Nutrition Q&A with Registered Nutritionist, Lucy-Ann Prideaux www.simply-nutrition.co.uk
I’ve heard that whey protein is good for runners – is this true or should it be just taken by bodybuilders. If it is good for me, how do I take it?
Whey protein can be a good supplemental protein for all athletes (including runners), especially those who have compromised immunity. This is due to the natural occurrence of immunoglobulins (immune stimulating proteins) found in whey. Whey proteins are one of two major groups of proteins found in cow’s milk. The other group are known as caseins, and are considered to be the most allergenic proteins in milk. Having said that, both whey and casein, can be problematic for some sensitive individuals. Whey is the by-product, or liquid left after cheese production, and is either concentrated, or the proteins are isolated from this liquid and dried. It’s then used in protein powders, supplements and sports products.
Many products contain lots of additives and sugars. For quality, try Nutri’s BioPure Protein (Tel: 0800 212 742). This yields an effective 16g protein, with the advantage of whey’s fast-digesting proteins, which rapidly reach the muscles for immediate use in protein re-synthesis. Whey is also high in BCAAs (branch chain amino acids), which are important amino acids for sports performance. If you can’t take dairy proteins, try hemp protein, a natural wholefood. Hemp seeds are an excellent source of protein, with the added advantage of containing a good balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids, as well as the beneficial BCAAs.
I’ve been training for an Autumn marathon and seem to be hit by a “flu-like” feeling, like I’m borderline ill, with a sore throat etc. whenever I do heavy mileage. I take Lemsips when this happens, but I wonder if there are any natural remedies for minor illnesses, and more importantly, can I improve my diet to boost my immune system?
You could be suffering from overtraining syndrome; this describes the fine balance all endurance athletes experience, between doing enough training to get fitter and stronger, and doing too much, with inadequate recovery. This of course, leads to a downturn in fitness. A lack of carb calories and quality, high-nutrient food; stress; and poor sleep can also make you prone to coughs and colds.
Aside from quality rest and sleep, diet is crucial to help boost immunity. What you eat feeds every cell of your body, and at least 70 percent of the body’s immunity lies within the protective barrier of the digestive tract. This is in the form of gastric acid, immune tissue that lines the gut, and the billions of beneficial bacteria living in the colon, known collectively as our gut flora. These helpful bacteria help us fight disease-causing bacteria and viruses, as well as support digestion. They flourish when the diet is good, and diminish with poor diet, stress, and with the use of certain medications and antibiotics.
Foods which help to boost levels of gut flora include cultured foods such as Bio yogurt, buttermilk; pickled foods like cabbage or sauerkraut, chicory, artichokes; fresh vegetables; dark berries and apples (packed with antioxidants, too); and ground flaxseed (available from supermarkets). Adding items such as ginger and rosemary, or turmeric, cumin, onions and garlic to dishes, can also boost immunity and bring significant health benefits.
Remember to watch your alcohol intake, and keep yourself hydrated, too.
Finally, you could try a course of probiotics, but I suggest speaking to a nutritionist first. Recent research has revealed that supplementation with certain probiotic strains enhances levels of the immune marker interferon gamma in endurance runners, suggesting that probiotics may confer significant immune benefits to athletes.
Marathon carb loading and unloading
I’m doing my first marathon this month. I read that I should cut back on carbs for a few days before I carb-load – but someone at the running club said that advice is out of date. What’s the best way to prepare the week before the race?
The old-style, seven-day regimes, first devised in the sixties are out-dated, yes, and science and practice has since progressed to a more effective way of boosting glycogen levels (ie the body’s stores of carbohydrate found in the muscles and liver). A simple three-day carb-load, is highly effective and practical, and you won’t have to endure the lows in energy and mood, that often accompanies a three or four day depletion phase.
But remember, carb-loading doesn’t mean stuffing yourself with enormous amounts of bread and pasta. As you are tapering, and running a lot less in the days leading up to the marathon, you’re energy requirements are lower than they have been in training.
So, if you eat normally, or slightly exceed your carb requirements 48 hours prior to racing, you will be carb-loading (ie taking in more than you burn up in the day).
It is more important to concentrate on making carbohydrates a focus of the overall diet in the last three days. Eat less calories from protein, ie meats and fish, and cut back on fatty foods. Make sure that the carbohydrates you eat are ‘good’, easy-to-digest and nutritious. Try fresh fruits, whole oats, oatcakes, rice, barley, quinoa, millet and root veg. You can also consume carb-containing fluids such as fruit juices (the best choices being dark berry juices like grape, pomegranate and cherry), and fresh fruit smoothies made from blended fruits, juice and plain yogurt (but go easy on your fibre content if you’re sensitive). Plan your three-day menu in advance, and aim for six to seven smaller meals to continually top-up energy stores.
The night before the race eat a normalsize meal, and on the morning of the race, eat a simple high-carb breakfast, three hours prior to the start: plain oats, with milk or water, chopped banana and a little plain yogurt is best. Eat like this, and you’ll sail through your first marathon! Good luck.