Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cookies & Wings

Watching everyone eat after today’s RRCA Club Challenge race made me realize I should have made me made a post earlier this week. Better late than never. Howard County had a wide spread of bananas, bagels, coffee, cookies, peanut butter and chips. I cringed when I saw a guy (not from our team) chomp on a cookie sandwich. Maybe I shouldn’t call it a sandwich; that implies there was something in between the cookies. Well, there was. Another cookie. Three cookies later, that gentleman ate himself out of recovery. I sit here writing this post knowing much of the team is indulging in wings and beer, also far from ideal recovery fair.
A few weeks back I posted about recovery for weight lifting and the importance, but overemphasis, on protein. With this morning’s demonstration of lack of knowledge, I’ll highlight recovery for endurance athletes. Since I always try to have a positive spin on things, we’ll do “eat this, not that.”
Cookies – Now I don’t know where they got their cookies, but they reminded me of Subway’s cookies so we’ll use those for comparison sake. Subway’s cookies pack 220 calories, 10g fat, and 5g saturated fat. They have 30g carbohydrates and 2g protein. Not our ideal 4:1 (carbs:protein) ratio recovery food. Notice when we use this ratio, fat is not part of the picture. That’s because fat impedes carbohydrates and protein from doing their job in recovery (glycogen repletion and muscle repair, respectively). The 10g of fat makes up the majority of the calories found in the cookie (90 out of the 220). Ideal recovery foods are majority carbohydrates with a tidbit of protein. Instead, try a bagel with a layer of peanut butter or banana and yogurt.
One runner drinking chocolate milk gets an A+ in recovery. The added sugar in chocolate milk bumps up the carbs aiding in fast recovery. The fast acting, simple carbohydrates found in bagels and chocolate milk are actually ideal for post-race or post-workout. With the help of increased insulin sensitivity after working out, glucose and amino acids are quickly shuttled into muscles. Note, the low fiber, far from whole grain starches are not great for everyday use.
Chips – While the high salt content can aid in electrolyte balance, the high fat is not as helpful. Although chips do have a fair dose of carbohydrates (15g for 1 ounce), the fat still outweighs the majority of the calories (10g fat, 90 calories out of the total 152). Multiply this over the actual serving size eaten (1 ounce is about 15 chips, who eats 15 chips?) and you’ll realize you ate back the calories burned during the run from entirely potato chips.
A better option would be pretzels or a granola bar. Pretzels actually supply double the sodium (359mg compared to 170mg in chips) with barely any fat (0.8g). The carbohydrate count is 23g per ounce and about 3g protein. This brings us a lot closer to our 4:1 ratio. Bring along an ounce of low fat cheese and you’re in good shape. A granola bar or sports bar with a hint of protein (see my last post on sports bars) will do the same thing for you. You could also try a trail mix with some pretzels, raisins, and nuts.

Wings – Wings might be your worst pick of recovery foods. Usually wings arrive at the restaurant
having been fried at the manufacturer’s plant. Then the line cook will throw them in the deep fryer and coat them in a super sweet (sweet as in sugar) sauce that usually has butter in it to aid in coating the chicken. So wings are a small amount of protein coated in fat on top of fat on top of fat with a hint of sugar. Then dip them in your choice of fat (ranch or blue cheese). Pretty much a dietitian’s worst nightmare. They should also be an athlete’s worse nightmare.
The 15-20 minute window right after working out is very important, but what you eat the rest of the day should also be emphasized. You’ll want to aim for 0.5 g carbohydrate per pound of body weight taken in 30-minute intervals for 4-5 hours.1  This is 300 calories coming from carbohydrates for a 150# person. This could be a turkey sandwich and a side of fruit, a yogurt parfait with low fat granola, bowl of cereal with low fat milk, or glass of juice or soda with that bagel. Not finding yogurt parfaits on the Kisling’s menu? Get a chicken sandwich, soft pretzel (easy on the crab dip), or get there in time for breakfast and order some pancakes or French toast. The grilled cheese wouldn’t be half bad either. Or you can do what I usually do: eat lunch before going and enjoy the company while you’re there. I’ve also been known to order a salad and bring my own bread, but that might be going too far for most of y’all.  
Instead of beer with your wings, try a bloody mary, preferably virgin. The tomato juice packs potassium and sodium for fluid retention and still helps us celebrate with something besides water. The effect of alcohol on recovery (not a helpful one at that) is a whole other post on its own.
So hopefully everyone thinks of me when their legs are sore tomorrow and realizes the error of their ways. Still wondering why you didn’t recover well? Time to call your favorite dietitian for a little sit down. First 15 minutes are on me for not making this post in a pre-emptive fashion.

1.      Clark N. Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook 3rd Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2003.

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