Natural Carbohydrates Race Fueling Alternatives

With long-distance and ultra-races getting more and more popular, many runners are having some issues with nutrition and fueling during long-distance races. Finding the proper fueling for an ultra-marathon can avoid many consequences that can cause stomach issues or lack of energy. Not eating enough, eating too much, eating the wrong foods at the wrong time can increase the risks of wrecking our body.
Many factors can affect our fueling during a long-distance race. It’s not only choosing the right food, but the conditions affect our body as well. Depending on the heat, altitude, incline, it all affects the level of intensity you’re dealing with, which increases your heart rate, sweat rate and sodium levels. The higher your heart rate the more carbohydrates your body has to use as a main fuel source, so the need to refuel with carbs increases. The more you sweat, the more hydration, electrolytes and sodium plays a role in how you feel physically and how it affects your stomach. Once our muscles and organs start to get tired, our body has to look after and focus on the main organs, our heart, lungs, liver, and muscles. The body sends all the visceral blood flow towards these organs to save them, the GI system becomes one of the least important, so the blood circulation to the GI system becomes minimal. That’s what causes our digestive system to shut down, and some issues are nausea, food just sitting in your stomach not processing, which makes it hard to fuel.  The importance of nutrition training and testing is as crucial as our physical and fitness training, it should be included in our training plan. Testing different types of fueling, figure out which type of foods, electrolytes and fueling our body likes is essential.

Tips for Ultra Nutrition

Daily Nutrition:
As an ultra-runner, eating consistently well and healthy on a daily basis is just as important as healthy eating just before a race. It’s what you eat during your training that will help you keep optimum form, aid recovery, prevent injury, maintain a strong immune system and promote good sleep.
Get your energy from a wide variety of natural, unprocessed foods rich in all three macronutrients carbohydrates, protein, healthy fat, and keep up your intake of micronutrients, that’s vitamins and minerals.

Race Nutrition:

  1. Eat early and eat well:The longer the race the more pressure our body has to deal with, the harder it can get to eat. So, eating enough during the first half of the race will refuel your body properly so it doesn’t get depleted and your energy levels stay up.
  2. Eat small amounts and often:Feeding your stomach with smaller and regular amounts of food will help reduce the risk of digestive issues. It also helps to keep the blood sugar levels more stable and reduce the risk of constant sugar spikes.
  3. Drink some energy:Find some energy drinks that your body is happy with, it is a good backup for refuelling, easier for our stomach to absorb and process.
  4. Eat more natural foods:Natural foods can be much easier to digest and causes less GI issues for most people than foods or energy fuel with additives, chemicals, preservatives and artificial flavours.
  5. Eat before you start feeling hungry:If you wait until you feel your energy levels decreasing, then it will be more challenging to refuel and digest the food or fuelling. Make sure you refuel and hydrate regularly to maintain your endurance and energy level.

Natural Foods Alternatives for Races

Small percentage of runners can sustain long-distance races using only gels and sports drinks. Most runners can only handle taking a few gels during a long race. Our body can only process a certain amount of carbohydrates, and most bodies can only tolerate a certain amount of additives, chemicals, preservatives and artificial sugars. Natural foods for long-distance races are getting more popular, as runners see a huge difference in the all the benefits. We now have access to more natural race nutrition options.

  • Homemade energy bars
  • Nut butter sachets (combine with banana)
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes
  • Rice

Natural Carbohydrate Food Sources

  1. Dried Fruits:Dates, figs, apricots, raisins, fruit rolls
  2. Fruit Puree(baby food)
  3. Fresh Fruits:
  • Bananas- Vitamin C, potassium
  • Oranges- Vitamin C, potassium, hydration
  • Watermelon- Water sugar, vitamins and minerals (adding some salt to watermelon makes it one of the best rehydration fruit)
  • Grapes- Vitamin C, vitamin K, hydration
  • Pineapple- Vitamin C, manganese, digestive enzymes, hydration
  1. Natural Gels:Gels with all natural ingredients and superfoods are getting popular. The common ingredients are Chia seeds, coconut sugar, Himalayan salt, superfoods, natural flavour.
  2. Guava Paste Squares:Superfruit, vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants.

Find the right food your body will enjoy, to keep you going feeling strong and happy!



Nutritional Tips for Vegan Runners

Plant-based and vegan diets are getting more and more popular, especially with runners and athletes. Vegan diets are very healthy and are very helpful with weight loss and weight control. Following a plant-based diet can be nutritionally healthy for many people, a vegan diet is a bit more restricted. Depending on your body type and training intensity, if you are following a nice vegan diet, you have to make sure that you focus on balancing your diet with all the specific nutrients that vegan athletes tend to get depleted of to help support your physical health and performance level. Intense and regular training can lead to some suppressed immune function by increasing natural killer cells and neutrophil function. This impact on the immune system can increase the risk of bacterial infection, which can also cause some illnesses. On the other hand, if your vegan diet is well balanced in all the primary nutrients vegan athletes tend to get depleted of, then your well-planned vegan diet will be highly beneficial to help with faster recovery and healing from all the antioxidants in plant-based foods. Many ultra-runners and athletes following a balanced-vegan diet, see a great increase in their performance and energy level, faster recovery and overall well-being. Vegan athletes need to focus on seven primary nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are often lower in plant-based diets.

  1. Protein: This nutrient is a vital part of an athlete’s diet to help with muscle recovery and energy. Often people following a vegan diet tend to feel more hungry. Not eating any animal foods makes it a bit more challenging to include enough protein with all the required amino acids. The recommended option to eat enough plant-based protein nutrients and amino acids, is to include a great variety of plant-based protein foods in your daily diet.

     Protein-Rich Food Sources

  • Tempeh
  • Tofu
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Hemp seeds, flour
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Soy
  • Unsweetened soy milk or almond milk
  • Plant-based protein powder
  1. Healthy Fat: This nutrient is crucial for our body to absorb certain nutrients, help with recovery, have anti-inflammatory properties, help reduce the hunger and provide some energy for training. Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial nutrients for anti-inflammation and help speed up repair of soft tissue damage and recovery.

Healthy Fat Food Sources

  • Extra virgin oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Avocado
  • Flax seed meal, oil
  • Hemp seeds, Hemp seed oil
  • Chia seeds
  1. Iron: Adequate iron intake is critical for runners, especially long-distance or intense training. Iron is used to transport oxygen to muscles, often after running long-distance races our body gets depleted of several vitamins and minerals including iron. Women athletes have higher issues of iron deficiency. Without enough iron our muscles feel weak, our breathing is challenging, especially when running uphill. To sustain the iron absorption, you need to include some high vitamin C foods with the high iron foods.

    Iron-Rich Foods Sources

  • Green leafy vegetables- Spinach, kale, Swiss chard
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Vegetables- Tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, broccoli
  • Fruits- Prunes, olives, mulberries
  1. Calcium: Calcium is essential for bone health and muscle function. Including calcium-rich foods in your daily diet is important. Some plant-based calcium-rich foods also contain components such as oxalic or phytic acids which can reduce the ability of the body to absorb the calcium (spinach and soy beans) When you eat these foods, make sure you include other calcium-rich foods in your meal.

    Calcium-Rich Food Sources

  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Nuts- Almonds
  • Seeds- Sesame seeds
  • Figs
  1. Vitamin D: These days up to 80% of the population is depleted of vitamin D. This vitamin is necessary for bone health, calcium absorption and muscle function, as well as energy levels. Runners and athletes following a strict vegan diet might consider being tested for vitamin D deficiency, to see if adding a vitamin D supplement is required. Most of the vitamin D rich foods are animal based.

    Vitamin D-Rich Foods

  • Mushrooms
  • Unsweetened soy milk
  1. Vitamin B12: This vitamin is necessary for DNA synthesis and nervous system function. Once our body is depleted of vitamin B12 the side effects include neurological damage and increased risk of heart disease. Vitamin B12 sources are only found in animal-based foods. It is important for people following a vegan diet to include some daily vitamin B12 supplements.
  1. Iodine: Due to today’s soil depletion, most plant-based foods are very low in iodine, which is necessary for the thyroid function. According to some research, 80% of vegans tend to be deficient in iodine. A good option is to take a multi vitamin that contains iodine and other vitamins and minerals as a good back up.

    Iodine-Rich Food Source

  • Seaweed

When following a vegan diet, make sure you focus on including foods and supplements containing all the vitamins and minerals vegans tend to get depleted to maintain a high-energy and performance level. A healthy vegan diet will have many benefits in terms of providing antioxidants, faster recovery, and reducing the risk of chronic disease.


Training Tips to Avoid Body Stress and Injuries

Training Tips to Avoid Body Stress and Injuries, Before, During and After Running

Training and running on a regular basis can put a lot of stress on our body. It’s easy to think that the more and longer distance we constantly train we will get stronger and fitter. Proper training will increase our fitness, strength and endurance level, and causing some breakdown at a certain point, especially for long-distance running. After we follow the proper recovery that’s when the magic will happen. Training causes stress to the body. Responding to the stress, the muscles and bones get stronger, cells become more efficient energy providers. To improve our performance level, includes applying stress, stimulating a manageable amount of breakdown and recovering properly. But training is not that easy. Over-training gets the body over-stressed in a chronic way, or if the required recovery is not adequate, the body breakdown will cause some consequences such as injuries or over-fatigue.

By following the key training recommendations to prevent injuries and include self-care will minimise the risk of breakdown so you can continue building up your strength, endurance and overall performance. For trail or road runners who only run, that is not adequate training to prevent any issues. To prepare, look after your body during and after running which is essential.

Tips to prepare, stay healthy on the run, and recover

Before the Run
A good warm up before a run is essential to prevent injuries and maintain a good running form. The key is to include some dynamic stretches to improve the mobility and flexibility. Static stretches should not be done before a run.
Benefits of a warm-up:

  • Improves the range of motion and warms up the joints and muscles for the dynamic movements during the run.
  • It gets the blood flow going which warms up our extremities, making them stronger at the beginning of the run.
  • By activating our physiological engine, our body is prepared for starting to run, otherwise the body feels perceived exertion at the start which makes it more challenging physically and mentally.

Add a five-minute warm up prior to each run to avoid starting feeling groggy and sore.

  1. Start by loosening the joints, circling the ankles, knees, and hips.
  2. Perform some reverse and forward lunges (10 reps each) to activate the glute muscles, quads, and hips.
  3. Perform some lateral lunges (10 reps each) to activate your body in a different range of motion. Side lunges will activate your glutes, dynamically stretch your inner groin muscles. Especially trail running requires different range of motions.
  4. Perform squats with lifting toes (10 reps). This exercise will warm up the glutes, quadriceps, calves, ankles (preventing Achilles tendinosis).
  5. Perform leg swings (10 reps each side) will stretch the hamstrings and hip flexors dynamically, it also mimics the running motion.
  6. Perform some high knees, butt kicks, jumping jacks or slow jog to warm up the heart, get the body used to the pounding before the run.

During the Run
Once we start running, especially long distance, we have to start looking after our body, focus on a good running form, fueling and hydrating. One important factor during a run is to have the awareness of how our body is feeling. Acute injuries during trail runs don’t happen too often (ankle sprain, torn ACL, fractures). Most of the time, the most common factor during long runs is chronic injuries. They start as a minor pain and concern, but after many kms they can progress into more intense pain and soreness. Knowing the difference between what pain we should run through or not is part of our essential awareness. The general rule is when in doubt stop and save your body. For trail runners or long-distance road runners, to DNF during a race feels like a “walk of shame”, it can be challenging to have to handle quitting and feeling down. But to learn how to figure out your pain issues can save you from months of not being able to run due to an injury. Depending on which pain issues you feel, here are ratings out of 10, of how intense each area is, which can help you make the decision to stop or not.

  1. Top of Foot- 9/10: The most common injury on the top of the foot for runners is metatarsal bone stress fracture. Before it becomes a stress fracture, as soon as you start feeling some pain on the top of your foot stop running and rest until the pain goes away. It will heal much faster that once you have a stress fracture.
  2. Bottom of the Foot- 4/10: The pain under the foot is usually due to plantar fasciitis, a very common issue with runners. Although it is quite painful and need to be treated properly, it is not as intense as a stress fracture. So, if you are running a long-distance race, you could probably finish the race and then start your treatment and rest.
  3. Ankle- 5/10: Sprained or twisted ankles is part of the trail running. Although acute sprains are not too common, twisted ankles happen more often. If you keep running and the pain persists and gets worse, stop as soon as you can. If your ankle is flexible and was only twisted, if you release it and stretch, it might get better during the run. If you hear a crack that means it’s a fracture and you need to stop.
  4. Achilles- 10/10: Achilles injuries start with minor aches before becoming intense quickly. For any Achilles issues, take a break until the pain goes away, and make sure you do some treatments.
  5. Shin- 8/10: Shin splints are another very common injury for runners which is often linked to tibial stress fractures which are very intense chronic injuries. Once you start feeling the pain, take a break rest, treat and recover.
  6. Calves- 6/10: A strained calf is very common, but because it is a soft tissue injury, it is not as intense as hard tissue damage. Strained calves can last a long time if it is not treated and you don’t take a break for recovery.
  7. Knees- 3/10: Stress fractures are not too common in the knees, but tendinitis is very common amongst runners, especially trail runners. If you feel your knee loosening up during the run, you can keep running. Otherwise, if you keep running without getting treatments the tendinitis will get more intense.
  8. Hamstrings and Quadriceps- 3/10: These big muscle groups are made of soft tissue, which can heal quickly by taking a few days break from running. So if the pain is not too deep or intense you can finish your race, but if it is deep that could be due to a femoral stress fracture, then you should stop immediately.
  9. Hips and Glutes- 9/10: All running motions come from the hips, hip mobility and glutes strength, so if you feel any unusual pain in these areas you need to be careful and evaluate the intensity of the pain. It could be coming from an IT Band tendinitis, hip flexor tendinitis. Hips or glutes injuries are quite intense, so if you feel any chronic pain you should stop the race to save your hips and glutes.
  10. Lower Back- 4/10: Lower back pain or soreness is very common amongst runners, especially with today’s lifestyle of sitting for many hours a day. If you feel some soreness or stiffness you can keep running. If you feel some abnormal pain, make sure you stop running, this can be caused by SI-joint dysfunction or a sacral stress fracture which are very intense. You need to take a break from running and get some treatments.

After the Run
When you finish running, just like a good warm up, to prevent any injuries, you need to cool down, stretch immediately after your run. Perform some basic static stretches for all the important muscles. Hold each stretch for 30-60 secs. The ideal muscle recovery would be to add some daily foam rolling, especially at night before going to bed, once your muscles are released then can recover during the night. Even 5-10 minutes of foam rolling the basic muscles will be super-efficient. If you can do more go ahead- Sports massage, physio, yoga!
Muscles to stretch:
Hip flexors
Glutes, Piriformis, Hips
IT Band


Pre-Race Meals and Timing

Eating the right meals, the day before and the morning of a race is crucial. Testing certain foods and meal timing before a long run should be part of your training plan. Physical and endurance training is very important, but making sure that your body is properly fueled before a race is just as important. For runners who haven’t eaten enough healthy foods and nutrients, your body will have to work harder, you will feel weaker and your run will be not only less efficient, but also less enjoyable. Every runner is different, it is important to know your own body type and limits. You’re running distance and intensity will affect your meal type and timing. The body’s digestion and nutrients absorption takes about 6-8 hours, so your last meal on the evening of a morning race will be the main fueling that will support your stamina through the race. Our muscles use mostly glycogen to power every contraction, and the glycogen is stored in our muscle and liver tissue. Running fast short distance, our body has enough stored glycogen, but for run over 2:30-3:00 hours our body will get depleted of glycogen, and once it is depleted while running it is very challenging to be able to refuel. Our body can only store about 2,000 calories. For runners doing long-distance runs at a fast pace, the body mostly relies on glycogen, for runners at a normal pace, the body will use both glycogen and fat for energy, which allows more solid food consumption.

Pre-Race Meals

What to eat the day before a race, especially the night before is very important, it plays a major role in how your stomach will react the next day, and how strong your energy levels will be. After you have figured out what type of foods your body is happy with, then you can prepare your pre-race dinner with the right foods. Before a race, the old trend of 3 days of carb loading hasn’t been as popular due to some side effects. Eating high levels of refined carbohydrates which contain high glycemic index within a few days, will result in a spike and then crash in your blood sugar level. Our body can only process a certain amount of carbohydrates at a time. The ideal pre-race meals should include less processed sources of carbohydrates from whole foods with lower glycemic index. These types of healthy carbohydrates will provide a steady stream of glucose, which will stabilize your blood sugar level. More steady blood sugar will decrease the chances of waking up feeling famished and then bonking during the race.

What to eat a few days before a race:

  1. Carbohydrates– Eat some simple, easy to digest natural carbs from whole foods like sweet potatoes, white potatoes, rice, squash, pumpkin, oats, healthy bread, natural fruits, healthy pasta. Try to avoid eating high fiber foods the day before the race.
  2. Protein– Include some lean protein, the day before a race, avoid eating beef as it is harder to digest. Include some fish, tuna, chicken, pork. Make sure that you don’t eat deep fried foods, again these are more difficult for the body to process and digest. The day of the race you want to feel lighter, more energetic, not heavy and bloated.
  3. Vegetables and Fruits– Two days before a race avoid eating cruciferous vegetables (Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, kale, cabbage), these can cause bloating and gas, but they should be part of your regular healthy diet. Include some green vegetables, lettuce, avocado, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms. Eating fresh fruits will provide lots of vitamins, minerals, hydration and healthy carbohydrates.
  4. Healthy Fat–  A few days before a race you should lower your fat intake. You should focus on easier to digest foods the day before a race. Avocados are one of the healthy fat you can eat before the day before a race.

If you eat a healthy daily diet, your body will not be depleted of nutrients, you don’t have to change your diet before a race, just adding a small amount of healthy easy to process carbohydrates, lean protein and lower fat will avoid any digestive issues. Eat a lighter dinner to make sure you are hungry in the morning for some breakfast.

Pre-Race Breakfast:

You want to make sure that your body is trained with the pre-race breakfast fueling, so that you know what your body can handle and what to eat so you feel good and have enough energy. Again, make sure your find easy to digest foods so you don’t have any stomach issue at the start of the race. Focus on easy to digest carbohydrates, popular pre-run breakfast foods are bananas, bread or bagel with nut butter, honey, oatmeal with berries or banana, pancakes with fruits, rice, or noodles.

Meal Timing:

Pre-race dinner– If your race starts at 8:00am or earlier, make sure you have an early dinner no later than 6-6:30pm to make sure that when you wake up you feel a bit hungry.
Pre-race breakfast– Try to eat your breakfast 1 ½- 2 hours before the race. If your race starts at night, have a light dinner 3 hours before the race.

Eat Well, Feel Well, Great Race !