I ran 50 miles, so now I can eat anything...right?

"You ran 50 miles? Man, you can go crazy at the Thanksgiving table!"

I have heard some version of these sentences about 15 times since my 50-mile race on Saturday. So exactly how much of a caloric deficit did I create and how quickly could I blow it? 

Over the course of 50 miles, someone of my size burns somewhere around 4,500 calories. There may also be a post-exercise burn where my body continues to burn calories quickly, so I'll be generous and round up to 5,000 calories burned. 

By just existing--breathing, heart beating and systems running--my basal metabolism is somewhere around 1,100 calories, so we'll subtract that from the 5,000 to get the caloric deficit:

5000 - 1,100 = 3,900 deficit

Between gels, bananas, sugary drinks and other food on the race course, I at somewhere around 1,200 calories, so that gets subtracted as well... 

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3,900 - 1,200 = 2,700 calories. Let's spend extra those calories! 

3 giant slices of greasy cheese pizza at the finish would run 1,200 calories

A slice of frosted cake would hack off another 350 calories

A big breakfast the morning after of waffles + syrup and hash browns would run around 1,000 - 1,200 calories depending on how greasy the grill was.

Serious waffle photo courtesy Waffle House, where arteries go to get clogged.  

Serious waffle photo courtesy Waffle House, where arteries go to get clogged.  

...and that's it. The deficit is spent, and now it's back to healthful eating in reasonable, non-maple-syrup-coated portions. Seems like that level of effort should have enabled a runner to drag out the party for days, but unless your exercise habits are like those of a professional athlete, working out for hours day in and day out, exercise doesn't really enable us to eat whatever we want and maintain or lose weight.

 

But if you're exercising solely so you intake more calories, you're overlooking all of the wonderful benefits of exercise:

  • Building strength that will carry on well into advanced age
  • Boosting energy
  • Reducing stress
  • Reducing symptoms of depression
  • Building self-esteem (it's not just kids who need that boost!)
  • Protecting our brain
  • Helping us to sleep better
  • Protecting our heart as HDL, the "good" cholesterol is increased, and trigylcerides--fat in our blood--are decreased, leading to better functioning of the heart
  • Managing blood sugar for diabetics, both juvenile diabetes and later onset diabetes brought on by lifestyle

Many of these benefits of exercise you will be tapping into not just today but 10, 20, 30 years into the future! 

Who needs pizza when you have this rich + tasty soup on the table in less than 45 minutes?! 

Who needs pizza when you have this rich + tasty soup on the table in less than 45 minutes?! 

And sure, with a little extra caloric deficit, exercise does afford us the ability to enjoy a treat here and there, but after a little splurge, I'm very happy to reward my hardworking body with a meal loaded with vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats. Click here for this recipe for Red Lentil Soup. 

 

Fast Food-Like Substances vs Real Food Fast

Some of you may recognize the expression on my face. I went straight from work to the track tonight and did a pretty challenging workout. It felt great, but now I’m starving, and I’m walking into my kitchen long after 8pm. I passed umpteen drive-thrus, quickie marts and fast service restaurants, so, why, you may ask, didn’t I just pick up dinner on the way home or order a pizza?

 

I truly believe that putting together a home cooked dinner doesn’t have to be an arduous time-consuming task, and the benefits of eating a meal made with fresh ingredients are tremendous, especially after a workout. So here’s how this went down…


8:15pm: Arrived home (and took snarky photo while stomach growled loudly). Super fast shower to get off the funk.


8:22pm: Turned the oven to 400F to preheat. Lined a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper and grabbed a bag of pre-washed green beans out of the fridge (thank you, Wegmans!), along with a red bell pepper, a container of pre-washed spinach (thank you,MOMs!), and some bell pepper and carrot that I had pre-chopped and left in the fridge ready to go.


8:24pm: Sliced the red bell pepper into thin strips and threw it on to the cookie sheet along with the green beans. Sprinkled a tablespoon of olive oil, garlic powder, sea salt and cumin seeds over the vegetables and tossed well. Drained and rinsed a can of chickpeas and put half the can on to the cookie sheet. Popped the cookie sheet into the oven.


8:26pm: Measured out two servings of quinoa and threw it into a dry pot to toast.


8:28pm: Assembled salads with spinach, carrot, bell pepper and sliced an avocado to go on top. Added a sprinkling of granola (thank you, Michele’s Granola!) for crunch.


8:31pm: Added chopped onion (already prepped and waiting for me in the fridge) to the quinoa, poured in water and brought to a simmer.


8:33pm: Salad time! Enjoyed my salad with John (who had also come in starving). Before sitting down, I put a leftover container of coconut curry sauce I made for Sunday night dinner in the microwave. If I didn’t have that sauce, I would have looked for something jarred—a good quality of tomato sauce would have been fine—or I may have thrown together a quick sauce with tahini and lemon, or tahini, miso paste and rice vinegar.


8:56pm: Pulled the green beans out of the oven. Put quinoa on the plates, topped with the roasty veggies and topped with the sauce.


8:58pm: Sat down to enjoy the rest of dinner.


Sure, instead of taking that time to assemble dinner, I could have answered emails, maybe taken a leisurely shower, tortured the cats by crinkling paper just out of reach, but I know my body will thank me for feeding it well after a tough workout.

Fueling for your Fall Marathon (or Half!) Part 1 of 3

It seems like every year more and more folks sign up for fall half-marathons and marathons. For the uninitiated, a marathon is a full 26.2 miles (that’s 42.2 kilometers for my metric friends), which means that the brave souls undertaking a full or half-marathon have many, many weeks—months, even—of training.

I’m tackling my seventh marathon this fall, but they truly don’t get easier!

Really effective training for an endurance event (and believe me, a marathon is quite a thing to endure!) requires runners to complete different types of runs most days of the week for 16-20 weeks: A long slow run one day a week followed by a slow recovery run the next; hill workouts (my mortal nemesis the hill and I spend a lot of time together in the summer); runs with intervals of speed and recovery…you get the idea.

The Baltimore Running Festival is coming up in October, and I gave a talk to a fantastic group of runners at Charm City Run this past week. We covered a lot of ground, including some great questions…

Q: What is the goal of all this flippin’ training and careful eating? Why can’t we just do some runs here and there, eat whatever, and show up in a cute outfit at the start line?

A: You’re working to condition your muscles to work at an intense and long effort, and conditioning your body to burn fat at a high rate during running.

Follow up Q: Why is it important to burn fat when I’m running?

Follow up A: Slightly more complicated answer. Let’s dig in to how our body provides energy for running…

We draw on two sources of stored fuel in our bodies for energy:

1. Stored Carbohydrates (aka glycogen)
I like to imagine my stored carbohydrates as a tiny vial of rocket fuel that powers hard effort, like sprinting away from a bear or dropping and doing 20 push-ups. You store enough carbs to fuel about 1-2 hours of exercise at a hard effort. When you run out of carbs for fuel, your body shuts down and you hit “The Wall:” Extraordinary pain, confusion, general freaked-outed-ness, and the potential for serious problems, like conking out right on the course.

2. Stored Fat 
I like to imagine stored fats in my body as a ginormous jug of fuel with a lid. Fat is great fuel for exercise at a less intense effort where you can breathe easily, like an easy bike ride or a slow run. We have hours and hours of fat fuel to burn (even the slimmest of you!). The only catch is that turning fat into energy takes a lot of oxygen aka breathing (here's where I imagine popping off the lid of the jug to get oxygen to that fantastic fat fuel).

Because you have so much more fat available for fuel than carbs, it’s ideal to use as much fat as possible and to conserve and replenish your carb stores. You'll desperately need those carbs at, say, mile 18 or 20 (or 21 or 22 or 23 or 24...you follow me).

That means that you have to carefully pace yourself in your race, making sure that you don't go out to fast and burn up all of your carbs. The less effort it takes to run, the easier it is to breathe, the more oxygen is getting to your cells, the more fat can be converted to energy and the more stored carbohydrate (aka rocket fuel) you can conserve.

So now the big question: What is the best way to eat so I have a full store of carbs and I'm not setting myself up to go crashing head first into The Wall?

Great question! Check back for answers in Part 2 coming later in the week, or get in touch with me at lauren@live-full.com to schedule a one-on-one conversation.