!
But, besides that. 
I'm talking about the timing of the meals leading up to a late day race,
and more specifically, what I would eat immediately before the Lager run.
This year, I was going to pay more attention to the 
glycemic index and glycemic load of my meals on race day.

Using the glycemic index (GI) of foods is a great way to determine what foods you should eat before, during or after a run. Glycemic index is a way to measure the effects carbohydrates have on blood sugar levels. GI is used as a rough estimate to determine how much and how fast each gram of carbohydrate (total carbs - fiber) raises a person's blood glucose levels after food has been consumed. In general, high GI foods reach the blood stream quickly, but low GI foods reach the blood stream slowly. 

Research states that it's best to eat low GI foods 1hour pre-race so the that carbs can slowly allow the blood sugar to raise and provide muscles with a great source of energy come race-time and then, throughout the race. The idea here is to encourage the body's ability to utilize free fatty acids for energy, and avoid a spike in blood glucose leading to that "crash", which makes you feel like you've run out of energy. In general, low GI foods are fruits, vegetables, legumes, chick peas, nuts and beans.

I could eat some fruit, veggies and nuts 3hours pre-race, but never 1hour before a race - that just wouldn't work for me and my stomach. So, even though research articles recommend you go for the low GI food 1hour pre-race, each person is different and must consider their own individual physiology & experiences.

That's why this year, I would have planned all my meals throughout the day. In general, I eat breakfast at 7:30AM, have a 10AM snack, eat lunch about 12:30PM and have another snack around 3:30PM. At 3:30PM, I could have had that low GI snack, like an apple or banana with some peanut butter, but by the time 6PM came around, I know I would start to get hungry again.
Please Sir, may I have some more?
This year, I would have strategized. I would have taken advantage of foods that had a high GI and eaten them 15-30minutes pre-race. Something easy to digest, something that wouldn't give me gastro--problems. No combinations of foods (protein, fat & carbs), just strictly pure carbohydrate, with a high GI index. This would would have been like graham crackers, pretzels, rice cakes (and not whole grain - been there, done that, not pretty), dry cereal (like cheerios), or maybe a combo of these with a sports gel, like Rocktane for caffeine.
The key to how much I eat 15-30minutes pre-race 
depends on glycemic load (GL).

The glycemic load estimates the impact of carbs using the GI, while taking into account the amount of carbs consumed. So, take M&M's, it's candy, so of course it has a high GI. If you only eat 3 M&M's, if that's actually possible, you're not really eating that many carbs, so the glycemic effect (or glycemic load, GL) is low. While GI is specific for each type of food, the GL is dependent on how much of that food you eat.

There really isn't too much consistent research on GL and its effects on exercise, but you could use your own individual physiology and experiences to determine your own GL 15-30minutes before a race. As a guideline, I have used some research that was done on runners to determine the effects of a pre-race carbohydrate beverage on endurance. In this research, it appeared that 1g carb per 1kg body weight 15minutes prior to a run allowed runners to last 12.8% more than the control group. For me, that's about 200calories (1g carbs = 4Kcals). This could be (roughly) 1cup of lemonade, sports drink or coconut water with 2 graham crackers, 5 cinnamon pita chips, 3/4 cup of cheerios, 1 sports gel, or a rice cake.

And, it would've been like, 'Watch out Miss Fastee-Pants!'
Hey, I can dream.
Next year, though, I will be out there -
fueled properly and ready to race! 
This year, I'm just going to watch ....
Uuuuh, did the runners go by, yet?
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