As athletes know, the way you munch has an effect on your running performance.
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We are all aware that sugar-laden snacks are the enemy. Grade school health classes and health-conscious parents made sure that we knew the negative effects of a high-sugar diet. Yet as adults, all too often, we reach for the wrong afternoon snack or post-run bar, sometimes not even realizing that these options aren’t as healthy as they appear. We make the wrong call on a regular basis without even knowing it.
If you’re consuming above 100 g per day, it’s time to cool it with the sweet tooth.
Gina Sunderland is a Winnipeg-based registered dietitian who both has her own private practice and is a spokesperson for Kind Snacks. During a time when many Canadians are distancing themselves from sugar, she weighs in to give runners some recommendations.
What’s the deal with sugar consumption?
“Even when you’re trying to make the healthy choice, you’d be surprised at how much sugar you consume,” says Sunderland.
Check the labels to make sure you know the contents of what you’re about to eat. As Sunderland points out, Health Canada has set a sugar intake benchmark: if you’re consuming above 100 g per day, it’s time to cool it with the sweet tooth. For a snack like a post-workout bar, Sunderland says that the sugar content should be under 10 g. Many Kind bars, she points out, have 5 g of sugar. Want to decrease your intake even more? An item like the Madagascar vanilla almond flavour comes in at just 4 g of sugar. If you have a tendency towards mid-day snacking, keep in mind that the chocolate bar from the corner store has an out-of-control amount of added sugar (about 25 g) and useless calorie content. That’s about five spoonfuls of sugar, if you need a visual.
Added vs. naturally occurring sugar
Proper nutrition is never just a numbers game. Yes, you want to make sure you’re getting less than that recommended 100 g, but know that not all sugars are created equal. “Added sugar” is when a company is heaping granulated sugars into the recipe. Natural sugar content comes in the form of fruit or nuts, for example. “If we compared a teaspoon or 5 g of sugar and compared nutrition facts, what we would get is simply calories,” says Sunderland. “Now, let’s say we have sugar from mix of fruit. We get calories but we also get fibre, vitamin C, potassium, iron, and even some provide vitamin A.”
“With Kind bars, a lot of the sugar occurs naturally,” she says, nodding to the servings of dried fruits and nuts in this post-workout snack.
You’re coming in from your hardest run of the week and your appetite is raging. A smart post-workout snack to silence your tummy rumbles would be something that contains complex carbohydrates. When glancing around the kitchen, a runner should opt for apples, cheese, nut butters, veggies, Greek yogurt or multi-grain crackers, for example.
Look for whole ingredients–ingredients that we can understand: protein, fibre, healthy fats.
“Look for a snack option that’s a great source of energy and key nutrients as well. Look for whole ingredients–ingredients that we can understand: protein, fibre, healthy fats,” says Sunderland. Of course, she also points out that the combination of ingredients in the bars are all recognizable.
Make a snacking plan in advance and stick to it
One final piece of advice that all runners and endurance athletes should consider: plan your day properly so you don’t get caught with hunger pangs and few healthy food options. If you know you’re going to be out all day, pack a lunch and other options for after that afternoon run. “Do a little bit of planning. Think about what your day is going to entail,” says Sunderland. “My motto is: don’t leave the house without a few things on hand.”