Yesterday I ran the Canyonlands Half Marathon in Moab, Utah. It was a special day for me in many ways. It was my first time in Moab, it was my birthday, and I got to start the day with a good run, which is one of my favorite things in life. I’m currently training for the Boston marathon in April, so the Moab half marathon was to be a good tempo training run for me. The good news is that I finished first in my age group and I improved my half marathon finish time.
The even better news about yesterday was the results of my “nutrition training test in a race setting”. I have been eating metabolically efficient since the beginning of the year and have definitely seen changes in my body weight, body composition, and energy levels since I made this change in my daily nutrition. For my long training runs, I have been experimenting with products made by Generation UCAN® as my pre-run fuel. The product is unique in that its main ingredient is a modified corn starch (“SuperStarch”), rather than many of the simple sugars that other sports nutrition products contain. This SuperStarch provides a sustained energy release and supports the principles of improving metabolic efficiency from a nutrition perspective. I have found that fueling with UCAN in conjunction with the changes I have made in daily nutrition have enabled me to run longer with less reliance on sports nutrition products. In fact, I have either consumed water and electrolytes on my long runs or water, electrolytes, and about 60 calories (for runs longer than 2.5 hours). Keep in mind that in prior years, I had been following the recommendations by sports nutrition companies (30-60 grams of carbohydrate every 30-45 minutes!), along with eating a fairly high carbohydrate daily diet.
Back to yesterday.... my first half marathon race since I started on my metabolic efficiency journey. I had decided ahead of time I would have only the UCAN chocolate formula (which contains the SuperStarch and whey protein) as my pre-race fuel. The race didn’t start until 10am, so I began my day with water and an 8-ounce cup of coffee at 6:45am. I then drank my UCAN, mixed with 16 ounces of water, at 8:30am. At the start area, I noticed hundreds of runners eating bars, gels, and drinking Gatorade and many of those runners had bars, gels, and beverage bottles strapped to their bodies. I felt proud not to “need” anything else, although I got a bit nervous when my running coach advised me to grab a gel at mile 6 and eat it an hour into the run. I respect my coach, but I’m the sport dietitian and I had a plan for my nutrition!
The race started promptly at 10am and off we went. I had great energy and felt strong. I grabbed a couple sips of water at mile 4. The funny thing is that when I got to mile 6, I decided to grab the gel provided on the course like my coach had advised. I held onto it for the next 3 miles during which time I monitored my energy level and pace. All was going as planned. I had no gastrointestinal distress, no hunger, my body felt good, and my energy level was steady even with strong head winds. I decided to put the gel in my shorts pocket and leave it for backup. I thought about that gel a couple of times during the remainder of the race, especially when I ran past several runners who were eating or drinking a carbohydrate source. I crossed the finish line feeling strong with the gel still in my pocket. I have to admit, I felt proud that my race day nutrition plan worked like a charm. So, not only did I run a good race, I believe this was a testament to my body’s improved ability to utilize its fat stores more efficiently. As I was cooling down, I took the gel from my pocket, gave it to my husband and said “I no longer need this security blanket”. What a relief.
Dina Griffin, MS, RD