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Choosing an engineered sport nutrition product, or set of products, that will appropriately meet your needs for your sport(s) of choice can be an overwhelming endeavor. Some folks are in the mode of “let’s try everything!!” with no method to the madness. Other folks want to be more systematic in their nutrition trials, and then there are those who just mimic what their training partners use or their coaches tell them to do (without understanding why). While this topic could nearly comprise a book in length, below are some key considerations for how to more carefully choose which sports nutrition products will provide you adequate fueling. Form of Product Sports nutrition products generally come in the form of solids (such as bars, cookies, etc.), semi-solids (gels, chews, beans, etc.), and liquids (Tailwind, Gatorade, etc.). The intensity and duration of your activity are two important factors that will help you decide what type of product(s) may best be tolerated. Think of a 10-mile trail run at a moderate to a high intensity on difficult terrain compared to an 8-hour leisurely hike. It would be more challenging to consume a dense nutrition bar (from a digestive standpoint) on the hard trail run compared to the longer, lower intensity hike day. There will always be a few “iron tough stomachs” out there, but generally, the higher the heart rate (and associated exercise intensity), the more difficult it is to easily solid foods. In these scenarios, liquids and semi-solids can be better choices. Taste This may be an obvious one, but the flavor (salty, sweet, savory, bitter), mouthfeel, aroma, and consistency of a product can be a major turn off to your taste buds. If you don’t like mushy, sticky foods during your everyday nutrition, you most likely won’t want to eat these kinds of foods midway through a long activity. Of course, you can get an idea of the characteristics of the product simply by the name of the flavor, but you may be surprised once you actually taste the product out on the trails. “Blechhh…This ain’t tasting like key lime pie to me!” Also consider “flavor fatigue” that can set in after long durations… some of us can only take so much chocolate before we are over it. Practicality Think about what you are doing and how you want to carry and consume the products. Will you have easy access to refill bottles and mix a new round of your drink? Will your hydration pack or apparel have pockets to carry what you need and easily access it? It’s also important to think about predicted time of day you may opt to consume your products. Will you want a cold sports nutrition drink later at night if it is a bit chilly out? Ingredients and Nutritional Profile Yep, most of us can be consuming “real whole foods” for fueling, but we’re talking about packaged and engineered products in this article. Engineered products are often classified as supplements, so upon reading the ingredient list, you may find yourself scratching your head wondering “what the heck is THAT?!” This is opportunity for learning and doing your homework to be sure you are not risking wasting your money or consuming a product that may give you gastrointestinal distress. Nutritionally, you may be one who needs less sugar or more sugar, desire more satiety from fats and protein than hopping on the sugar roller coaster. Whatever the case may be, take a few seconds to check out the label and get empowered to learn what you are putting in your body to feed the beast. These are a handful of factors to keep in mind as you examine your inventory of sports nutrition products and go forward in your journey of identifying the products that work best for you. If you hit any stumbling blocks or want to be more expeditious in the process, give The Nutrition Mechanic a shout! Thanks for reading, Dina Griffin, MS, RDN, CSSD The Nutrition Mechanic Board Certified Sports Dietitian / Registered Dietitian firstname.lastname@example.org
With the heat of summer being in full force, we asked our resident nutrition genius, Dina Griffin, to share her wisdom on the hydration question. She always nails it. Summer time means more sweating for us outdoor enthusiasts! Speaking of sweat, how are your hydration strategies? How about a few quick tips to keep you on track so you can cover more ground, and feel good doing it, out there?1. Plan for what you’re about to do… and reflect on what you just did! If you’re headed out for a shorter adventure (let’s say less than 60-75 minutes in duration) that is not expected to be too difficult or strenuous, then it’s okay to go lighter on fluid intake during your activity. However, you should still put a focus on fluid intake pre- and post-activity.There’s no single fool-proof formula for an exact amount of fluids you should drink before you head out, but you can apply some common sense (i.e., really think about what you are drinking and how much!) or aim for a range of 16-24 ounces in the 1-2 hours prior to your planned activity. Read on. For post-activity hydration, the standard guidelines state to drink 16-24 ounces for every pound of fluid loss (or body mass loss). For example, if your net fluid losses were 48 ounces, then you should drink 48-72 ounces within a couple hours. Unfortunately, this isn’t a fool-proof formula either and to be honest, most of us have no idea how to properly monitor our fluid losses. If you have a second workout later in the day, know you sweat heavily (possibly combined with under-consuming fluids), or you feel you aren’t recovering well from your adventures, then it is worth your time to learn how to monitor and fine-tune your hydration and rehydration strategies.2. For those of you exercising at higher elevation (above 8,000 feet), in direct sun exposure for prolonged periods, and/or heavy sweater types, ideally you take fluids with you to drink throughout your activity. Again, there’s not a single hydration strategy that applies to everyone, but generally 3-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes works for most individuals. That’s a fairly broad recommendation range, so take note of what you are doing and then experiment with a different strategy the next time to see if you feel better or worse. If you are getting headaches or migraines during or after your activity, your hydration strategy may be the culprit (unless you also had one too many cocktails the night before!).3. You can drink fluids other than plain water to hydrate. In fact, if you are going to be out on the trails for several hours in the summer heat, you will be better off to include fluids that contain sodium (and I’m not talking about the salt on the rim of the margarita!). The added sodium will help your body absorb fluids more efficiently. In essence, you end up “dehydrating” more slowly. There are gobs of sports drinks and electrolyte formulas on the market. Choosing the right one depends on many factors such as your sweat rate, sweat sodium concentration (how salty your sweat is), duration/intensity of planned activity, whether other calories are being consumed (and what type), gut tolerance, and so on.Hydration is often given inadequate attention during our summer months, so give it a fresh eye and see what you notice. If you need help making some sense of it all, give me a shout and let’s figure out what you need to go suffer better. -Dina Griffin, MS, RDN, CSSD, CISSNdina@nutritionmechanic.comSport Dietitian and The Nutrition Mechanic
It's that time of year – things are heating up as race season leaps into full swing. Many of you are no doubt either training for a summer ultra or pacing a friend (or stranger even) at one of the many upcoming races. Not long ago, we saw a post that talked about having a pacer as something of a lesser accomplishment than running for example, a 100-miler self supported, like Everest with vs without supplemental oxygen. That definitely got us thinking. Here at Suffer Better, we've been on both sides of that equation – both running and pacing. Both are serious commitments. And let's be clear – running 100 miles is an accomplishment – however you do it. Sure, doing it self-supported is certainly one way to do that and definitely worth a pat on the back. But pacing is still gonna happen, and if you're planning to have a pacer, as many of you are, or you're going to be a pacer, it's worth talking and thinking about what that entails and how you can maximize that experience for both of you. We've of course got our own take, but we've also talked to a few of our good friends for theirs. so here are some thoughts for you.First thought – as the runner, the most important piece of advice we can offer is to remember to say thanks. Sure, you're running a long way and it's very much your day. But those good folks who are sharing the trail with you, keeping you hydrated, safe and moving forward, are giving up a ton of their time and energy to help you achieve your goal. Appreciate the heck out of that. It's a very big deal. As a pacer, you'll be wearing a number of hats out on the trail, all of which are important. If you've run or paced an ultra before, those hats fit more naturally, but even if you're a rookie you can play the part of what our friend Kristin calls a "runabler," helping move the sport and runners onward and upward. As a pacer, you're definitely one part cheerleader, one part psychologist, one part creative problem solver (aka McGyver, because, as we all know, shit happens), and one part mind-reader. Two big keys for a successful day – for everyone – are humor and patience. One other thing Kristin mentions that we so agree with is that you gotta love it all – running, being outdoors, the total experience. Talk to me. Communication is key – on both sides. You two should talk, before and during the big event. You should know your runner, their race plan, their goals for the day. Even more, you should know what they can tolerate and what they can't, and what their triggers are. You don't want to be caught with your pants down, so to speak. And you need to know how best to motivate your runner. It's definitely a case of different strokes for different folks, so know what works best to keep your runner on track. Some people respond to tough love while others to kudos and encouragement. Some a little of both. That's where you come in-know what to use where.Be upbeat. Positivity is the order of the day. Each and every race is its own adventure; sometimes things go as planned; sometimes, maybe even often, not. Your job is to adapt to the changing situation and stay positive. Shoot, hopefully you'll enjoy your day and your runner, appreciate the inevitably spectacular views and soak in the entire experience. Remember to pass that on - thank the volunteers and your runner's crew for what they do all day, and, oftentimes, night. Whose race is it anyway? As a pacer, of course, it's not about you; it's your runner's day. So don’t hijack their race – focus your attention and energy on what they need. That also means that sometimes you'll need to be thick skinned, people say and do things when they're thrashed, hungry, whipped. Don't take that personally. And you better not be easily grossed out - puking and shitting aren't all that unusual. Through it all, you "get" to be selfless, and help them get to the finish line. Plan the run, run the plan. Do your homework and planning upfront. Know the course, know where aid stations are located, be synced with your runner's crew, be familiar with your runner’s food and drink preferences and understand what your runner wants to achieve, whether it be set the course record or beat the cut off. On race day you’re a moving Chief Operating Officer, often being called upon to make quick decisions and react to constantly shifting physical and emotional conditions. Having a plan to execute against will ensure things go as smooth as possible. Of course, you're not a mule. Most races prohibit that – and rightly so. And it's probably worth thinking hard about pacing a loved one. Sure you love each other, but sometimes, especially when under stress, we see the worst in one another – love or not. Run hard, be safe and have fun.
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