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Is your diet helping or hindering your performance?

Many of your reading this blog may well have run the Leicester Half marathon at the weekend and well done on yet another FABulous sporting achievement this year! For some it may have been part of your annual training schedule, for some it may have been your first half marathon and for others it may have inspired you to sign up for your own half marathon. We hope that the Loughborough Half March 24th 2013 will be part of your personal plans next year.

So how are you feeling now a few days after your run? Did your post race celebrations and nutrition help or hinder your recovery?
Following your race do you believe you can eat whatever you like and more importantly you have earned that prize or do you have a strategy that will ensure your body is given every opportunity it can to heal and repair itself so you can get back running and training as quickly as possible with the minimum amount of damage to your health and wellbeing?

“It takes more energy to try to digest the wrong kinds of food than anything else you can do. With this in mind, it is essential you get as much help with this as possible. When you juice and blend your food you have effectively done most of the bodies hard work for it and, as all the fuel I am advising comes direct from nature, it has also been more or less pre-digested by the plant.”
Juice Master – Jason Vale

Now I don’t want to be the kill joy as I recognise that for many your half marathon day is a celebration of all that you have set out to achieve a milestone or personal triumph and the culmination of all your hard work, training and dedication and quiet rightly should be celebrated often with family and friends particularly where you have run to celebrate someone else’s life. The problem is as stated above is that if your nutrition leading up to the race and particularly post-race in those first 12-24 hours is wrong you may end up stopping the body doing its natural healing job, as it focuses on digesting that huge Sunday diner, chocolate pudding and glasses of champagne!

Inflammation is a natural response to injury pain and trauma, for some the aftermath of a half marathon, and is a protective response by the body to injury as it tries to move infection and cells from tissue damage away from the are to allow healing to take place.
When tissue is damaged through injury or trauma. There is a need for repair and stimulation of the connective tissue and this includes remodelling collagen, elastin and the extracellular matrix – the defining feature of connective tissue in humans – structural support.

You are probably aware that your body’s store of vitamin and minerals will determine the level of enzyme activity your body is able to undertake to help with tissue repair. Some of the key nutrients are:
Zinc, copper and magnesium: beans, nuts, whole grains and pumpkin seeds.
Bioflavonoids : found in fruit and veggies – these have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-viral abilities – an apple a day – apples contain 40-50,000 of these little beauties.
Amino Acids: help make collagen fibres – wheatgrass is one of the highest sources of amino acids, as well as good sources of lean protein.
Vitamin E: major anti-oxidant within inflammatory conditions sweet potatoes, seeds, salmon
Vitamin C: particularly important for wound healing
Essential Fatty Acids – most people eat too much omega 6 and not enough omega 3, which are involved in stimulating a strong anti-inflammatory response in the body. Sources include flax seed, green veggies as well as sardines, mackerel salmon and wild game meats. Omega 6 – found in sunflower oil is aloes beneficial but make sure you are getting enough of the omega 3.
Turmeric, cayenne, pineapple papaya and ginger also have great natural anti-inflammatory effects – sounds like a good reason for a curry!

One food which you may be drawn to post race can actually do your body the most harm – refined white sugar and products made from it! Reduce your sugar intake as the way they are broken down in the body means the by products are classed as toxins and these can lead to increased inflammation!

This Half Marathon Oct 2012, was my partners first in 18 months and we took a very different approach to his pre and post nutrition. In the week leading up to the race he was drinking allot of beetroot juice, Ginger Zingers (carrot, apple, lemon and ginger) as well as Ginger Shots every day (ginger and apple) – something we have been doing for a while now. Yes he did some carb loading with sweet potato chips (sweet potato roasted in coconut oil with sea salt) and some whole-wheat noodles but not much more than that. Post-race he had nothing but juices until about 7pm when he did have a meal.

“Research from Exeter University and Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in Devon found two marked physiological effects. Beetroot juice contains high levels of nitrate. This widens the blood vessels, reducing blood pressure and allowing more blood to flow. It cuts the amount of oxygen
needed by muscles.

“We’ve seen in this study that beetroot juice can reduce the amount of oxygen you need to perform
even low-intensity exercise.” – Katie Lansley”

The juices and smoothies he had had been designed to be the perfect balance of potassium and sodium, (for lactic acid build up and cramps) as well as being incredibly hydrating. The celery in the juices and smoothies helped to flush the body of excess carbon dioxide. The beetroot, as mentioned above, is there to widen the blood vessels allowing more oxygen to circulate.

The result was after an early night on the Sunday, having cooled down properly with a 5 minute jog, stretched immediately after the race and later on that day he woke up on Monday saying he could run the race again!

So as well as putting in the miles on the roads putting some miles into what goes on in the kitchen may just be the answer to enhanced performance and quicker recovery!

See you on the finish line!

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