Newsletter Archives: December 1999
Don't ever underestimate the inspirational value of a PowerBar
and a cup of coffee.
In overwhelming numbers, runners are traveling to participate
in events and retreats. I've been taking running trips for almost
four decades and find them to be the best way to energize my life‹as
well as my running. Let me use as my example my most recent running
adventure: to the original marathon in Greece.
I was able to put my finger into the carved letters on the acropolis
of a prayer that a fellow human being wrote into the stone, about
5000 years ago. No amount of reading and studying can give you a
feeling for history as walking the same walks as Plato and Phidippides.
I learned that the ancient Greeks received their news and communications
from a group of career distance runners, the messengers. They could
literally run messages faster than horses because of the terrain
and because of the fact that men have better endurance capacity
To run on the same fields as the ancient athletes was a thrill
beyond words. The starting block stones are there for you to practice
starts, as the athletes did on that field almost 3000 years ago.
Near our hotel, in a seaside resort town south of Athens, are trails
that Phidippides and his fellows could have run, overlooking the
Aegean, with an abandoned lookout post on top, giving a vista of
40 miles of coastline and shipping. While running, it was easy to
imagine how the messenger lookouts of 490 BC scanned the horizon
for the site they feared most, an armada of ships from Persia.
The Greeks were the first civilization which appreciated sport
and fitness as an important activity for itself. So the ancient
Olympics motto states that it doesn't matter so much that you win
or lose but that you take part. Now we know of the endorphins, attitude
boosts, and almost unlimited physical and psychological health benefits
You'll enhance your experience if you travel with a group of fellow
runners. The runs together, the swapping of stories, and the sharing
of new experiences in a different city will add even more positive
benefits to your experience.
So whether you travel to the next town, state or country, you'll
find an opportunity to come back more inspired and with an expanded
appreciation for your running addiction.
The Athlete's Kitchen
Copyright: Nancy Clark, MS, RD 10/99
Vitamin C, Supplements & Simple Food
"In the winter, I take 500 milligrams of vitamin C, but in the
summer, I just eat lots of fresh fruits."
."I don't take vitamin C pills; I drink lots of orange juice."
"I don't trust the quality of today's food, so I supplement my
diet with vitamin C for health insurance."
Active, health-conscious people commonly wonder if they should
supplement their diets with extra vitamin C. Touted as a health
protector, vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) has many functions
in the body. It is an antioxidant that protects cells from being
damaged. It boosts immunity, helps with wound healing, and increases
the absorption of iron from vegetables and grains. As humans, we
can't make vitamin C, so we have to get it through our diets. The
question arises: How much vitamin C do we need? The Recommended
Dietary Allowance (RDA) for healthy, nonsmoking adults (including
athletes) is 60 milligrams per day of vitamin C. This number was
derived with the goal of preventing the deficiency disease scurvy.
Given that 10 mg/day eliminates deficiency symptoms, the RDA actually
includes a large safety margin. People who consistently eat the
RDA have body stores of about 900 mg C, enough to prevent scurvy
for four weeks if they were to consume no C during that time. You
can survive without getting C every day.
The 1989 RDA's are currently being revised with the goal of not
just preventing deficiency diseases but rather of preventing chronic
diseases such as cancer, cataracts and heart disease. In an article
in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (June, 1999), the
authors review a plethora of Vitamin C research (238 studies, to
be exact) with supplementation from 60 to 6000 mg C. They suggest
120 milligrams C per day as an appropriate intake to reduce the
risk of heart disease and cancer, and 200 mg/day may reduce the
risk of cataracts. This is the amount needed to saturate body tissues
with C; eye lens tissue requires more C than other tissues.
Active people can easily consume this amount, plus more, through
their diet. For example, 12 to 16 ounces of orange juice provides
120 to 200 milligrams Cenough to saturate your body tissues and
protect your health. In this age of highly fortified foods, many
athletes consume far more vitamin C than they realize--even if they
eat too few fruits and vegetables. For example, if you eat some
Froot Loops (1.5 cups; 90 mg C), a PowerBar (60 mg), and a package
of Skittles (30 mg), you'll consume 180 milligrams of Cand that's
with no fruits or veggies!
Pills vs Food
The debate continues whether the health protector is 1) vitamin
C itself or 2) vitamin C plus other substances in fruits and vegetables
or 3) the other substances themselves. There's no question fresh
fruits and vegetables contain many more potentially protective nutrients
than just vitamin C (such as fiber, beta-carotene, phytochemicals).
Oranges, for example, have bioflavinoids, substances that enhance
vitamin C absorption.
You certainly can't go wrong with eating the recommended 5+ servings
per day of fruits and veggies. All public health organizations,
to date, suggest generous servings of fruits and vegetables (rather
than pills) to optimize health.
Some athletes have little trust in today's food supply and question
the nutritional value of the fruits and vegetables available in
supermarkets. For example, they may fail to understand a tomato
plant does not grow vitamin C-poor fruit; it simply yields fewer
tomatoes. Nor do they understand cooking destroys only some C; a
half-cup of cooked broccoli offers about 60 mg. C; when raw, it
offers one-third more, about 80 milligrams.
In contrast to the vitamin industry that tries to convince us we
are too busy to eat well, I encourage you to eat responsibly and
incorporate fruits and colorful vegetables into your diet. Even
athletes who eat on the run can easily gulp 12 ounces of OJ in the
morning, or grab a banana. When thirsty, you can choose to drink
extra juice instead of soda or sports drinks. You can plan time
to food shop for a week's supply of fruit for snacks. When conveniently
available, you'll likely eat fruit rather than pretzels. At dinner,
serve pasta with tomato sauce, choose pizza topped with green peppers
or broccoli, or eat a pile of colorful veggies. (The more color,
the more nutrients.) At the salad bar, fill the bowl with peppers,
spinach, tomatoes, broccoli and other deeply colored vegetables.
You'll become saturated with C the all natural waywith food!
The list below highlights some popular sports foods that can help
you reach the goal of 120 to 200 mg C per day without supplements.
Broccoli, cooked, 1 med. stalk, 160 * Green pepper, 1/2, raw 50
* Potato, baked, 1 large 30 * Tomato, raw, 1 medium 30 * Spaghetti
sauce, 2/3 c 15 * Banana, medium 10 * Grapefruit, 1/2 medium 40
* Orange juice, 1/2 cup 60 * Orange, navel, 1 medium 65 *Cantaloupe,
1/4 medium 70 * Kiwi, 1 medium 75 * Strawberries, 1 cup 85
Nancy Clark, MS, RD is nutrition counselor at Boston-area's SportsMedicine
Brookline and author of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook,
2nd Edition. To order this best-selling book, send $20 to Sports
Nutrition Materials, 830 Boylston, St #205, Brookline MA 02467 or
Why do walk breaks work?
By using muscles in different ways‹from the beginning‹your legs
keep their bounce as they conserve resources
Walk breaks keep you from using up your resources early. By alternating
the exertion level and the way you're using your running muscles,
these prime movers have a chance to recover before they accumulate
fatigue. On each successive walk, most or all of the fatigue is
erased, bestowing strength at the end. This reduces the damage to
the muscle dramatically, allowing you to carry on your life activities
even after a marathon.
Walk breaks force you to slow down early in the run so that you
don't start too fast. This reduction of the intensity of muscle
use from the beginning, conserves your energy, fluids, and muscle
capacity. On each walk break, the running muscles make internal
adaptations which give you the option to finish under control, increase
the pace, or go even further.
When a muscle group, such as your calf, is used continuously step
by step, it fatigues relatively soon. The weak areas get overused
and force you to slow down later or scream at you in pain afterward.
By shifting back and forth between walking and running muscles,
you distribute the workload among a variety of muscles, increasing
your overall performance capacity. For veteran marathoners, this
is often the difference between achieving a time goalŠor not.
Walk breaks will significantly speed up recovery because there
is less damage to repair. The early walk breaks erase fatigue, and
the later walk breaks will reduce or eliminate over-use muscle breakdown.
Walk breaks can eliminate injury
Many runners who were injured during previous training programs
(because they ran continuously), have stayed injury free when they
add walk breaks to long runs. Without walking from the beginning,
the leg muscles fatigue more quickly and can't keep these lower
extremities moving efficiently in their proper range of motion.
The resulting "wobble" allows the leg to extend too far forward
in an overstride. This abuses the tendons and injures the small
muscle groups which try to keep the body on its proper mechanical
track but don't have the horsepower to completely control the body
weight moving forward.
Walk breaks taken early in the run keep the muscles strong and
resilient enough so that the legs can move with strength and efficiency
throughout. This will significantly reduce or eliminate the excess
stress around the knees, ankles, feet, etc. which produces injury.
The little "back up" muscle groups can stay in reserve, and fine-tune
the running motion after fatigue sets in.
"I tried to train for three marathons without walk breaks and became
injured each time. Walk breaks allowed me to get to the starting
line, and then to the marathon finish lineŠŠinjury free!
Injury of the Month: Overeating
At this time of year, there are goodies galore available nearly
everywhere you look. We all really know better than to overindulge,
but good sense doesn't necessarily rule here. Following are a few
strategies which might help you enjoy the holiday fare without paying
too high a penalty:
- Have a substantial, healthy snack or light meal before you
go out. It's hard to be strong when you're hungry.
- Think ahead about what you will and won't eat/drink so you'll
have a plan.
- Try to find the healthier options (cruditZùs with salsa
as opposed to baked Brie with buttery crackers).
- Put your selections on a small plate instead of nibbling from
the table. Seeing how much you have might help you be more reasonable.
- Keep your hands full so you don't overload your plate.
- Move away from the table (out of harm's way). If you stay near
the goodies, the temptation to indulge could be stronger.
- Mingle with the other guests. Socializing should keep you pleasantly
- Try to stay in your regular exercise routine. The added benefit
of this could be help with holiday stress relief!
Sticking With It: What
According to the U.S. Surgeon General's report, you are more likely
to keep doing physical activities if you:
- think that, overall, you will benefit from them
- include activities you enjoy
- feel you can do the activities correctly and safely
- have access to the activities on a regular basis
- can fit the activities into your daily schedule
- feel that the activities don't impose financial or social costs
you aren't willing to take on
- have few negative consequences from doing your activities (such
consequences might include injury, lost time, and negative peer
In other words, you are more likely to stick with your exercises
if you set yourself up to succeed from the start. You can help do
that by choosing realistic goals, learning to do the exercises correctly
and safely, and charting your progress to see your improvement.
Take a minute to think carefully about the points in this list before
you start planning your exercises and activities.
From Exercise: A Guide from the National Institute on Aging, National
Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, Publication No.
NIH 98-4258, http://www.nih.gov/nia
- Speaking of Vitamin C: The Food and Nutrition Board of the National
Academy of Sciences has increased the recommended dietary allowance
for vitamin C - from 60 mg a day to between 100 and 200 mg a day.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables each day will allow you
to consume larger quantities of vitamin C plus it gives you all
the other great nutrients that come from these good foods. (American
Running Association's Running & FitNews - http://www.arfa.org
- November 1999, page 3, taken from the Journal of the American
Medical Association, 1999, Vol. 281, No. 15, pp. 1415-1423)
- Save money on health care: The more fit you are, the less likely
you'll have to shell out a wad of dough to a physician or hospital,
according to a study of 6,679 men at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas.
Those who were the most fit were half as likely to be hospitalized
as those who were the least fit. (from Health & Fitness edited
by Alisa Bauman, Runner's World, November 1999 - http://www.runnersworld.com)
- "I'll Take a Small, Please": Never order anything larger than
a "small." This goes for sodas, movie theater popcorn, ice cream
cones, fries or anything else that is sized-up for sale. You may
be surprised to find that a small is just as satisfying as a "super"
or "jumbo." Try to eat slowly and take time to enjoy the taste
and texture of every bite. A final benefit of ordering small -
you'll find yourself saving money as well as calories. (from the
American Institute of Cancer Research's Newsletter on Diet, Nutrition
and Cancer Prevention, Fall 1999, Issue 65, 202/328-7744)
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