Estelle was kind enough to invite me to do a guest post for her regarding nutrition and exercise. While I am not a nutritionist, I am an athlete who has competed in a variety of sports since the age of seven. After twenty years of reading, tweaking, and finding my own groove, I am happy to share my knowledge with you today (and everyday over at Marathon Mama!) Estelle passed on a question that had been posed to her, and I hope that whoever asked it is reading – however it is information we can all use to improve our athletic achievements.
Does drinking amino acids during a workout really make a big difference? The short answer, No.In fact, drinking amino acids (which are the building blocks of protein) may be detrimental to your training if ingesting on the run as blood would be diverted from hard working muscles to the stomach to digest them. The best drink to have on hand during your workout is clear: water. Water will hydrate your muscles, help lactic acid to flush out of the muscles, and keep your focus clear.
If you are embarking on a rigorous training schedule, you are right to be considering the basics of refueling and how to utilize carbohydrates to your advantage. If you are training for longer than one hour, you need to be taking in more than just water (WATER IS ESSENTIALwhether you are going for a half hour walk or a three hour run. Drink up!) There are several supplements on the market to assist you in your carbohydrate refueling, varying from liquids, gels, powders, jelly beans (seriously), jujubes (again, I’m serious) and I’m sure others. You do not however need to go a commercial refueling route. Try dried and pitted dates, raisins, or apricots (put in a baggie before popping them in your pocket, or pinning them to your bra strap.) The important thing in refueling is to TRY IT OUT and find what works for YOUR body.Everybody is different, and what works for one person, may make another person sick to their stomach – literally.
Base guidelines for carbohydrate refueling are 30-60g per hour, 30g being for those on the smaller side, and 60g for the larger bunch. Admittedly, I do not follow such requirements. I simply experiment until my body and mental clarity are at top performance. You may also find it sufficient to have a snack 1 to 2 hours before heading out the door instead of carting food with you if your workout will be over before the 90 minute mark. Again, experiment – see what works for you!
Oh and if I drink amino acids during my workout do I still need to drink an isolated whey shake after?
Since we’ve already debunked the amino acid consumption during your workout, let’s talk about the post workout window. After you have ceased strenuous exercise, your body has an optimal refueling window of 15-60 minutes. This means that the foods you consume during this time are more readily utilized in the rebuilding of tissue you just spent so much energy and effort breaking down – pretty straight forward right? But what should you put in your body? What are your broken down muscle fibers screaming for? Tradition and many “Got Milk?” ads would have you reaching for chocolate milk. This is something I used to do with great pleasure – until it hit my stomach and I remembered why I don’t like cow’s milk– and a natural extension of that is whey protein. ‘Isolated Whey Protein’, often found in a powdered form and with an average protein content of 27-33g, is very popular for a variety of reasons. In its isolate form, whey protein is low fat with 90+% of its weight being protein. However, there is no human research linked to whey protein supplements, despite their popularity amongst fitness enthusiasts. High protein consumption is not something that has been proven to have any positive effects on your health, or training, so I would save your stomach (and wallet) the pain of digesting this, and stick to something more natural. My nutritional philosophy is simple – stick to the basics. This means, consume foods in their natural, or close to it, form for optimal nutrition. Think about all the processes involved in creating isolated whey proteins. Do you think there is a plant growing plastic tubs of animal by-products? Once I asked myself some revealing questions, I couldn’t deny the fact that I had bought into the hype, and glossed over the fact. While I have used the isolate powder supplements in the past I no longer do; here is my recommendation for you – and what I have found works even better! Drink a green smoothie. Yes, GREEN.
Sweet Almond Smoothie
1 cup non-dairy milk*
1 handful spinach
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tsp milled flaxseed
1 tsp chia seeds (optional)
½-1 cup ice cubes
Blend all ingredients in a high powers blender and enjoy! Add more milk is desired, or more spinach if you like – this is a flexible recipe, and delicious in every variation I’ve tried so far!
*even if you enjoy cow’s milk, after a workout is NOT the time to consume it as it is not easily digestible
Whether you are embarking on a marathon training plan, or gearing up for your first 5k, good luck! Training is a fun and rewarding way to bench mark your fitness goals, get you outdoors, and keep you focused on health and well-being. And don’t be shy – if you have questions, I’d love to help you find your answers!