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"Nutrition and Hydration"
-Mike Monroe
date posted: August 02, 2009

ALLISON IS A CLIENT OF MINE, A 38 YEAR OLD MOTHER OF TWO WHO IS IN GOOD PHYSICAL shape and who is very conscientious about making sure she does everything "right." She called me last week in frustration over her most recent run, a 10-miler that she did on an early Saturday morning along a familiar route by her house. All of my clients use heart rate monitors and Allison`s frustration stemmed from the fact that her heart rate was unusually high for her, which caused her to slow her pace and experience a slower run than she would have liked and has come to expect.

When she and I reviewed all of the factors that can affect athletic performance, we discovered that on a hot and humid morning, Allison had brought along only 20 ounces of fluid (in this case, Gatorade Endurance) and two gels. She also told me that she took only one of the gels, because she didn`t like the taste. She slept fine the night before, and had eaten and hydrated well before her run. It didn`t take long to determine that especially given the hot and humid conditions, Allison had not brought nearly enough fuel or drink to sustain her usual pace, and her performance suffered as a result.

Sound familiar? Many people underestimate the need for hydration and fuel during their workouts, and the consequences can range from the merely annoying to the dire. Women, especially moms who have started running in an effort to get into shape and lose "baby weight," are particularly at risk for not fueling correctly before, during and after their runs. As the trainer for Moms Who Marathon (a group of moms preparing to run the NYC marathon in November), I`ve come across this many times. Most of the Moms I work with are first-time marathoners (and a few are first time runners!), and this is what I tell them:

*You must make sure you hydrate before and during your runs. For every 1% decrease in body weight due to dehydration through sweating, a runner will experience a 3% decrease in pace. Even if you aren`t training for an event, the importance of properly hydrating cannot be over-emphasized. You can determine your sweat rate by weighing yourself, clothes off, just before and just after a run. The difference in the starting and ending weights is your sweat rate, and if the loss is more than 1-2% of your starting weight, you are not hydrating properly. (example - Allison weighs 125 pounds. When she tested her sweat rate, she weighed 125 pounds before she ran and 122 pounds after her run. The 3 pound loss amounts to over 2% of her body weight, and for Allison to run well, she will need to drink 16 oz. of fluid for every pound of body weight she sweats out, WHILE she is running).

Please note that you will need to replace not just fluid on especially hot days, but sodium as well. There are many sports drinks (Gatorade, Accelerade, etc.) on the market - taste them and pick the one you like the best.

*Do not diet before, during and after your runs! If you are dieting, you can do so the rest of the day, but make sure you have enough fuel to kick off your runs and sustain them. Don`t skip breakfast if you are an early morning runner but try to find something with protein and carbs that you can digest easily (oatmeal with fruit, toast with peanut butter, yogurt, a bagel with jelly and/or peanut butter or even some plain pasta will do). On your runs, easy-to-carry food includes gels and gus, protein bars such as Power Bars or Balance Bars, or you can opt for some granola or dried fruit and nuts - anything that will give you enough calories to exercise efficiently. You don`t need to eat pizza - just something small and prepared with the sustenance of energy in mind.

And remember that even though you are running, which is most certainly great exercise and is definitely a fat burning activity, your runs don`t give you license to eat all sorts of junk. In fact, the average 45 minute run only burns up the amount of calories in a Snickers Bar. So be careful when you choose your snacks but don`t deny your body the fuel it needs either.

So if you are smart and thoughtful about your hydration and nutrition, you will see your running get stronger over time. And then perhaps one day you too will consider the challenge of a marathon!

Mike Monroe, President, HM4 Fitness/Moms Who Marathon and Amanda
Moszkowski, Partner, Moms Who Marathon

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