Your diet is an important tool in maintaining good health as well as a necessary element in promoting peak performance. Proper nutrition and hydration for runners can make or break a workout or race. The food you eat greatly affects how you feel, work, and think. A balanced diet for healthy runners should include these essentials: carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Be sure you communicate your health goals and consult your primary care physician or a licensed nutritionist or dietitian when making changes to your diet.
Here are some basic guidelines for a nutritious, healthy balance:
Carbohydrates are the best source of energy for athletes. They provide quick and long-lasting energy. Our bodies work more efficiently with carbs than they do with proteins or fats. Whole grain pasta, steamed or boiled rice, potatoes, fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grain breads are good carb sources.
Protein is used for some energy and to repair tissue damaged during training. Protein keeps you feeling full longer. Try to concentrate on protein sources that are low in fat and cholesterol such as lean meats, fish, dairy products (lower fat), poultry, whole grains, and beans.
A high fat diet can quickly pack on the pounds, so try to make sure that you stick to foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Foods such as nuts, oils, and cold-water fish provide essential fats called omega-3s, which are vital for good health.
Runners don’t get energy from vitamins, but they are still an important part of their diet. Getting vitamins from whole foods is preferable to supplementation.
- Calcium: A calcium-rich diet is essential for runners to prevent osteoporosis and stress fractures. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products, calcium-fortified juices, dark leafy vegetables, beans, and eggs.
- Iron: You need this nutrient to deliver oxygen to your cells. If you have an iron-poor diet, you’ll feel weak and fatigued, especially when you run. Good natural sources of iron include lean meats, leafy green vegetables, nuts, shrimp, and scallops.
- Sodium and other electrolytes: Small amounts of sodium and other electrolytes are lost through sweat during exercise. Usually, electrolytes are replaced if you follow a balanced diet. But if you find yourself craving salty foods, it may be your body’s way of telling you to get more sodium. Try drinking a sports drink or eating some pretzels after exercise.
Here are some excellent resources which provide a comprehensive guidelines to nutrition for athletes:
Happy trails until we meet again!
After first rain in months, mud is the best toy. August 28, 2006. Image by David K from Dallas, USA
Whenever my grandmother would catch me or one of my siblings, when we were a lot younger (and, later, one of her great grandchildren) doing something disgusting, say licking a windowsill for example (it wasn’t me!), she would always console the governing child minder by saying: “A pound of dirt a year. That’s what every child needs.” I never thought much about this until I had children of my own and would catch them doing something gross like eating cat food or sucking on fingers…not always their own.
Despite my kids’ profound “moments of ew,” things do seem a lot more antiseptic these days than when I was a kid. There are now “wipes” in supermarkets to clean off your cart. Hand sanitizer is available in most public places. There are loads of products on the market to help keep junior from ever having to come into contact with real-life shmutz, and antibiotics seem to be prescribed more often than I remember (hence my little c. diff dilemma a few months back).
My other friends who are parents and I have talked a lot about whether we are becoming a little too much of a rubber-glove society and what effects this may have on our children and their immune systems. For example, one book I came across in the library Why Dirt Is Good by Mary Ruebush, Ph.D. (see, you can find almost anything in the library) states: “One result of our societal trend toward germophobia, supercleanliness, and heavy antibiotic use is weakened individual immunity due to lack of dirt. …we’ve also created evolutionary selection for the production of new ‘superbugs’–pathogens that can’t be killed by the usual sanitation methods and that resist antibiotic drugs.”
I’m not suggesting that we should allow our children to actually wallow in filth (or ingest it). And I think everyone will agree that we have no wish to return to the days of the plague or 30-year life spans. Some levels of cleanliness and germ-free living are definitely beneficial to our health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says: “An essential part of preventing the spread of infection in the community and at home is proper hygiene.”
But then they add: “To date, studies have shown that there is no added health benefit for consumers (this does not include professionals in the healthcare setting) using soaps containing antibacterial ingredients compared with using plain soap….” And… “Every time a person takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant germs may be left to grow and multiply. Repeated and improper uses of antibiotics are primary causes of the increase in drug-resistant bacteria.”
This is still a pretty controversial subject, and I’m not sure anyone has yet developed the perfect solution. As with all things, it would seem that truth lies somewhere in the middle. As for my grandma’s dirt theory, she did live a very healthy and active (as well as sage and sassy) 98 years, but I never witnessed her consuming any dirt.
In the fall of 1951, a warm, vivacious African-American mother of five succumbed to a rare cervical cancer — she was only thirty-one. Known affectionately as Hennie, Henrietta Lacks could dance like nobody’s business and her heart was as big as her home when it came to feeding and caring for her many relatives, but she was no-nonsense with her kids and carried a secret pain for the impaired child she was once forced to give away.
A violent storm was all that marked her passing. There was no obituary. Not even a headstone. Hennie’s shoes and clothes were whisked away—like she never existed—and the little ones, with no memory of their mother, were parceled out to bitter, cunning relatives.
Only their mother’s bible and a lock of her hair remained tangible proof that Hennie ever lived until decades later when the four Lacks siblings learned that their mother—astoundingly—lived on through the very unique cells that originally generated her cancer.
Without their mother’s knowledge, or family consent, Johns Hopkins Hospital (one of a handful at the time willing to treat black Americans) studied Hennie’s tumor and recognized something distinguishing about it.
For the very first time, human cells proved not only that they could be grown outside the human body, but also that Hennie’s “workhorse” cells were spontaneously replicable! Scientists were ecstatic. Here at last was a cell culture vital to the research of disease, chromosomal study and much more. Scientists gave them a name: “HeLa,” short for Henrietta Lacks.
Immortal and vastly profitable HeLa cells (at $167.00 a vial) would come to mean big business for all those involved – except the marginalized and medically uninsured Lacks family.
To write this gripping nonfiction, author Rebecca Skloot invested ten years in the lives of Hennie’s children to record vividly the myriad emotions they grappled with after learning the truth. None of those emotions was more exquisite and tender than that joyful moment in which Deborah and Zakariyya Lacks “meet” their mother for the very first time.
Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in exploring African American History in Howard County please register online or by calling 410.313.7800 for a special presentation by the Howard County Center of African American Culture at the Central Branch on March 4, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. Wylene Sims Burch, Founder and Director of the Howard County Center of African American Culture, considers the rich history of African-Americans in Howard County. O.H. Laster, Howard County resident and community volunteer, reviews the creation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and how he worked toward its adoption. This is a “History Lives” event.
What makes a good breakfast? For me, the omnivore, that would have to be anything with bacon or sausage. For my vegan husband, he has his pancakes, home fries, fruit, toast, and tofu scramble. Tofu scramble will be a post for another day. I even tried to make one using orange juice, and that, as you can imagine, was not tasty. Not at all.
Finding a vegan friendly breakfast is challenging. A quick search for vegan breakfasts turned up Sticky Finger Bakery in D.C. We were both familiar with Sticky Fingers because we had purchased their baked goods at local natural food markets. But when we visited the actual location in Columbia Heights, we were pleasantly surprised that they not only served vegan French toast, but that it was actually quite tasty. That got us wondering: how can we make vegan French toast at home without eggs or milk?
There are many excellent vegan cookbooks available today. Celebrities like Alicia Silverstone and Mayim Bialik have published their own vegan cookbooks. Even Betty Crocker has gotten into the game with Betty Goes Vegan: 500 Classic Recipes for the Modern Family. There is an entire section devoted to breakfast, including a recipe very similar to what we prepared at home called La Petit French Toast.
I shared the following vegan French toast recipe with my husband, and it proved to be flavorful and filling when you add a side of fruit. The nutritional yeast is essential as it adds texture to the toast. Vegan French toast has become our breakfast of choice for weekend mornings. While my stubborn nature dictates that I prefer French toast made with eggs and milk, if vegan French toast tastes this good and does not come with all the added cholesterol, I can have the vegan version and still be satisfied and content with these!
Vegan French Toast adapted from an online publication
1 C silk (soymilk)
2 T flour
1 T nutritional yeast flakes
1 t sugar or sweetener of your choice
1 t vanilla
1/2 t low-sodium salt or salt-substitute
< 1/4 t nutmeg
4-6 slices of your favorite bread (whole wheat)
Leave your bread slices on the counter to air out while you prepare your bread wash and get out your griddle or fry pan. Combine your wet and dry ingredients in a shallow container like one of those glass baking dishes. Once the ingredients are fully integrated, dip your bread slices into the wash so they’re coated evenly on both sides. Place your slices on a med-high heated griddle or pan for a couple of minutes until golden brown, and flip so the uncooked side gets some browning time too. If you’re not interested in using a pan or griddle, put the bread slices on a clean cookie sheet in a preheated 400°F oven for a few minutes until slightly toasted and then, flip and bake until all sides are golden brown.
“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” I call to mind those resonant lines from the film The Help, in honor of International Boost Self-Esteem Month. I’ve just recently discovered that this month long observation existed, and I’m quite pleased to know that at least one month of the year (February) is set aside for something so important (in my opinion).
Self-esteem is something so integral to our overall mental and emotional well-being, and as such, should be nurtured and tended to often. How we feel about ourselves is a tenuous thing with the propensity of being influenced and affected by myriad factors. Just because our youthful days of impressionable naiveté are but a snug memory, doesn’t mean we cease to be exposed to stuff and people that can cause us to feel either a little bigger or a little smaller. Our boss, our loved ones, our friends, and even strangers can say or do something that seems to literally suck a little of our life force right out. Bit by bit, the toxic things that chip away at our spirit can stir up negative emotions that have wider implications on our health and happiness.
Like a plant reaching for and thriving in the sunlight, we should reach for those things and people that fill us with innate joy and happiness. The strength of the joy we build from within serves as the armor to defend us against the poison that aims to break us down. And mind you, sometimes that poison can come in the form of negative thoughts we ourselves create and believe. The point is that each of our lives is valuable and important, and we should never cease to be true to ourselves and those we care for. Our individuality, our differences, our very unique essence should be celebrated and reaffirmed by positive means. The children’s book, Incredible You! : 10 Ways to Let Your Greatness Shine Through, communicates this concept in such clear and simple ways. I urge you to grab a copy from your local Howard County Library System branch when you have a chance. It truly doesn’t take a peer-reviewed journal article or a doctoral thesis to state the case that we do harness the power of our thoughts, and the key to our happiness.
Feeling good about oneself, and having good self-esteem, is a foundation established in early youth. As we mature, we must nurture our spirit in our own unique way, by doing the things and being with those who encourage our greatness to shine. And if we’ve tried, and can’t seem to overcome the crippling thoughts, then we must seek out professional guidance. Life is too short to be plagued by low self-esteem.
So how do you feel about yourself today? What are the things you can do to nurture your self-esteem?
What would our lives be like if we were wise to a new reality that prevented us from being well? In her remarkable debut novel, The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker introduces us to a world familiar to us yet changing forever. Seen through the eyes of Julia, an 11-year-old girl, the world as we know it is ending. Days and nights are lengthening as the earth experiences “slowing.” The predictable days and nights required to grow grains, fruits and vegetables are disappearing. The sleep-wake signals required for healthy circadian rhythm are gone.
Sleep disturbance, lack of healthy food and desolate landscapes become Julia’s world. Despite the dire circumstances, Julia’s community continues to function as normally as is possible. Julia herself endures the trials of middle school we all remember, even as the environment becomes unpredictable. Preteen awkwardness, first love and family conflict fill her ever-prolonged days. The book never feels like science fiction because the writing is so gentle, direct and realistic. The setting is the world we ourselves live in, except that the daily cycle of time is stretching.
“Later, I would come to think of those first days as the time when we learned as a species that we had worried over the wrong things: The hole in the ozone layer, the melting of the ice caps, West Nile and swine flue and killer bees. But I guess it never is what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different–unimagined, unprepared for, unknown.”
We readers and writers of this blog care about our health, what we eat, how we exercise. What if we were to learn we could never eat pineapple again, that the increased pull of gravity would change how we kick a soccer ball, that we’d have to go to sleep in the dark one day and in the light the next? Exploring these questions through Julia’s story brings into focus the wellness decisions we make each day. On my first trip to the grocery story after reading The Age of Miracles, I definitely appreciated that I could not only purchase a bag of grapes, but that I could choose between green and red, seedless and Concord.
The East Columbia Morning Books with Coffee book group will discuss the Age of Miracles on Monday, 2/24, at 10 am.