Q&A with Beth Mansfield

Last month, we asked our readers for their burning nutrition questions and put them to our resident Sports Dietician Beth Mansfield. Here Beth responds to inquiries about carbo-loading for vegetarians, recovery drinks, and the importance of determining your energy budget.

Q: I have been a vegetarian for almost a year now and am currently training for the Ottawa Marathon. Can you give me some tips for carbo-loading as a vegetarian? What food choices should I be eating a lot of?

A: To ensure that your carbohydrate intake is topped up, make sure that you include carbohydrate rich foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans) with each meal and snack. Legumes, also known as beans, are a key source of starchy carbohydrate and are easy add-ins to salads, soups and grain-based dishes. Potatoes are also a fantastic addition to a runner’s diet, and are especially useful as a quick source of energy on your training runs. Just pack small boiled potatoes into your running kit and pop them in your mouth for an easy, tasty alternative to expensive and gut bothering gels during your runs.

Rice packs in even more carbohydrate than potatoes for the same serving size. So if you’re looking for that extra carbohydrate blast for your muscles, power up your plate with more rice rather than potato-based dishes for your main meals. For those of you that are dealing with sensitivity to gluten-containing wheat based foods such as pasta, breads, and most cereals, opt for more rice-based dishes—and that counts for desserts too! Rice is a wheat-gluten free alternative that will help to improve the functioning and wellbeing of your gut. Choose brown rice over white and get three times more fibre and all the “whole” grain’s nutrients.

The following foods are chock full of carbohydrates:
•Grains & Cereals (Rice, pasta, bread, oatmeal, cereal)
•Vegetables & Fruit (Vegetable soups, fruit salads)
•Legumes (chick peas, lentils, kidney beans, hummus dip)
•Milk and Yogurt (plain/chocolate milk, fruit yogurt, kefir)

For more info on vegetarian eating, check out this article from my blog.

Q: I have heard that chocolate milk is one of the best recovery drinks out there. I have been trying it out and it seems to be working ok so far. Just wondering if chocolate milk really is the best recovery drink or if there is something else to try?

A: Chocolate milk is milk with added sugar. If you are trying to increase the energy density of your diet because you need more carbs but have a poor appetite, then these sweetened milks might be helpful. However, if you are trying to stick within your energy budget and minimize “extra” calories, then chocolate milk is not for you. Opt for plain milk and yogurt and add a small piece of fruit to get the “sugar” with the added benefits of vitamins, minerals and fibre. And remember you don’t need post workout recovery drinks or snacks if you train once a day. The best recovery drink in that case would be water, followed by your next meal. You can read more about chocolate milk for recovery here.

Q: I am looking for recommendations for managing hunger pains when increasing mileage. I find I am hungrier than a bear (especially the day after a long run) and want to eat everything in sight. This makes it difficult to maintain a lean running weight and still properly fuel my body. Am I doing something wrong or missing a key component?

A: Many runners are running to get lean or stay lean—and this means they are often combining a restrictive eating pattern along with their daily training. All runners need to determine their energy budget for training and how to manipulate it to stay lean/lose weight without affecting their training and/or performance. This will also ensure that you eat enough for those tougher/longer training days but not too much on easier days.

A warning sign of too restrictive an eating pattern is feeling as hungry as a bear 1-3 days after a tough workout. This means that you did not eat enough that day and/or did not refuel adequately, and this can come back to haunt you with a feeling of no control over your eating—also known as binging. If this type of eating behaviour becomes a regular pattern, it can have serious health consequences. I would recommend meeting with a Sport Dietician to determine your proper energy budget using a resting metabolic rate test. You will then add energy expended in training and other daily physical activities to your resting rate to determine your overall daily energy requirements. And from there you can make a fueling plan that really works for you.

For more information about getting the proper amount of fuel for level of activity, check out this article on The Power of Carbohydrates.

Beth Mansfield is a sport dietitian and exercise physiologist with Peak Performance in Ottawa.