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Eating Right for runners

Marathoner, Dharminder Sharma, talks about the kind of food that is good and bad for the Indian runner.

You can eat whatever you want to, because you are a distance runner so you can digest everything – how many times have we heard this advice from the so-called experts to newly christened long distance runners!

Another statement often heard is that I run long distances so that I can eat whatever I want.

There cannot be two worse statements about diet than these!

Eating right is as important for a long distance runner as it is for anybody else. One can never overstate the importance of eating the right kind of food and food supplements to ensure a life-long injury free running experience. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats take up a major part of our daily diet although fibre, vitamins, minerals and water are also indispensable.

What are carbs?

In India, carbs are generally considered to be wheat and rice and most do not know much about what other foods contain carbs. Fruits, salads, vegetables, nuts, sweets and legumes (daals) all contain carbs.

What are simple and complex carbs?

A general advice given by Dietitians to health conscious individuals and runners is to go for complex carbs rather than simple ones. Without going into the science of the advantages of complex carbs and the disadvantages of the other, a simple listing of the items would help a runner or a fitness enthusiast choose the right diet. The common examples of simple carbs that a runner should avoid or restrict in quantity are white breads, sugar and sugary products like candies, toffees, chocolates (except a small piece of dark chocolate) and mithhai (traditional Indian sweets), fruit juices (especially canned ones), white rice, most bakery products, potato chips and cold drinks, this list is, however, not exhaustive.

The complex and healthy carbs that one should prefer are whole grain breads, chapatis made of whole wheat, Bajra, Ragi and other coarse grains/millet, brown rice, beans, nuts, oats and oatmeal, quinoa, fruits especially less sugary ones like guava, papaya and pineapple, sweet potatoes and leafy greens.

What about protein in diet?

When it comes to proteins, there is a popular myth that only the body builders or hard core gym enthusiasts need to consume proteins. That is not true because our body needs proteins to build muscles that provide the necessary support during runs. Proteins help build the muscles and they are required to recover the muscles after a long strenuous run. Therefore, a runner’s diet requires proteins in good quantities.

A long distance runner under training should have at least 0.8 gm of protein per kg of body weight per day in order to stay injury free. Some of the protein rich ‘foods’ that one can add in daily diet are chicken breast, fish, sunflower seed, almond, quinoa, egg white, low fat cottage cheese (paneer), chick pea (chana), whole lentils (chhilka daal), oat, beans, soya milk, broccoli, brown rice and peas, to name a few.

How do fats help?

Besides, the carbohydrates and proteins, fats take another major part of human diet. We often hear of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats – good are the ones that should be more in quantity. However, often when people get their lipid (fat) profiles checked through blood tests and come across technical terminology, it is little difficult for them to correlate in the laboratory reports as to what are the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ fats. Even if they are able to make out what these are, they often do not have an idea as to how to increase or decrease their levels in our bodies. The best way to increase good fats is to eat the food that naturally contains large quantities of ‘good’ fats.  Some of the ‘foods’ that contain high to very high quantities of these ‘good fats’ are almond, walnut, flaxseed, olive, canola, chia seed, pistachio, fish oil especially cod liver oil.

Never forget the Vitamins & Minerals

One can never over-emphasize the importance of flaxseeds in the daily diet. They are a rich source of natural omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 and B6 and are one of the most nutrient rich foods that also contain protein, dietary fibre, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and selenium. Flaxseeds are low in carbs and therefore, very useful for someone looking to shed weight. They are also good for cardiac health as they lower cholesterol levels and the antioxidants in them slow down the process of aging.

How much fibre is enough?

We often ignore the importance of another ‘food’ in our diet and that is dietary fibre. Some of the above-mentioned foods do contain dietary fibres in large quantities and should form a part of the daily diet no matter whether the person is training or is in the midst of an event. I say this because a lot of literature on the internet advises against eating fibre and protein rich diet the day before the event and in fact advises eating pasta. Since most of the literature is from the perspective of the West, this advice may hold well in that context but my advice to an Indian runner would be to go for the same diet that one is used to eating which may be Roti, Idli, rice, Dosa, etc.

The night before the big race

If you are used to eating Daal, Roti, Kheera, rice and Dahi as your regular diet, there is absolutely no harm eating it the night before the event. There is absolutely no sense going on a hunt the evening before an event for a restaurant that serves pasta if you have gone to a new city to run in an event. Just stick to familiar foods that have worked for you during the training, if they have worked for you so far they would surely work now. Remember, the day before the event or a marathon is not the right time to try a new food in a new city! In fact, eating familiar food will actually prevent the constipation on the morning of your event and save you precious time to enable you to reach the event fresh and in time.

Fitness and a healthy eating has to be a continuous journey and not a time bound target for a runner or a fitness person. I would conclude by giving another important advice – spicy and oily foods the day before the event whether or not you are used to eating them, are an absolute ‘No’!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dharminder Sharma is an Indian Forest Service Officer (IFS) who has been running long distances for more than ten years. He has attended most of the major marathons in India and a few abroad. He has also started many running clubs in the Northern Indian region and organising quality runs for runners is one of his many passions

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Beat the Sugar habit

Beating the sugar habit, is tough in a world of processed foods, but a simple plan and a bit of commitment might just help, writes Nandini Reddy. 

Sugar is everywhere today. Even the most innocuous foods have sugar hidden in them. You don’t actually have to eat cookies and cakes to directly consume sugar. Your favourite hot sauce also is loaded with added sugars. The truth is that there is absolutely no health benefit from consuming added sugar. It damages all your diet efforts more than any other indulgence.

It might seem like a task to constantly monitor added sugars in everything that you eat but in the long run it really helps. Consider a few simple steps to remove sugar from your diet or reduce it to the levels that are good to satisfy your sweet tooth and not damage your diet.

Clean out the pantry and drawers

We all have stashed secret snacks in our office drawers and pantries. The first step is to clean out the stock of foods that are high in added sugars. Remember to check all bottled and packaged foods. Read your labels right and ensure that you get rid of the whole stock without exception.

Avoid adding sugar

Try a few days of avoiding sugar. A lot of things will taste bitter and unmanageable but it is a way to discover new tastes. Coffee and tea will be unbearable the first time but you might discover new flavours of tea that do not need sugar and unsweetened expresso might help you recover from tiredness a lot faster than a sugar binge.

Get rid of sugary drinks

Colas, packaged juice, iced teas, bottled frappes and energy drinks all are storehouses of added sugar. Most of the energy drinks and colas also have caffeine and the combination of a caffeine high and a jolt from sugar is comforting when you are stressed. But one moment of deliciousness is not worth year long health troubles.

Look for natural replacements 

There are several natural sweeteners that you can add to different food that might give you a more complex taste. Try adding vanilla extract into your coffee for that touch of sweetness. Avoid sauces in your salads and add caramelized onions instead. Salt tends to intensify the sweetness of pumpkins and fruit so sprinkle a little salt instead.

Kick refined grains

You need to eat carbs but they don’t have to be bleached white. Avoid white processed foods like breads, pastas , cookies and cakes. Your diet benefits from whole and unpolished grains. Get your starch from vegetables and pile on the protein from your beans and peas.

Being on a sugar high can feel wonderful. But breaking the grip of sugar can also be equally satisfying.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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Power of Plant Protein

Your meals need protein and if you are a vegetarian then you need to boost your meals with these essential foods, says Nandini Reddy

If you are looking to gain muscle, you are most likely told that you need to eat lean or white meats at least in order to meet your daily protein goals. Protein is the essential macronutrient that will help you gain muscle and also helps regulate hormones and keep bones in good health. But when you don’t eat meat, there are heart healthy legumes, grains, millet and pusles that are a good choice.

Soybeans – You can consume soybeans directly as a beans in a salad or as tofu. It is a great source of complete fibre and protein. You can also choose to replace panneer or cottage cheese with tofu.

Protein: 36gms/100gms

Black Beans (Rajma) – These beans are a great combination with Indian food. They are good accompaniments for rice and are flavourful enough to relish your meal.

Protein: 21/100gms

Chickpeas (Channa) – These are the most filing meat substitute and can be used in salads, curries or even be eaten as the Mediterranean favourite Hummus. They are also filled with heart healthy potassium.

Protein: 19/100gms

Lentils (Dhal) – Lentils are a solid source of protein. A daily dose of lentils will help you meet your protein requirement and also you fibre needs. There are a variety of lentils you can choose from and include at aleast a cup of them in your daily diet.

Protein: 22gms/100gms

Dried peas – Peas is a great source of protein. This starchy hardy legume is great for winter meals of soups or as a dhal for eating with rotis. They are great for the heart and stabilizing blood sugar.

Protein: 25gm/100gms

Sorghum (Jowar) – Jowar is a favourite to make rotis and is a powerhouse of iron and protein. Many regions across India eat jowar on a regular basis and its a great alternative for those who want to avoid gluten.

Protein: 10gm/ 100gms 

Finger millet (Ragi) – This is a great replacement for rice. It is also a fabulous source of calcium and amino acids aside from protein. It is also a very versatile millet that can be used to make breakfast food (idli or dosa), a cooling drink for summers (ragi malt mixed with buttermilk) and a filling meal (ragi as replacement for rice).

Protein: 7gms/100gms

All these foods need to be eaten in combination and not isolation in order to meet the full protein requirement that is needed for the day. So if you dislike diary and meat you can still balance your diet and get the band of protein with these options.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

An irregular runner who has run in dry, wet, high altitude and humid conditions. Loves to write a little more than run so now is the managing editor of Finisher Magazine.

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5 Nutritious Smoothie Recipes for Runners

Runners always require the best of nutrition to help fuel their daily run, workouts, as well as help them recover from muscle stress caused post-run. Here are five nutritious smoothie recipes from Sowmya Ganesh that can benefit all runners and give them the energy boost they need.
1. Mango Yogurt Smoothie
Blend and enjoy:
1 cup mango cubes
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 inch ginger piece
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
3/4 cup almond milk
Calories: 235 per serving of 1 glass
Benefits: Mangoes are truly named the king of all fruits for it’s high nutrition content, being rich in several vitamins, minerals, as well as powerful antioxidants. When blended with yogurt, ginger, and turmeric, this makes for an excellent gut-healing smoothie as well as a quick shot of energy.
2. Vegan Carrot Smoothie
Blend and enjoy:
1 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup sliced banana
1 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons walnuts
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Calories: 260 per serving of 1 glass
Benefits: Carrots are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, while bananas have a high potassium content. When blended with vitamin rich nuts like walnuts and almond milk, the nutrition value of this smoothie just gets better by introducing heart-healthy fats into your body with every sip. Cinnamon adds great flavour to the drink while also being anti-inflammatory in nature.
3. Pineapple Spinach Smoothie
Blend and enjoy:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup chopped pineapple
3 cups fresh spinach
1 cucumber
2 tbsp chia seeds
Calories: 390 per serving of 1 glass
Benefits: Pineapples are good for your immune system while also being anti-inflammatory in nature. Spinach is rich in iron and fibre and gives your body a good boost of minerals along with chia seeds. Yogurt is added to this smoothie to make it gut-friendly and healthier for your body’s digestive system.
4. Green Smoothie
Blend and enjoy:
2 cups spinach
1 banana
1/2 cup strawberries
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp flax seeds
1 tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 cup almond milk
Calories: 330 per serving of 1 glass 
Benefits: A high boost of vitamin E, iron, and potassium comes with this smoothie, making it perfect for both a pre-workout drink or a post-workout drink. Flax seeds are high in antioxidants and aid in digestive health, while strawberries provide you with vitamins your body requires for muscle tissue repair.
5. Simple Strawberry Smoothie
Blend and enjoy:
1 cup chopped strawberries
1/2 inch ginger piece
1 cup chopped bananas
1/2 cup orange juice
Calories: 240 per serving of 1 glass
Benefits: Strawberries are high in potassium, magnesium, as well as vitamin C and when blended with bananas, provides a good healthy potassium boost. Ginger is added as it has anti-inflammatory properties that can heal muscle stress and damage. Throw in some healthy vitamins from the orange juice and you’re good to go!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sowmya (1)
Sowmya Ganesh’s career path at different stages and today started Coubutu, India’s first subscription based health food and beverage company along with husband Ganesh Krishnan. Starting small with one product and having added a whole range of products spiraling it in to an impressive nutrition brand, successfully transforming people’s lifestyles every single day.

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