Nut Butters

Many runners tell me that they can eat an entire jar of peanut butter in just a few sittings... straight out of the jar with a spoon!  Peanut butter is obviously a childhood favorite that follows us to adulthood.

Did you know that there are a lot of nut butters out there, just waiting to be explored?   If you're tired of peanut butter, you may want to expand your horizons by trying almond butter, cashew butter, or tahini (made from hulled sesame seeds). 

If you want to stick with peanut butter, please finish your last jar of traditional Skippy or Jiffy, and then start buying natural nut butters.  Unlike Skippy or Jiffy, natural nut butters do not contain sugar or hydrogenated oils. 

Not all natural peanut butters taste good!  Two brands that are particularly yummy: Teddy's and the Whole Foods brand (365).  These two taste the most like regular brands.

Here's a yummy post-run snack idea.  Put a whole wheat tortilla in the microwave for 30 seconds, then spread peanut butter on it and add banana slices and raisins.  Then roll it up like a burrito - yum!


Power Balls

16 ounces almond butter or peanut butter
14 ounces honey or agave nectar
3/4 blender full of rolled oats

crispy rice cereal, coconut, or sesame seeds



1. Mix nut butter and honey or agave nectar together.

2. Blend oats until powdered.

3. Add oats to nut butter/honey mixture.  Adjust consistency if necessary.

4. Roll balls in rice, coconut, or seeds. Yields 35-40 balls.  Will last in fridge for 1 week (can also freeze them).

* These balls are a great snack to take with you in the car, or stock in your desk drawer.   They're small and easily portable, and provide good post-run fuel.

** You can add some kale, ground flaxseed to this recipe for added nutritional value.


Cramps, Be Gone!

To fend off cramps, introduce potassium-rich foods into your diet this week.  The best foods are bananas, avocados, honeydew, cantaloupe, bok choy, papaya, eggplant, acorn squash, and zucchini. 

This newsletter is brought to you by Christi Collins, H.H.C., AADP. This newsletter may not be reproduced or forwarded without permission.

About Christi
Christi Collins is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners. She studied Eastern/Western nutrition and modern health counseling at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City and earned a B.A. in Honors and Communication Arts from Villanova University. A three-time marathoner and triathlete, Christi teaches athletes how to create a training diet that will help them achieve peak performance.

Contact Christi

or visit her website.

Avoid Those Pesky Cramps

Cramps can strike at any time, and can turn a great run into a painful, frustrating experience.  It's helpful to understand potential causes of cramps so that you can avoid falling victim to them during future runs. 

The following are reasons why cramps may be "cramping your style":

Dehydration:  Cramps are often a sign you're not drinking enough water.  Remember to replenish with 5-8 ounces of water or sports drinks every 15-20 minutes during your runs. 

Lack of Potassium: Electrolyte imbalances, such as lack of potassium, may play a part in cramps.  See the "Nutrition Tip" section below for a list of potassium-rich foods you should consume on a daily basis if you have trouble with cramps.

Calcium Deficiency:  Sometimes athletes can get rid of cramping problems by increasing their calcium intake.  Try adding dairy products, soy products, dark leafy greens, and salmon to your diet at least twice a day to see if this takes the cramps away.

Lack of Sodium: If you are limiting your sodium intake, you may develop a sodium imbalance that can contribute to cramps.  This is because you already lose so much salt through sweat losses.  To reduce this risk, consume sports drinks that contain sodium.  Also, munch on pretzels or chips before and during training runs.

Check with your coach to learn proper stretching techniques that can relieve cramps once they surface.  While proper nutrition can help prevent cramps, most cramps are due to muscle fatigue... and stretching helps best.

* This section was adapted from Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook.


Recovery Foods

If you don't refuel after your runs, your performance will start to suffer during your next run.

By now, you probably have your pre-run meals down pat.  You probably have learned which foods work best for you during your runs.  But, how much time have you spent planning the foods you eat after your runs?

A lot of runners get back from their runs and spend time stretching and evaluating the run with their running buddies.  This is great, but they also forget to eat right away, and in doing so... they miss their prime "refueling time."

During marathon training, you're doing back-to-back runs, cross-training, and covering lots of miles in one week.  This means that your muscles don't have as much time to restock as they did when you were running recreationally 2-3 times a week. Recovery time is much more crucial now, during marathon time.  You need to pay attention to the food and fluids you consume after each and every workout... even short midweek runs.

After a workout, you should have two goals:

1. Replace the fluids you lost from sweating

2. Replace your depleted glycogen stores

Replacing Fluids

To figure out how much fluid you need to replace, you need to figure out how much you lost during your run.  You can do this by weighing yourself before and after a hard midweek run.  One pound of sweat loss equals 16 ounces of water. If you've lost 2 pounds, then you need to drink 1 liter of water to replace these lost liquids. An easy way to measure your hydration is to drink until your urine is clear or very light yellow.  Remember to take your clothes off before weighing yourself, otherwise your sweaty clothes will "weigh you down."

Note: you should aim to lose no more than 2% of your body weight during the run.  If you're losing more than this, you need to increase your fluid intake during your runs.

Replacing Depleted Muscle Stores

When you run, you deplete the glycogen stores in your muscles. These stores provide energy for body during your runs. Think about your post-run refueling meal like a pit stop at a gas station at the end of a long road trip.  Without refueling your gas tank, you won't be able to go very far on the next road trip! In the same way, if you don't refuel after your runs, your performance will start to suffer during your next run.

Ideally, you should eat within 15 minutes after completing your workout. It's in this short window that the enzymes responsible for making glycogen are most active and will most quickly replace the depleted glycogen stores.  Your goal - after long runs - should be to consume .5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight... every hour... for 4-5 hours.

If you weigh 150 pounds, that means you should consume 75 grams of carbs (300 calories' worth) every hour for 4-5 hours after your long run.  If you think about this, it makes sense, because you've probably burned at least 1500 calories if you've been running for 2+ hours.  You may find that you're hungry for more even more calories than this.  That's OK.  If you're hungry for more calories, you probably need them.  Just make sure the bulk of your calories are coming from nutritious whole foods.

What to Eat After a Workout

Liquids and solid foods refuel muscles equally well.  Foods that are higher up on the glycemic index (like baked potatoes, bread, cranberry juice, oatmeal, sports drinks, raisins, corn, sweet potato, and white rice) provide the quickest replenishment because these foods enter your bloodstream the fastest.

Some good post-run, 300 calorie, carbohydrate-rich meals:

1. 8 ounces of juice with a bagel and peanut butter

2. a bowl of cereal with milk and a piece of fruit

3. a bowl of soup and a piece of bread or some crackers

4. a sandwich with lean meat, tuna or egg salad

5. an energy bar and a piece of fruit

6. yogurt with granola and dried fruit or raisins

7. pasta with meat spaghetti sauce

Where Does Protein Fit In?

You'll notice that most of the meals listed above contain some kind of protein.  This is because protein - like carbs - helps speed the glycogen replacement process.  Studies have shown that having protein along with carbs is more effective after a workout than having an equal amount of carbs by themselves.  You should aim for a post-run ratio of 3:1 carbs:protein.  As an added bonus, protein will also help rebuild your muscles.

In studies done with athletes who exercised to exhaustion, muscle glycogen was replaced the fastest (2 days for replenishment) in those who ate a high-carbohydrate diet, as opposed to those who ate a high-protein or high-fat diet (5 days for replenishment).  If you are scared of carbs, please understand that carbs are essential for muscle fuel.  Without them, you wouldn't be able to hit the road day after day.  You certainly wouldn't be able to think of running a marathon without them!

** Please note: beer, wine and other forms of alcohol are not suitable post-run refuel liquids. Chances are, you will get loaded before your muscles get replenished.  Also, alcohol is a diuretic, which means that the more you drink, the more fluids you lose, putting you at risk for a below-par training week.  Also, alcohol stimulates the appetite, which means that you will eat more than you really need and risk gaining weight in your middle... instead of becoming a lean, mean running machine!

A Few Hints for Post-Run Meals

Because you don't want to miss the short window of opportunity after each run to restock your muscles, you will need to plan ahead so that you have snacks at your disposal as soon as you start to stretch.  Take time to stock your car, gym bag, desk drawers, and pantry with fast recovery meals so you're never caught unprepared after a run.