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Triathlete, Joel Enoch, answers Wolf Runners nutrition questions

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Back in May, we held a live Facebook Q&A with Joel Enoch (World Championship Triathlete, Sports Scientist and Coach) and CLIF Bar. He answered a range of nutrition and health questions sent in by you, our Wolf Runners.

Whether you're training for your first Wolf Run or looking to get a personal best, his answers will really help you on your way.

  • Obstacle course races don’t just focus on running – I need an all over body fitness. What is the best diet for this?

Great question and one that could warrant a complicated answer, but I’ll try to keep it brief and simple. Almost, no matter what sport we train for, each of our meals and snacks should give a healthy portion of protein, carbohydrate, good fats and water all of which should be as unprocessed as possible.

However, depending on what sport we train for the balance of these might change slightly, for example a strength sport athlete might eat more protein, but less carbohydrate, while a marathon runner might eat more carbs, and have less of a focus on protein (although at the top level, not much). Obstacle course racing tests all types of fitness (strength and endurance) so I would simply make sure you have unprocessed foods giving supplying all the major nutrients (carbs, protein, fats) in the majority of meals and snacks. You could also add handy additional protein/carb supplements (like CLIF Builder’s Bar) after training sessions to improve recovery.

  • I've been told it's best to eat pasta the night before I'm gluten free does gluten free pasta count?

In short, yes it does. To add some background, research has shown that in high intensity (around of over 75% of you max effort – this is about where it gets hard to hold a conversation) endurance (longer than 90mins) events, eating slightly more carbohydrate in the few days before will help ‘fill the fuel tanks’ so you are primed with as much energy as the body can hold. This leads many to eat lots of carbohydrate the day before an event or challenge, but in fact this isn’t a good idea, let me explain. Research also shows that you can maintain muscle stores of carbohydrates for 3-5 days before they are converted for long term storage a fat, and also that we don’t need to eat a lot more carbohydrates as in the few days before the event we are resting and so will be burning less anyway. Therefore you should eat slightly more carbohydrate 3 and 2 days before the Wolf Run - but not as much as you can the day before. This will fuel the muscles with 90-120mins of high intensity fuel (implication of this: you may need to take on more during the event to maintain performance)

  • I completed the Spring Wolf Run in April this year and thoroughly enjoyed it but felt very unfit and couldn’t seem to run for long with out getting out of breath, is there any tips on how to get my distance up and how to master hills.

With my coaches hat on I’d suggest working with a trainer or coach to highlight where your fitness could be improved. In general people respond better to one of either aerobic (long steady) training or anaerobic (short hard efforts). However, all training plans should have some of both. Take at least one session a week and make that longer and easier (you should be able to talk and breath through your nose throughout), take another session and break it down into harder than Wolf Run pace efforts of 30secs – 2mins, these should leave you out of breath enough that you need double the ‘work’ time to recover (1-4mins). Lastly, make sure you work on strength, fitness classes are a good option for this. Nutritionally, just make sure you are well fuelled and hydrated for training sessions and the event itself.

  • How do you prevent sugar cravings?

There could be many reasons for sugar cravings and if this was something that was problematic then I’d recommend seeking the advice of a dietitian face to face so they can look over your diet and lifestyle. However, in general, if we eat a significant amount of sugar in our diet, we tend to crave it more. Therefore, eating less sugar will lead to less of a craving (normally, in just a few days). One thing not to do while doing this is to rely on artificial sweeteners as while they have no calories, research shows, they trick the brain into thinking its receiving sugar, so it doesn’t turn off the craving you are trying reduce. Also, eating regularly helps us make better food choices, and eating more filling foods, such as whole grain or protein, can also leave us feeling more satisfied and therefore less at risk of giving into cravings.

  • What the best protein you can snack on mid morning?

It would be difficult to say that there is a ‘best’ type of protein and it’s probably a good idea to consume various sources of protein throughout the day. This way you ensure a good range of the building blocks of protein (which go on to be the building block of our bodies) called amino acids. Some background: foods from animal sources all predominantly give us proteins which contain all the amino acids (AAs) – so a tuna salad might be a good option. Plant based proteins like nuts, beans or pulses have some of the AAs missing, so we need a range to make sure we get all of the AAs we need. The only exception to this is Soy protein, which is plant based and has all of the AAs. Nuts, seeds, chickpeas, hummus (dip with veg), CLIF Bar, lean meat, fish or yoghurt would all be acceptable sources of protein for a mid-morning snack.

  • What is the best type of food to eat the morning of the run?

Good practical question this. You need to fuel your Wolf Run and this means carbohydrates. What you have is up to you and you should test in training, but I suggest a balance of slower absorbing carbohydrates like oats or brown rice, with faster absorbing carbohydrates like cornflakes, honey or white rice/pasta/bread. As a guide, if it looks like it exists in nature its less processed and probably slower absorbing or/and nutrient rich. If it looks like it’s been processed (like a cornflake which doesn't exist in nature) then its probably faster absorbing and less nutrient rich. WHEN: you should eat 2-3.5hrs before (depending on metabolism – test in training). HOW MUCH: This depends on when you eat it and what you have, but roughly 1-2g of carbohydrate per kg of your body weight (i.e. medium bowl of cereal and a slice of toast).

  • Post race is it best to consume protein after to feed muscles or high calories to replace the ones burnt during the Wolf Run?

Recovery is really important. The term calorie, doesn’t tell you where the energy comes from (i.e. protein, or fat) so I would recommend making sure you eat a good balance of carbs, protein and fats in all post Wolf Run meals/snacks. It’ll take around 48hrs to get back to pre-Wolf Run condition after such a gruelling event and during this period I would also recommend refueling little and often (ever 2-3hrs). This is especially important for protein, which you need fairly small doses of (20g) every couple of hours to fully maximise recovery. All that said, you can get away with a good bit of indulgence afterwards as the body will use the calories to recover. Just make sure it's good, wholesome food (e.g. home made burger or pizza rather than shop bought)

  • I suffer from 'runners tummy' so always run on an empty stomach, which isn't good for endurance, but it's either that or suffer. I've tried everything to no avail. Any suggestions as to what I can eat to fuel up before a run, which might not affect my stomach?

Ah, the old runner trots – it’s gets us all at some point! Ok, everyone is different, but caffeine, fibre, as well as the timing, type and quantity of food all play a role. Caffeine increases the need to pee and poo, so best avoided 5hrs pre-run. Fibre will also ‘keep you regular’ so before the longest or toughest runs actually eat slightly less fibrous (possibly more processed foods such as white, rice, rather than wholegrain – which you can refuel with!). Timing and quantity of food will play a role and you should reduce the size of the meal the closer the race. If you plan to run in the morning, then the evening meal the night before shouldn't be too big. Lastly, the type of food will affect you. This is personal, so identify the foods that 'go through you' personally and limit them. If none of this works then that is fine as you can still fuel during the run. Make sure you take on board 30-60g of simple, sugary carbs each hour from about 60mins into longer runs. If it’s less than an hour, you don’t need to fuel anyway. If this still doesn’t work, just refuel well afterwards!

  • How much water consumption would you recommend prior to a race like the Wolf Run?

Brilliant, a hydration question! This depends a lot on your build, the weather, your sweat rate, how hard you plan to attack The Wolf Run and how long it will take you to complete the course – EVERYONE should carefully consider all these factors before working out a strategy for hydrating before the event and on the day itself. That said, I’d make sure you drink little and often through the 3 or so day’s leading up to the event to pre-hydrate. This gives you the chance to look at your urine colour EACH MORNING the couple of days before the event to see if you need to adjust. Morning urine colour is a good measure of hydration – it should be pale, not yellow/brown etc. Also, add a very small amount of salt to your food (if it hasn’t been pre-salted) as this will help fluid absorption in the 3 days before. Then on race day, drink about 500mls about 4-3hrs before your start time and then sip another 200-300more over next couple of hours, this will give you time to process the fluid before the race. If it’s warm, then try to drink during the event too and work hard to rehydrate afterwards. Lastly, your body can only absorb 250mls of fluid every 20mins so sip, don’t glug!


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