By Edi Csanalosi, Corporate Nutritionist
April is such a wonderful month. It’s the time of the year when nature awakens again, when the sun starts to shine more often, when the warm winter coats are disappearing, you can see daffodils everywhere. April in London is especially magical – if you live here, you know what I mean 🙂
April is also the month of one of the most important and most amazing sport events of the year – the London Marathon.
The current London Marathon was founded in 1981 by former Olympic champion and journalist Chris Brasher, and athlete John Disley. Shortly after completing the New York City Marathon in November 1979 Brasher wrote an article for The Observer newspaper which began:
“To believe this story you must believe that the human race be one joyous family, working together, laughing together, achieving the impossible. Last Sunday, in one of the most trouble-stricken cities in the world, 11,532 men and women from 40 countries in the world, assisted by over a million black, white and yellow people, laughed, cheered and suffered during the greatest folk festival the world has seen.”(1)
Inspired by the people of New York coming together for this occasion, he asked “whether London could stage such a festival?”(1) Within months the London Marathon was born, with Brasher making trips to America to study the race organisation and finance of big city marathons such as New York and Boston, the oldest in the world. He secured a contract with Gillette of £50,000, established the organisation’s charitable status, and set down six main aims for the event, which he not only hoped would echo the scenes he had witnessed in New York, but also put Britain firmly on the map as a country capable of organising major events.The first London Marathon was held on 29 March 1981, more than 20,000 applied to run. 6,747 were accepted and 6,255 crossed the finish line on Constitution Hill. (2)
Back to 2016
A record number of 247,069 people have applied for a place in the 2016 Virgin Money London Marathon following the decision to keep the online ballot application system for 2016 open for five days.
More than 55 per cent of the applications for 2016 were from people who have never run a marathon and more than 42 per cent of the applicants were women. (3)
The race will take place in less than 3 weeks on the 24th April 2016 and as a running enthusiast, I cannot wait to cheer all those amazing people who chose to give up lots of free time and undergo a really hard training period and challenge their limits both physically and mentally.
They all have their stories, their “Why?”’s and this race is such a wonderful example of humanity, comradeship and the positive power of supporting and encouraging each other. Peace and unity.
If you’re in London on that weekend, make sure you go out there and cheer those crazy amazing people – they will so appreciate it, it will help them fly.
Having run 3 half marathons myself I have experienced how great those high fives from kiddies and cheering from anyone are.
As a nutritionist I had the great privilege to give a talk and share my nutrition tips to the fundraisers for my favourite charity – The British Red Cross on the 5th April in the Virgin Money Lounge. After my presentation we heard an experience from a lovely finisher from last year, about the truly remarkable and very much needed work the British Red Cross do – examples of how far the fundraisers efforts go and we all learnt some breathing relaxation techniques and easy and safe yoga poses to stretch and recover pre and post the event.
I have shared my tips on 4 really important topics for any long distance runners or endurance athletes:
- Carbohydrates – pre, during and post race; including the latest advice on carb-loading
- Antioxidants – is it necessary to take supplements?
- 7 tips to a quick recovery
Carbohydrate (CHO) as a fuel source is critical to performance and especially endurance exercise. High consumption produces high levels of muscle and liver glycogen, which promotes longer anaerobic & aerobic energy production, longer sustained performance and delayed exhaustion, while low consumption and depleted glycogen stores will result in fatigue and diminished endurance.
Choosing the correct Carbohydrate:
Before exercise – 2.5g of CHO/kg bodyweight, 2-4 hours before exercise (leave enough time for food to settle. Use low GI CHOs (sweet potatoes, porridge, chickpeas, baked beans, lentils, quinoa, brown rice, and vegetables.
Pre workout snack (1-2 hours before): fresh fruit, dried fruit, smoothies, protein shakes
During exercise (lasting longer than 1 hour + moderate-high intensity) – 30-60g CHO/hour
Begin CHO ingestion post 30 minutes exercise and top-up at regular intervals, use high GI foods (isotonic sport drinks, dilutes fruit juices – easily absorbed, or solid foods: raisins, sultanas, bananas with water.
Post exercise – 1g CHO/kg bodyweight) First 45 minutes optimal for refilling glycogen stores in muscles.
The type of carbohydrate depends on the intensity and duration of exercise. Combining protein with carbohydrates has been shown to improve glycogen recovery.
Between exercise session and non exercise days – use low GI CHO.
CARB LOADING – last week of training
Days 1-6 – Tapering exercise – low CHO Diet
Day 7 before event – warm up & 3 min high intensity exercise
(e.g. sustained sprint) + high CHO diet (10g/kg bodyweight)
Day 8 – COMPETITION (4)
Fluid loss reduces performance and endurance. Dehydration is very damaging for the body and the cells.
How much fluid can be lost? It depends on the exercise intensity, duration, outside temperature and humidity and the individual body composition and physiology.
Staying hydrated is essential. You have to be well hydrated before exercise. (Clue – urinary colour)
If exercise is within an hour – approximately 400-600ml (water). Above an hour – add sports drink (rehydration fluid to contain 8g sugar/100ml)
It’s very important to note that hydration for any race happens during the days leading to the event, not on the day only. Keeping hydrated and fuelled properly throughout the training period is key to successfully complete the run.
We’ve all heard about the benefits of antioxidants in relation to illnesses like diabetes, metabolic syndrome, CFS, heart disease and cancer. But have you been following the debate about antioxidants and their role connected to athletic performance? Does exercise increase oxidative stress and damage in our body? Should we supplement with antioxidants and will it prevent the damage response after an event like a full marathon?
Antioxidants protect runners from molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are most commonly seen in the form
of free radicals and are produced as a normal part of metabolism. However, research has shown that exercise increases the production of ROS. The theory is that the increased production of ROS may “overwhelm” the ability of the body to maximize its antioxidant defenses. This can lead to cellular damage because of an increase in oxidative stress on the body. This oxidative stress has been linked to muscle damage, fatigue, and a reduction in immune function. (5)
As the debate goes on, my suggestion is to focus on getting your antioxidants through diet. And the easiest way to get more antioxidants in our precious bodies is by following a Rainbow diet. This will maximise our phytonutrient intake equaling a great amount of natural antioxidants. Phytonutrients – (also referred to as phytochemicals) are compounds found in plants. They serve various functions in plants, helping to protect the plant’s vitality. (more than 5000)
For us they also have health promoting properties – antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and liver health promoting
How to maximise phytonutrients and antioxidants:
- Aim for 9-13 servings of vegetables and fruit/day (2-3 fruit max)
- Phytonutrient sources: colours (green leafy veg, brassica family, berries, pineapple, mango, red grapes, green tea, herbs and spices, nuts and seeds, pulses, legumes and beans, healthy oils and fats (avocado, coconut, olive, help and flaxseed) etc.
- Vary your choices – avoid eating the same over and over again (6)
The key goals are to minimise muscle damage and the risk of injury and faster recovery.
My top 7 tips:
- Take care of yourself immediately. (If you feel unwell – go to the medical tent)
- Re-hydrate yourself. (Make sure you drink adequate amount of fluids post race)
- Take an ice bath or use ice packs.
- Eat healthy. (Keep up the good fuel, go back to low GI + healthy protein + good fats. Try not to binge and don’t eat before going to bed – leave 3 hours)
- Rest before you run again (Resist the temptation, give yourself the needed rest for a few days and go short distance first for the next couple of weeks)
- Stretch and roll (yoga, pilates, stretching classes, roller – do as often as possible)
- Go for a massage (either 2-3 hours post race or next day, it will aid your recovery)
Sport nutrition is one of my favourite topics, so if you’d like to improve your performance, signed up for a race (let it be running, cycling, cross fit etc) or just wondering how to support your exercise regime with good nutrition and you’d like to make sure you’re fuelling properly for maximum performance and quick and efficient recovery, please get in touch.
If you are running the London Marathon this year, massive respect and wishing you best of luck! If you are an employer interested in providing a sports nutrition seminar for your employees or any other nutrition related topics please get in touch!
Edina Csanalosi Associate and Registered Nutritional Therapist
Edi is a naturopathic Nutritional Therapist and Functional Medicine Practitioner running a busy clinic in the City of London. Her mission is to help clients get to the root cause of their health issues. Edi believes in the healing power of food, herbs, thoughts, and deeds. She believes that we have the power within to make decisions, and take actions that will help us to draw forth a life state reflected by the maximum expression of our health, vitality and happiness.
During a 10 year career in banking Edi herself experienced adrenal fatigue and burn out, and so she is well aware of the challenges that come with today’s fast paced city work life.
Passionate about helping city employees in demanding, success-driven roles to perform at their best using natural means Edi takes a holistic approach to help people achieve great work life balance, to become healthy again, and to be and feel their best. Edi is currently studying at the Institute of Functional Medicine to be a fully certified functional medicine practitioner.
- “The London Marathon story”. BBC Online. 7 April 2004. Retrieved 02/04/2016
- “Flora London Marathon – Background”. Archived from the originalon 11 June 2008. Retrieved on 05/04/2016
- “Record numbers apply for 2016 London Marathon”.VirginMoneyGiving . 15 May 2015. Retrieved 05/04/2016
- Fairchild TJ, Fletcher S, Steele P, Goodman C, Dawson B, Fournier PA. Rapid carbohydrate loading after a short bout of near maximal-intensity Med Sci Sport Exerc. 2002;34:980-986.
- Maria L. Urso, Priscilla M. Clarkson (2003) Oxidative stress, exercise, and antioxidant supplementation. Toxicology, Volume 189, Issues 1–2, 15 July 2003, Pages 41–54
- IFM – Phytonutrient Spectrum – A Comprehensive Guide