Caffeine benefits and recommended dosage during a race

When running many races or long-distance races, we have to focus on sports nutrition and supplements to look after our overall health and endurance. One natural supplement that is very efficient during a race is caffeine. We need to calculate how much caffeine our body needs according to our bodyweight, and if according to our genes our body responds well to caffeine. The way people respond to caffeine is driven by genetic variation of the CYP1A2 gene, which breaks down caffeine. The overall increase in performance with caffeine is 4.6%, However there are different types of variant genes (AA genotype) that breaks down caffeine more quickly, or more slowly. According to statistics, people with AA genotype (40% of people) breaks down caffeine quickly, which can improve performance by 13.8%. People with normal metabolizers (AC genotype) had not as much benefits from caffeine. Runners with slow metabolizing (CC genotype) had worse performance, but luckily that is only 15% of people. In order to get your type of CYP1A2 gene, people need to get their DNA tested.
How does caffeine work?
After taking caffeine, it will appear in the blood within 5-15 minutes and peak at about 40-80 minutes. The half-life of caffeine in the blood is 3-5 hours, which will guide runners on how much to consume during long-distance races. Caffeine really helps to increase performance and power. The average increase in performance during an average distance race, is 2.2% and in power 3.3%. According to your genes and metabolism, some people can get an increase of even 20%. Now we know that caffeine helps and works in many different forms. Consuming caffeine or caffeine supplements during a race has no difference in performance benefits, they both have similar benefits.

The reason why caffeine increases performance is that it helps boost our performance physically and psychologically. In order to get physiological boost, we need to consume moderate doses of 3-6mg caffeine/kg of bodyweight, and psychological boost are seen at lower doses of 1-3mg/kg of bodyweight.

Physiological Benefits:
According to some research, the reason why we get the physiological benefits is that caffeine enhances fat oxidation, which spares muscle glycogen. This process enhances the release of fatty acids from adipose tissue, which increases fat use while running. Second physiological benefit is how caffeine alters how calcium is processed within skeletal muscle, increasing the amount of calcium which increases the amount of power that muscle can generate.

Psychological Benefits:
Coffee drinkers know very well about all the psychological benefits of caffeine. It improves the ability to concentrate and focus, which are very important skills for ultra-runners, especially once we start to feel fatigue. Caffeine can also reduce our perceived exertion and leg pain during intense or long-distance runs. Our body has receptors for caffeine in nearly every tissue in the body, that is why we get so many benefits from caffeine.

Timing and Dosage of Caffeine:
It is important to know how to use caffeine for races. First of all, caffeine taper can help most runners. The week before a race, gradually lower your intake of caffeine, so that when you consume it the day of the race you will have more benefits. Reintroduce caffeine in the morning of the race (pre-race).
Timing: Taking caffeine 1-1 ½ hour before the race will kick start your performance. During short-distance races, you can consume lower amounts of caffeine using 1 or 2 gels with caffeine. For long-distance races, there are two theories; First, consume the recommended caffeine intake 1-1 ½ hour before the race, and save your caffeine intake for the second half of the race. You can consume coffee at checkpoints, take gels with caffeine or caffeine supplements. The second theory; Consume lower dosage of caffeine during the entire race, consume through gels, bars or energy drinks with lower caffeine dosage. Again, this is according to your body type.

1-1 ½ hour pre-race caffeine intake recommendation: Moderate dose 3-6mg/kg of bodyweight.
Race caffeine intake recommendation: Lower dose 1-2mg/kg of bodyweight.

If caffeine is part of your race day nutrition intake, plan according to your race distance, elevation and race schedule.

Train Well, Eat Well, Feel Great!

The Importance of Healthy Fascia

Runners need to look after their muscles, bones and joints health. But most people don’t realize how important are the benefits of healthy fascia. We don’t hear about fascia very often, what it is, how it works in our body and the benefits of keeping it healthy especially for runners, athletes and sports enthusiasts. Think about certain aspects of your body’s mobility, flexibility; why can’t you reach your toes when you stretch your hamstrings, how do your organs stay stable when you jump or sprint, and how do your muscles stay attached to your bones? Fascia is incredibly important for your overall well-being.

What is fascia:
Fascia is the body’s connective tissue. It is head-to-toe, inside-out interwoven system of fibrous connective tissue found throughout the whole body. Your fascia provides a framework that helps support and protect individual muscle groups, organs, and the entire body as a unit. It is made up of densely packed collagen protein fibers. Healthy fascia is so important for runners because of how interconnected it is to our entire system.
Popular description of fascia: It’s like a spider web in the entire body, it’s basically muscles, it’s like white stringy gook on our muscles. When fascia is healthy it is able to slide, glide, twist and bend pain-free.

  • Fascia connects all connective tissues
  • Fascia holds together the entire body
  • Fascia needs to be healthy to be flexible and supple, otherwise it is sticky, clumpy, tight and flakey, your muscles and body feel stiff and tight, it forms restrictions, adhesions and distortions (muscle knots)

What causes unhealthy fascia:

  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Bad posture
  • Dehydration
  • Overusing or over-training your muscles causing injuries
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Stress

Benefits of healthy fascia:

  • Better body symmetry and alignment
  • Increased blood flow, which helps with faster recovery
  • Scar tissue breakdown
  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Less pain and soreness
  • Improved sports performance and endurance

Treating your fascia can take a while, but once you start taking care of it you will see instant relief. It will still take some time to switch your fascia from unhealthy to healthy. Healthy fascia is a good feeling, you start to feel more open, able to move in different range of motions and feeling more flexible.
How to test your fascia:
Pinch and Poke Test- Choose any part of your body, try to pinch together your skin using your thumb and forefinger. Pinching will let you feel how “fascia bound” that area under your skin is. You should be able to pinch your skin easily, and without pain, if not, you have unhealthy fascia in that area.
How to improve fascia health:

  1. Stretch for 10 minutes every day– Stretching elongates your muscles and help release the tension in your muscles, which is a crucial element to keep our fascia healthy. Hold stretches for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  2. Work on your mobility– Mobility is the ability to move well. Bad mobility causes lack of agility, flexibility and strength. Mobility exercises increases to fascia’s health. Include some mobility and joint exercises in your weekly training routine. You can even have access to fascia yoga sessions.
  3. Foam roll– Roll out your tight spots. Foam rolling is a great way to check in with your body to find where exactly your fascia is tight and holding tension in your muscles. When you hit the trigger point with the foam roller, hold it for 30-60 seconds as you will slowly feel the release. After a few foam rolling sessions, you will restore your fascia.
  4. Take a hot bath, or use a sauna– Fascia loves both internal and external heat because it increases the circulation and puts the fascia in more pliable and receptive state. After a hot bath, you can do a very efficient stretching session.
  5. Cold compress– If you have a bit of inflammation, use a cold compress for 10 minutes, a couple of times a day, until the inflammation goes down.
  6. Keep hydrated– Fascia needs to stay well hydrated. If you’re hydrated, your fascia will feel more like jelly. If you’re dehydrated, it will be more crusty and flakey. Hydration is super important to look after all our muscles and fascia.
  7. Do cardio exercises– You want to keep moving to increase the blood flow to the muscles. When runners are dealing with some injuries, once they are allowed, doing some cross-training cardio, like swimming, cycling or rowing will help increase the blood flow. Cardio exercises support the symmetry in the body, which also helps with the health of your fascia.
  8. See a physiotherapist– If you feel chronical stiffness and soreness or have a muscle injury that won’t heal, get some treatments from a physiotherapist, fascia is so interconnected, one area can affect many others.

Signs of unhealthy fascia:

  • Hunched posture
  • Poor body-symmetry (one hip higher than the other or one shoulder higher than the other)
  • Poor mobility
  • Lack of flexibility and strength
  • Feelings of discomfort
  • Sleep quality

Foods to include
The following foods are rich in the nutrients required for healthy connective tissue. Be sure to include them in your diet and feel the difference:

  • Bone broths (1-4 cups / day)
  • Good quality protein from good quality (ideally organic grass fed and grass finished) meats and eggs
  • Good quality seafood (mussels, fish, oysters, sardines etc)
  • Lots of veggies
  • Unpasteurised, raw fermented veggies
  • Kombucha (a fermented tea that makes the glucuronic detox pathway more effective)
  • Lots of berries
  • Healthy fats (fish, grass fed beef, extra virgin cold pressed flax oil/ flax seed meal, eggs, avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil.
  • Plenty of clean drinking water

Healthy fascia= Healthy muscles, overall body well-being and running performance!

Train Well, Eat Well, Feel Great!

The importance of mental wellness and strength for runners

Mental wellness and strength can help support your physical strength and endurance, help you reach your health and fitness goals faster, make it easier and pleasant. Here are some tips to help build new motivation, confidence and add some major achievements in your training and your life. When training for long-distance, or shorter but more intense races, runners need to build up their mental wellness and strength to achieve their goals, build up their physical and mental endurance to feel stronger until the finish line. When running an ultra-race, after 50-60km our mental wellness starts to get more negative if we haven’t trained properly to build it up. To maintain great energy levels, and be able to manage our muscle fatigue and soreness, our mental strength needs to be trained to reach higher levels of wellness and positivity. Once you’ve set up and organized your training goals for the year, or signed up for some races that you are aiming to accomplish and finish strong and happy, now you have to start adding some good mental wellness to your training, to make everything better and easier. Running long-distance race or longer distances that our body is used to is challenging physically and mentally.

10 Mental wellness tips for training

  1. Positive images:When you are training, use your positive mental images throughout your run to add feelings of strength and power. If you are on your way up a hill or mountain, visualize someone at the top pulling you up, or imagine a magnet pulling you up, this will make it feel more effortless and easier. If you’re going downhill, visualize yourself with wings, to feel like you’re flying down. Running on the flat, visualize a strong runner just in front of you, sharing his energy to help you move faster. Using visualization before, during and after your training, will help build confidence and motivation.
  2. Positive thinking:When training, make positive self-statements regularly. Negative thoughts while running is common, become aware of these thoughts at the beginning of your run, don’t fight with these thoughts as it will increase the negativity, simply acknowledge their presence and substitute them with positive thoughts. During a long-distance run or intense training when you start thinking “my legs hurt so much, I just want to lie down and quit” remind yourself that this feeling is connected with getting your muscles stronger, healthier and achieving your best- keep going!
  3. Focus on the present:When training, focus on being in the present moment. Remind yourself to stay here and now, focus on the running course, what you are dealing with, focus on what you have to activate physically to feel strong in the present. Don’t think about past mistakes, or worrying about what is ahead, forget about the past and the future. Be right here, right now and right on. If you’re going up thousands of steps and feel tired, keep reminding yourself “keep going, one step at a time”, and don’t keep looking up that is a version of the future! During a long-distance race, having to run many kms on the flat concrete can be challenging for some runners, just keep telling yourself “keep going, the more I move, the faster I will get to the next section”!
  4. Use everything as an advantage:When your training, use every as an advantage, if a similar pace runner passes you, stick behind and use his energy to keep up and stay motivated. You may catch a “second wind”, which we need many times when running an ultra-race.
  5. Split your targets- Break your training goals into small targets, or your run into sections so you can focus on one portion at a time, not the entire run. Remind yourself regularly “I am relaxing and keeping my good pace until the next checkpoint”.
  6. Scan your body:During a long or intense run, we have to keep paying attention to our running form and tension level. Scan your body regularly, relax your tight muscles frequently. Ask yourself, are my hips tights, my glutes disengaged, are my shoulders and neck tight, is my running pace feeling good? Keep sending energy to your legs, your heart, and brain!
  7. Use pain as an effort:If you feel “good pain or soreness” during your run, the pain is the effort used by your muscles, it is not damaging your body, just focus on your breathing or running form and cadence, that will allow the discomfort to fade away. Remind yourself “I know how hard I am going, what my pace feels like, how my body is doing and what it should be doing to keep me going”!
  8. Disconnect from the outcome:Only focus on what you need to do right now; your pace, your breathing, your concentration, your fueling. The finish line, your finishing time will take care of itself, focus on the moment.
  9. Ignore distractions:Distractions can cause some negative issues; fall, injuries, body crashing, loss of energy. Take deep breaths, refocus on the present moment and what is important to achieve your goals and keep going.
  10. Appreciate your strength:Enjoy your strength and endurance level and positivity, remind yourself that you can achieve your goals, keep smiling, feel confident, and you will get to the finish line feeling so proud of yourself!
Train Well, Eat Well, Feel Great!

How to stay Fit, Healthy and Motivated- 2019 Clean Eating- Part 2

To start the new year with a detox or restricted diet can be manageable for a few weeks, but as humans and especially runners and athletes, any restricted type of diet can be challenging and not great physical support for high energy and endurance levels of fitness.
Clean eating is a balanced diet that focuses on natural, nutrient-rich whole foods which are unprocessed or minimally processed.

Foods in Clean Eating Diet:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Beans and legumes
  • Root vegetables
  • Herbs and spices
  • Lean meat
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Unrefined oil

This diet requires to avoid eating refined grains, additives, preservatives and pesticides, no processed foods or sugars.
A clean diet is not very challenging as you have access to all types of fresh foods, cooked simply, or eating raw foods. The only challenge for some people is avoiding all the unhealthy, processed foods, snacks and treats.

To make it easier to sink into a healthy clean diet: 

  • Cook smarter
  • Plan your meals
  • Include lots of green vegetables at every meal
  • Eat healthy snacks
  • If you’re carving a sweet treat, have some nuts and fresh fruits. Healthy fats such as nuts or nut butter helps you feel more satiated, helps lower your cholesterol level and is good for your heart. A clean eating diet will purify your body, activate your metabolism and provide all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals.

The side effects of eating processed foods and sugars are linked to cancer and other diseases such as high-cholesterol levels, heart problems, diabetes. Processed foods are low in nutrients needed for overall health, and they tend to have lots of additives, which overstimulates the production of dopamine, the “pleasure” neurotransmitter, which triggers constant junk food cravings. Once you start following a clean eating diet, your body disconnects from processed and junk foods. After a few weeks, a healthy mindset settles in and our body realizes how important fresh healthy foods are to support our overall wellbeing. A clean eating diet is not restricted, it is simply based on healthy fresh foods, cooked simply with all natural ingredients that we enjoy.

Benefits for runners:
Eating foods like burgers, chips, pizza, fried foods affects the energy levels of runners. Runners eating a lot of unhealthy meals, processed foods and sugars, feel more heavy and lethargic while running. Eating a clean diet with fresh foods that have been minimally processed, contain so much nutrients that our body requires, especially for runners. Avoiding junk foods, will help you perform better, increase your energy and endurance and assist with faster recovery, post-run. A clean eating healthy diet will make you feel light and energised. Following a daily natural, highly nutritious diet will help you perform and feel better.
Importance of hydration:Remember to drink plenty of water regularly, this will help to process and digest the foods and activate your metabolism. Just 1% of dehydration can affect your running performance. Staying hydrated is very important in warmer, or more humid weather and for long-distance runners.

Train Well, Eat Well, Feel Great!