Deep Nutrition Thoughts: Sweet Potatoes

 

One of  the favorite parts of being both a runner and a dietitian is observing the eating habits of other runners before, during, and after a long training run or race.  The variability is hardly surprising given a lot of people are either afraid to eat, don’t know what to eat, don’t think about it enough, or do think about it and have  adapted a routine that suits them.

It gets even more interesting to observe athletes who are traveling to compete or train. I have seen suit cases full of persimmons and most recently met a runner who goes no where without fresh sweet potatoes! She throws sweet potatoes into her suitcase to have just in case she has difficulty finding foods that will giver hear a boost when she is traveling to races. She can eat them whole, cooked, raw, whatever, and be all set to do what she loves, run.

Carbohydrate is of the highest priority before (3-4 hours), during, and after a long run, and a sweet potato certainly has plenty to offer. Before a long run, a carbohydrate-rich sweet potato can  help top off glycogen (energy) in the muscles.  I won’t however, be eating the skin prior to a run. The skin is full of fiber and better eaten at dinner with all the other fixin’s .

Sweet potatoes can also be a go-to for  recovery  and replenish glycogen (energy) in muscles in the hours after a hard effort. This is also where those additional nutrients like vitamin C, B6 and naturally occurring anti-inflammatories come into play. One of my favorite meals is to top a giant  sweet potato with other load of goodness like beans, cheese, greens, ground-beef, and avocado.

Avocados can top your sweet potato and replace the saturated fat from butter with monounsaturated fats (the good ones) of avocado giving you the staying power to hold you over a bit longer with more nutrient density. Not only will the avocado top you sweet tater with taste it will also boost up the vitamin C,B6,  potassium and fiber content.

Deep thoughts into nutrition while running today and then staring at the bag of sweet potatoes on my counter. Just go with it.

 

Head Lice and a Boston Marathon Finish

When doubt set it in that I might not have the wear-with-all to run the Boston Marathon last April, one man removed all doubt. He said “Do not run the Boston Marathon. Your marriage, your kids, and all you do are too much in need right now to take this on.” Those were all the reasons I needed to at least try and run this thing. I needed a break, not from running but from working so hard to try an keep the circus of my life – sick kids, sick me, dying grandmother, struggling marriage, insecure family members, loud-mouth family members, desk job – in control.

I needed this marathon to set in stone what I always knew. I have no control over any of those things. I can however, control myself and this self needed to check out for a week and surround myself with people who run. All it took was one more well-meaning family member to say “Don’t run”! Are you kidding me? That is all I want to do right now.

My grandmother passed away, family drama and travel followed, and my marriage was being taken to the brink with game-changing information. My kids got the flu and then I got the flu followed by a bronchial infection that kept me from training for over a month. It wasn’t going to be the race I planned for way back at the start of the training.

No, I didn’t qualify for Boston Marathon.  My position on this point has been mixed and perhaps worth its own story. Boston is for the best, those people who are fast and committed. I am both of those things and I set a high expectation to run a qualifying time at  Boston! A one-and-done road marathon and back to the serenity of the trails sounded perfect to me.

Compounding missed workouts  made my Boston qualifying time out of reach.  Doubt had set in that I could even run at all. It was then I got the email from my father in-law who said, “Do not even think about running the Boston Marathon right now”.   This was the “Fuck That” moment I needed to get my rally cap on. My mantra became “tell me one more time NOT to run it”.  Then I did what I do best, recovered, adapted, and carried on.
I wrapped  my mind  around a knew goal, a different challenge. Could I slow down enough to run on the little training I could squeeze in over the next five-weeks?  That was a challenge I could rally for! 
 
All runners overcome big and small things that empowers them to run.  To be around that kind of energy at the Boston Marathon reminded me that those struggles are worth the rewards.
 
When I finally turned my phone back on after escaping for a full day of experiencing one of the world’s most iconic running races, I was greeted with fourteen text messages. Some were heart-warming congrats, but most were  about how the baby sitter I lined up had to leave for a family emergency and the kids needed to be picked up from school because they both had head lice. I laughed. I laughed because that is all you can do when you have just completed 26.2 miles of running and are two-thousand miles away.