Health, nutrition, and sports go hand in hand. It can be difficult to discern what is considered healthy when there are a plethora of influencers, marketing scams, and general toxicity in social media pushing people to act, dress, and behave in a certain way. What it is to be healthy can be hard to define, hard to understand, and it is often over shadowed by highlight reels. It seems obscure to look beyond weight and aesthetics when determining your health. However, it’s not these factors that matter, it’s WHAT constitutes your weight and how this impacts performance, because; after all, this is a discussion of SPORTS NUTRITION. Understanding body composition such as learning if you have too little muscle or too much fat can be a good place to start, but; again, these factors do not determine the impact on performance. It can be valuable to implement a strategy that allows for muscle gain and fat reduction which may lead to the number on the scale staying the same, however, you may be able to now jump higher, run longer, be less prone to injury, etc. These latter metrics are what are important, slimming down or looking different are side effects that may come along with these changes but should not be your main goal.
So, how do you eat to perform? What is a sports nutrition plan about?
Sports nutrition is not a diet plan. Sports nutrition differs from a regular nutrition plan because athletes require different amounts of nutrients compared to non-athletes. In order to perform optimally, you need to train hard and fuel your body appropriately. Sports nutrition is not about cutting out any whole food group or lowering calories to lose weight. A sports nutrition plan is primarily made to help fuel an athlete to perform at their highest level.
Eating to support your goal. If you want to build muscle it takes more than just upping your protein intake. Building muscle requires a combination of: resistance training, keeping a balanced energy state to encourage anabolic hormone production, a healthy distribution of nutrients to sustain tissue health, and adequate sleep. If you want to run longer or faster, you need glycogen. When the body needs a boost of energy or when the body isn't getting glucose from food, glycogen is broken down to release glucose into our bloodstream to be used as fuel. We get glycogen from complex carbs like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Making sure we are eating enough calories through proper macronutrients aids in supporting these goals.
Timing of your meal consumption: When you consume the correct amount of macronutrients at the right times, you encourage MPS (muscle protein synthesis) and energy sustainability. Example: If you work out first thing in the morning, this means your last meal or snack was the night before. This should indicate to you that you most likely need a small meal or snack before beginning your workout. If you are working out later in the day, be sure you have eaten something no sooner that 3 hours before.
Do not skip meals or eat infrequently. Putting yourself into a pattern that fails to satisfy your energy requirements in real time is problematic. Skipping meals can lead to higher body fat levels, lower lean mass, and cardiovascular problems. Eating 3 meals and 2 snacks, spaced correctly throughout the day, has shown to satisfy the appetite, stabilize blood sugar levels, and aid in a more efficient metabolism.
Variety. It is not just about eating the right foods verses staying away from the wrong foods. Obviously, whole food sources are the best and the healthiest options for you to make but eating the same prepped/planned foods on a daily basis can put you at nutritional risk. There is no substitute for eating a wide variety of foods that are well-distributed throughout the day. Consuming plenty of seasonal fruits and vegetables helps to sustain good bacterial colonies that live in your gut.
Hydration. Having a balanced fluid amount is important for many reasons. When an athlete is dehydrated their blood volume is restricted, sweat rate is decreased (resulting in an increased core temperature), and muscle glycogen use begins to increase. Studies have shown that athletic performance can decrease by 2% when an athlete is dehydrated.
Recovery. Getting the proper amount of recovery from exercise is just as important as your workout and fueling yourself. You must give muscles an opportunity to recover from all the stress you have placed on them so that they can benefit from the exercise. Adequate sleep is important by helping to sustain appropriate eating behaviors and muscle recovery.
In conclusion, sports nutrition is important because it impacts performance. A proper nutrition plan aids athletes in achieving their specific goals in their sport. The plan can include when to eat, what to eat to perform, what to eat to prevent injury, what to eat to aid injury, and what to eat to recover properly.
When you hear the word treadmill it is usually followed by a groan. While it is not as glamorous as your favorite road segment or trail lined with beautiful pines, the treadmill offers many benefits to a runner.
1. Escape from inclement weather
Winter training can be difficult due to the snow, ice, and freezing temperatures. Runners often try to run outside as much possible; however, sometimes the conditions could cause a potential injury. The treadmill is a safe alternate while you weather the storm. The controlled climate also keeps your muscles warm which helps reduce risk of injury.
2. Reduced impact on your body
One big benefit is the reduction of impact compared to running on harder surfaces. Newton's Third Law states, For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. When you run on concrete or pavement your body needs to be able to absorb the forces it endures when it encounters a hard / immovable object. Most treadmills tend to have some sort of shock absorbing system that helps to lessen impact forces.
3. Mental toughness
Come on, this is a given. Running in one place for an extended period of time will make you next outdoor run feel like a breeze! You get so many mental toughness points when you are treadmill running. The treadmill is also a good place to really listen to your body and it's sensations since there may not be as many distractions or other stimulation for your mind to latch on to.
4. Race course simulation
Another advantage of the treadmill is that it can help you train for your next event very specifically. Programmable treadmills help you simulate the race course. If you know the course profile, controlling the speed, incline, and decline will come in handy on race day.
5. Netflix and run?
Sometimes it is nice to put on a good tv show or movie and let the time tick by while you are catching up on some Netflix! I wouldn't suggest a scary movie, I was watching one once and when something jumped out - I jumped and almost fell off the treadmill.
6. Amuse yourself with a workout
Planning a speed session is a great way to pass the time. Some of my favorite workouts are: a good warm up followed by increasing the pace by 0.1mph every minute. This makes me want both the workout to end quickly but also make it so that I want time to go slow (imagine that!) so that I don't have to increase my pace.
7. Even pace
When you are running outside, you will gradually slow down when you are tired, bounding up a hill, etc. However, on a treadmill you are forced to keep an even pace and in some cases an even effort level.
The treadmill can be efficient if it's located in your house or if you use the treadmill at a gym then do your core / weight training routine. Time is always important and being able to maximize your time is always beneficial.
There are so many more benefits to treadmill running that have not been covered in this article but needless to say the treadmill can be a great tool for training as well as being a safer option when conditions or time constraints may be an issue.
So next time you are on the fence of whether or not you should treadmill run, please consider some of the arguments made above and have a great run, wherever you choose!
Many runners finish their runs and immediately check their latest form of technology's data. Amongst the countless data provided to an athlete from their Garmin, Coros, or Suunto watches is cadence. So, what is cadence? Cadence is defined as the total number of steps you take per minute. An easy way to measure your cadence is to count the amount of times your feet hit the ground in 60 seconds.
What can a runner do to increase their cadence? There are a couple of things you can do to help increase your cadence. First, I'd ask my runner: "what is the main reason that you are looking to have a higher cadence"? It's true that typically a higher cadence (~180) tends to be more efficient for most runners because generally a higher cadence means that ground contact time and distance traveled vertically are kept at a minimum. However, everyone is different and what works for you may be different than others. So if you are experiencing an unusual amount of injuries or seem to have hit a plateau in your progression of training then it is possible that you can improve both areas by improving your running economy/efficiency...one of the ways being increasing your cadence.
1. Hill Running - Find a hill that is approximately 3-10% in grade (or use a treadmill) and run up it comfortably. Hills tend to promote efficient running naturally. You do not need to put in a high effort, your main goal is to increase your cadence and over time teach your neuromuscular system.
2. End your run with some relaxed but quick short strides. Similar to hill running, short bursts of faster running will help improve economy by training your neuromuscular system.
Non Running Specific:
1. Cycling in a low gear at high RPMs (aim for 95-100+) This will help mimic the turnover needed in running, but with the aid of a wheel.
2. Developmental Drills. These are used to build coordination and help get your body ready for efficient running. Some of these drills are A Drills, B Drills, Standing Cycle. These won't directly alter your cadence but they will help aid your motor skills.