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First of Four Part Series on Getting High: Nutrition Considerations at Altitude.

Anyone attempting to train at sea level and, also loves mountain running has probably experienced the challenges of  a high-elevation race. What is the challenge? Well, let me put it this way, my first attempt at climbing mountains in a race felt like being pregnant while also having a big pile of bricks on my chest.  In was difficult. But, as challenges are, also a great opportunity to learn. Mountain running used to just be me going on a run in the mountains. That however, was when I lived IN the mountains adapted to elevation. Now a seasoned sea level dweller,  mountain running requires more attention to nutrition to feel good and have fun. Why? Consider the dry climate, potentially abrupt temperature swings, and the exposed climbs.  In conditions like these, even the most fit and altitude adapted athletes suffer many of the same effects of altitude. There are four key nutrition considerations that I take into account to help me ascend new heights above tree line. Here is the first consideration I will be …

Adventure Nutrition for Mountain Projects

  Last Saturday I co-hosted a Adventure Nutrition Workshop at The Mountain Project structured around giving mountain athletes nutrition tools to train and prepare for big days in the mountains. It was day of working out, learning and applying nutrition, and eating! Too often what we eat (or don’t eat), when we eat, and how we eat limits our ability to meet new challenges and achieve goals. The group who joined us on this day was not only motivated by a broad spectrum of mountain projects (from day hikes to ultra-running races), they were also inspiring athletes committed to their quest, open to trying new things, and just plain fun people to spend a Saturday with! We closed the day experimenting with nutritious ingredients in the kitchen to make four varieties of one-of-kind energy snacks! While each group made it their own, here was the basic premise of the recipe. Base Layer Ingredients: ¼ cup chopped flaxseeds 1 cups dates or figs chopped 1 cup steel-cut oats (could substitute with rolled oats or quinoa) 1/4 cup whey …

At the three hour mark of a long run I am always on the edge of cramping. Is cramping more fitness related, nutrition or hydration related?

  The answer is that it could be both. Muscle cramps are general caused by tired muscles, which is inevitable in distance running. They can also be caused by a sodium imbalance and dehydration. Staying hydrated is a tricky proposition because there are so many variables that impact how much fluid and sodium you sweat out during your run. Intensity, fitness, heat, humidity and altitude are some of the things that will impact how sweaty you get. How much any body sweats can vary between ten to eighty ounces per hour! That is a high amount of variability. The concentration of sodium in that sweat also varies greatly with an average concentration of about one-thousand milligrams per thirty-two ounces. In other words if you lose two pounds of sweat you may have also lose around one-thousand milligrams of sodium that needs to be replaced by drinking and eating sodium! Of course these numbers are highly variable with the environment and individuality. Determining your sweat rate can be a useful tool in bench-marking how much sodium …

Performance Nutrition Behavior Number One: Eat!

Working along side some of the world’s most talented athletes and athletic adventurers I  see and hear a lot of interesting food-related behaviors. Not all are good.  Some folks seem to have a challenging relationship with food that gets in their way of helping them accomplish their goals. Whether those goals are to pick up running again after having a baby or to traverse the big ridge lines in the mountains, it isn’t just what you eat that is important but, also HOW you eat. Through my work and my  own experimentation with food as fuel for my tara-sized adventures  have identified  three easily stated but, most difficult to accept practices around food. I refer to these behaviors as practices because like a yoga pose, there is always somewhere to realign or let go. Over the next three weeks I will share my food practices. Eat! Yes, just eat. That is practice-pose number one. Eat in a way that helps you achieve what you have in mind for the day. For example, if you plan …

Take the Latest CLIF Adventure Quiz!

Atop of massively high peak or the depths of a wooded trail I feel small and free, and I smile. Being in the presence of nature’s grandness provides me faith that there is something bigger at work beyond my individual little world that can seem all-encompassing. This thought is gift to my efforts in living with  more grace and ease.  It is in the acceptance that humans are not at the center of the universe that makes everything “doable”. It does’t mean I am insignificant.  It does mean that those overwhelmingly difficult struggles are manageable no matter how unmanageable they may feel at times. Preserving the grandness of special places in nature that provide me with “smallness” is close to my heart. Kevin Fedarko, author and speaker at the Conservation Alliance meeting inspired these thoughts with his request that we protect and honor one of the grandest natural places from becoming yet another amusement park. Preserving The Grand Canyon as National Monument protects it for future generations and ensures it remains one of those places where we …

Dietary Guidelines Bore Me

A few weeks ago the United States Department of Agriculture published the eighth annual update to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  I used to get very excited about the guidelines. I would read the advisory committee report line by line and anticipate the publication of the guidelines based on expert review of science.  Each year I would read the guidelines and feel a little more let down that “this was it” and think “we know all this already”. Now, the guidelines just bore me. It isn’t because the guidelines are bad or wrong. And it isn’t because I don’t love nutrition.  I think it is because after being a dietitian for eighteen years it always comes down to the same simple recommendations of eat more vegetables, eat more fruit, eat more beans, lentils, legumes. Basically, eat more plants and less of everything else. It is commons sense. I would feel bad having someone pay me to give them this advice. It’s just not that exciting anymore. Every five years a committee of the brightest and …

January is Diet Month

It is that time of year when well-intending people set themselves up for a miserable battle with that thing we can not live without: FOOD. Resolutions turn into obsessions and suddenly the very ingredients that invigorate us are leaving us to feeling guilty and bad about ourselves. This doesn’t have to be however. I cringe when friends and family tell me what is on their list of restrictions for “diet season”. Often times these restrictions are self-imposed and nonsensical, nutritious foods like bananas, carrots, or whole grains. In life, where a lot of things are out of our control, food can take the brunt of our control issues. Imposing rules and restrictions on calories, fat, carbohydrate, gluten, dairy, or protein can make us feel we have control over something  that  can seem uncontrollable. Even as a dietitian I have been there. Dietitian confession alert! Once upon a time I would get up in the middle of the night and munch like a little mouse in the cupboards. I wasn’t hungry, I wasn’t fully awake, and I would …