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The Dos and Don’ts of Race Day Fueling

Written on November 1, 2013 at 1:56 pm , by

Ben recently finished the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii just under the 10 hour mark. NBD. (Photo courtesy of X2Performance)

Granola-topped yogurt or smoothie? Power bar or peanut butter on toast? Coffee or juice? Why is it that, come race day, we always question fueling? Lucky for those running in this weekend’s New York City Marathon (and anyone else looking to tackle a big race anytime soon), we got the 26.2 diet dirt from sports nutrition expert Ben Greenfield. The coach, ex-bodybuilder and Ironman triathlete is the go-to pro on prepping for peak performance. Here are Ben’s top five tips on eating for the run and recovery. Hint: Carb-loading isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Stick to what you know. OK, you’ve heard this before, but according to Ben, many athletes still break down mentally and try something out of the ordinary the week—or even day—of the race. Not a good idea. “Do exactly in the race as you have practiced in training,” he says. “Remember to train with what you’re going to use in the race about four to six times before the race. That’s what it’s going to take to train your gut to get used to the fuels you plan on using.”

Carbs: A yes…sort of. “If athletes limit carbohydrates, then taking in extra during race week become far less important,” says Greenfield. Should you decide to nosh on a bagel or big bowl of pasta, two to three days prior to the race will do the trick. Ben’s easy-to-digest suggestions: sweet potatoes, taro and white rice. (Phew, I guess we can still use the excuse that we’re carb-loading…)

Rule of yum. When it comes to pre-run drinks, err on the side of caution. “Juice is simply empty calories that actually has potential to cause blood sugar spikes,”  explains Greenfield. But what about java? Stick to just one cup, so long as you have sipped on it prior to a long run in the past. No one wants an unplanned porta potty pit stop.

To GU or not to GU? That is always the halfway point question, and according to Greenfield, energy chews/replenishers may not be as necessary as you think. “The more sodium you take in, the more your kidneys are going to push out,” he says. Opt for electrolyte capsules such as Athlytes, Endurolytes or Salt Stick instead of the sugar-laden stuff. Effervescent tablets like Nuun or GU Brew are also good options.

Recover like a champ. The old school ways of thinking—foam rolling, ice bath, massage, post-workout shakes—are instilled in our brain for a reason. They work! In addition, Greenfield suggests a few options that may not have crossed your mind. “I’ve found the occasional acupuncture session to be an incredibly useful method for everything from nagging aches and paints to full-blown adrenal fatigue,” he admits. Another tactic to consider? Deload (also known as an easy “recovery week”) every four to eight weeks, according to Greenfield. Hey, it can actually improve your fitness levels, especially since it takes a minimum of 72 hours to recover from a tough run.

Still concerned about what to eat the morning of your race? Greenfield suggests blending (it’s easier on your digestive system!) an energizing kale smoothie with coconut water or coconut milk. “Blending or juicing helps to pre-digest the food so your body doesn’t have to work as hard during digestion,” he says. This frees up precious energy for you to devote to your stride! For efforts greater than three hours in duration, add 20-30 grams of protein powder to the mix (Ben’s fave is Mt. Capra’s DEEP 30 protein). Ben also swears by ATP energy sources like X2Performance to naturally increase energy, enhance endurance and improve recovery. Best of luck this weekend, runners! You’re going to kick major asphalt.

Now tell us: How do you fuel up for a big race?

Jackie Warner’s Go-To Protein Shake Recipe

Written on June 28, 2012 at 3:00 pm , by

When celebrity trainer Jackie Warner recently dropped by the FITNESS offices—she’d dashed in between doing a TV segment and hitting some other morning meetings—she was fresh off the success of her latest book, 10 Pounds in 10 Days, and already on to the next big project. Fans who watched her Bravo TV reality series Thintervention With Jackie Warner will recall scenes where the fitness pro showed up in contestants’ kitchens and taught them to whip up healthy, don’t-blow-your-diet shakes. Turns out, Warner sensed a secret ingredient was missing. “I’d read a lot about protein powders and consumed them myself but I couldn’t find anything with all the all-natural, organic components I thought they needed,” she says. “I wanted whey protein powder with more than protein isolate. So I spent two years developing some myself.”

The resulting product can be found in her just-launched Wellness Collection, which also includes a multivitamin, a combo Omega-3,-6 and –9 supplement, flavored H20 boosters and 150-calorie snack bars. “Plus it tastes great,” adds Warner.

We're blowing Jackie's cover! The secret ingredient in her shake? Spinach! (Photo by Chris Gallo)

Before her morning workouts, Warner whips up a healthy shake (recipe below) with the vanilla bean protein powder. “It has the perfect combination of carbohydrates, fat and protein to fuel your workout, ” she says.

Jackie Warner’s Pre-Workout Protein Shake

Serves 1

  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1/2 cup frozen spinach
  • 1 tablespoon all-natural peanut butter
  • 1 scoop vanilla bean whey isolate protein powder
  • 1/4 cup dry oats
  • Water, added until shake reaches desired texture

Blend all ingredients, pour in glass and sip on the way to the gym.

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Fit Links: Picking a Gym and Beating Brain Drain

Written on January 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm , by

Pick a gym that's convenient and clean. (Photo by Jay Sullivan)

This week’s fit links from around the web:

Hungry Girl’s Resolution-Ready Tricks and Food Picks

Written on January 5, 2012 at 12:28 pm , by

Lisa Lillien has the low-down on guilt-free foods. (Photo courtesy of Michael Rababy)

Like your friendly (and oh-so-food-savvy) neighbor, Lisa Lillian, aka Hungry Girl, doles out light eating advice every weekday in her online newsletters. They have garnered such a large fan base—to the tune of one million people—that Lillien now hosts her own cooking show, which appears on Food Network and the Cooking Channel! She “isn’t a nutritionist, she’s just hungry,” her tagline explains. So while you should always consult your doctor or dietitian before starting a diet to find your ideal calorie consumption level and to discuss the best ways for you to personally lose weight, sources like Hungry Girl (and FITNESS!) can provide fun recipe ideas and motivation to stick with your get-healthy goals.

We spoke with Lillien to learn more about her tricks to stay on track—and for more than the first few weeks of the year!

What is your New Year’s resolution?

You caught me on a good year. Usually I don’t believe in resolutions, but this year I actually made one to drink a lot more water. I’ve been traveling so much lately and stopped drinking the 12 to 14 glasses I had been drinking for so long. I’m back on the water bandwagon! I try to carry around a bottle, and I keep it at room temperature. If the water’s too cold, I can’t drink a lot.

What are you eating more or less of today than you were ten years ago?

My food tastes have changed a little bit. I eat a lot of protein now. In 2001, I was eating more starches, like sandwiches. Starchy carbs are my “trigger foods,” or foods that make me overeat, so I’ve replaced them with more protein options. That helps keep me on track. I love Tyson Grilled & Ready chicken, which comes frozen or refrigerated. I use them as snacks and in entrees—in salads, paired with spaghetti squash or mixed in a stir-fry.

You’ve been a big advocate for tofu Shirataki noodles. What’s the next item we should be stocking in our kitchen for a nutritious meal?

Shirataki noodles are magical! Since I’m such a pasta maniac, I also like spaghetti squash because it really acts like pasta. You can make a great marinara dish with spaghetti squash, mushrooms, Italian seasoning and a little garlic. It’s great stuff!

Are there any recipes that you’ve yet to find a guilt-free swap for that you’d love to?

The biggest challenge for a long time was creme brulee, but I think we’ve mastered that. [Find Lisa's 104-calorie recipe here.] Cheesecake was also a struggle, but there are a lot of Hungry Girl cheesecake options. It’s hard to stump me!

For more from Lillien, Read more