Friday, March 6, 2015

Labels, Labels, Labels!

Pick up most any food product in your local supermarket and you'll more than likely be bombarded by catch phrases, slogans, and labels. The labels can be confusing. The USDA and FDA are responsible for many of these terms and labels. However, many are engineered by the food industry to help promote and sell their products. They can look and sound very official. The problem is that often the public can't tell fact from fiction and even if they do recognize the officially USDA or FDA regulated terms and labels, they many not fully understand what these labels mean. Trying to buy healthy products for your family sometimes feels like a crapshoot.

I read a lot of professional journals and one of my favorite is IDEA Fitness Journal published by the IDEA Health & Fitness Association. Each year they publish an issue that's focused on nutrition. The March 2015 issue contains an awesome article titled "What you don't know about food labeling could undermine your health" written by Megan Senger. Most of the article presents information on food labeling from experts Brian Wansink, PhD, a marketing professor and behavioral economist expert at Cornell University in NY state who directs the university's Food and Brand Lab and Yoni Freedhoff, MD, a physician, professor, and weight loss specialist in Ottawa, Ontario.

Senger states that the food industry is one of the top advertisers in the U.S. (Chandon & Wansink 2013). $116 billion was spent  marketing healthy fruits and veggies in 2012. 4.6 billion was spent marketing fast food. That's a lot of money. The food industry is using healthy claims to help sell their foods. Unfortunately due to the creative, inventive, and confusing "healthy" terminology, consumers aren't always purchasing exactly what they think they're purchasing.

Below you'll find several USDA regulated terms  that I pulled from Senger's article. You'll also find her explanation of each term so that the next time you're at the grocery store you'll be better prepared to separate the fact from fiction.

Natural: Under FDA jurisdiction (produce and many packaged foods), "natural" and "all-natural" are meaningless. You need to be careful and really inspect  these products to make sure it supports good health. Under USDA jurisdiction (animal products) "natural" has a little more meaning. These products must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients. But, be careful, because a natural label does not include any standards on farm practices and does not require the "prudent use of antibiotics" nor does it bar the use of growth hormones.

Naturally Raised: This is a "voluntary standard" which indicates that livestock used for meat have been raised entirely without growth promotants and antibiotics and have never been fed animal byproducts. However this term does not address animal welfare or the use of eco-friendly farm practices.

Organic: Irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides and genetically modified organisms cannot be used on crops that bear the USDA Organic seal. The use of "organic" is regulated on most U.S. foods, however not for seafood. the U.S. has no organic standards for "aquaculture." For livestock this seal ensures that producers have met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors. Several various of the label can be used such as " 100% Organic" (meaning all ingredients and processing aids must be organic); "Organic" (meaning it contains 95% or more organic ingredients) and "Made with Organic..." (meaning at least 70% of the ingredients are organic).

Low-Fat: Foods with this label must not have more than 3g of fat per serving. Note: Senger points out that this may not amount to much because low-fat products are on average only 11% lower in calories than the regular versions. The removed fat is often replaced with sugar.

Fat-Free: Foods with this label must have less than .5g of fat per serving.

Reduced-Fat: Foods with this label must have at least 25% less fat than the regular versions of those foods, "Reduced" is only relative to the original product of comparison not to any healthful standard.

Gluten-Free: To meet the FDA guidelines and carry the "gluten-free", "no gluten", "free of gluten", or "without gluten" label, a food product's gluten content must be less than 20 parts per million. Senger states in the article that this is a very "trendy" term and nutritional needs can vary a great deal from person to person and to keep in mind that a gluten-free product by no means equates to a healthier choice.

Grass-Fed: This term applies to ruminant animals such as cattle and sheep that were only fed mother's milk and forage (eating grazed or stored hay, grass, or other greens). These animals must have access to pasture during the growing season. If the "USDA Process Verified" shield accompanies a grass-fed label, this means USDA inspectors have verified the claim. If there is not a process verified shield, then it has not. Note: Grass-Fed does not indicate any limitations have been put on the use of antibiotics, hormones or pesticides. It also does not indicate year-round access to pasture. Be careful of similar labels and terminology such as "grass-finished" and "green-fed." These are not regulated terms.

Free-Range: If you see this USDA regulated label, it means that a poultry flock was provided shelter and unlimited access to food, fresh water, and access to the outdoors throughout the production cycle. However, the quality or size of the outside area and duration of outdoor access are not specified. Note: "Fee-Roaming" is not a regulated label.

Cage-Free: This label means that a flock could freely roam in an indoor or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during the production cycle. This label does not explain if the flock had any outdoor access or if they were raised in overcrowded conditions.

No Antibiotics Added: This USDA-regulated term may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if the producer provides sufficient supporting documentation, but there is no system in place to verify a claim of this type. Note: The term "antibiotic-free" has no regulatory definition.

No Hormones Administered: This USDA term applies to beef and dairy products. This claim is allowed if the producer provides sufficient documentation that no hormones have been used in raising the animals. Note: The terms "hormone-free" and "no hormones" are not permitted on the labels of beef, pork, or poultry products since animal proteins contain naturally occurring hormones regardless of production methods. 

Senger's full article can be found in the March 2015 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal. The full article contains more comprehensive information on the above data and it also provides excellent information on  food marketing, how branding affects enjoyment, the "health halo" effect, neurological responses to food marketing, labeling regulations and limitations, "third-Party Labels", and other unregulated food marketing terms. Sounds technical, but it's a great read.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Time to Shop That Fall Marathon

Fall marathon shopping? Yep. Most runners have spring fever on their minds this time of year, planning out their spring 5K, 10Ks, and/or in training for those spring half and full marathons. But it’s also time to start planning ahead for fall.

Fall marathons have become so popular that many now cap the total number of runners and/or use a lottery system of registering runners. It’s no longer a given that you’ll get into NYC, Marine Corps, or Chicago, just to name a few. Even some smaller races have gone to a cap and lottery system in order to keep their races small and manageable. 

Because of the cap and lottery it’s best to have Plan B or maybe even a Plan C option. Many races open registration in the spring, but don't announce whether you've you’ve made the lottery until summer. There’s nothing more frustrating than to have started training for your race only to find out that you didn’t make the lottery and all the other races are closed.

There are other considerations too. Where do you want to run? Do you want to travel or stay local? Flat or hilly? Warmer climate or cold? Is your goal to run hard with the hopes of a PR or are you running to enjoy the view? Use this time to ask yourself these questions so you can shop for the race that best fits what you're looking for.

Also, use this time to prepare your family. They need to be on board with your training and racing
expectations. They need to know that you’ll have to put in lots of hours hitting the road or trail, particularly on the weekends. Are they expecting to go with you to the race? Racing and family trips often don’t mix very well unless you’ve set the ground work for expectations early on.

The Disney races have become extremely popular the past few years. Sounds awesome, but “The most magical place on earth” can quickly become Dante’s Inferno, if everyone isn’t on the same page. Exploring a 40 square-mile theme park the day before a marathon in which you plan to PR isn't the best idea. Is your spouse or significant other ready to tackle the park with kids solo? No kids? Is your spouse or significant other ready to do things solo or be stuck in the room? Seems like simple questions couples and/or families would have discussed, but they're often overlooked.

Below are some things to consider when planning your fall marathon:
  • List the races you’d like to do. Rank them in order of preference.
  • Find out if your race of preference has a cap and/or uses a lottery registration system. If it does, create a Plan B and Plan C in case you don't get your top choice.
  • Have a family meeting to discuss the upcoming training. Recruit their support. If the family is coming to the race, discuss what you will and will not be able to do during the trip.
  • Plan enough time to train (12-14 weeks for a half marathon; 16-18 weeks for a full-marathon)
  • Build your base mileage so you’ll begin your training strong and decrease your chance of injury.  The month before your training begins your totally weekly mileage if training for a half should be 15-20 miles. If training for a full marathon, it should be 20-25 miles.
  • Investigate lodging and travel details early. Hotels tend to book up fast for the larger races.
  • Mark your calendar with the race registration opening date. Popular races can fill up within minutes of registration opening. So mark your calendar not only with the date but the time of day that registration will begin so you can plan to be sitting at your computer at the ready. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

BRRR It's Cold Outside!! What to Wear on that Cold Run.

Not sure what to wear on these cold runs? Here's a few tips:

  • ·         Dress as if it's 10-15 degrees warmer than it really is. Your core temp will increase by that much when running, so if you dress for the "warm-up" you won't end up overheating from being overdressed.
  • ·         Layer up. Several layers of technical fabric helps with warmth and moisture management. Your perspiration will travel through the layers instead of ending up with one heavy, soggy layer. The number of layers needed will vary from person to person.  Also, with layers, you have the option to remove a layer if you got hot on the run. With one heavy layer, you're pretty much stuck unless you want to join the Polar Bear Club. :-)
  • ·         If it's windy and cold, wear a light wind breaker over top the layers to prevent the wind from penetrating the layers.
  • ·         Wear a cap that covers your ears. A lot of heat is lost at your head. Wearing a cap helps hold that heat in. Your ears can be at risk for frost bite if not covered, so be sure your cap is big enough to cover those lobes! ....or wear ear muffs or a wide headband that's designed to cover the ears.
  • ·         Don’t wear metal jewelry outdoors in the cold. Metal conducts cold, thus increasing your chances of frostbite. Uncovered ears donning metal earrings are particularly at risk!!
  • ·         Wear gloves. I prefer to wear mittens made of technical fabric with a wind barrier. I've found that by having my fingers together inside the mitten creates more heat and the wind barrier fabric holds in that body heat keeping my hands warmer. If I do wear gloves, I usually end up pulling my fingers out of the finger slots and balling them up inside the palm of the glove to get the same effect. Hand warmers work well too. There are a couple of different brands, but they all work the same. They look kind of like oversized tea bags. When exposed to air, they heat up. Stick one warmer in each glove and they work well in keeping your hands toasty.
  • ·         Keep those tootsies warm! Most running shoes are designed to breathe. In the winter though, that can mean chilly feet! To keep your feet warm, try wearing two thinner layers of socks. This will help increase warmth as well as help with moisture management. There are also some great fabrics such as SmartWool, that works well in keeping feet warm.
  • ·         Not clothing related, but still important....Stay hydrated. You sweat just a much in the winter as you do in the summer. But the less humid atmosphere of winter creates a deceptive perception that you're not sweating as much. Because it's not as humid, your perspiration evaporates quickly instead of staying on your skin and/or soaking your clothing. Kind of the out-of-sight-out-of-mind syndrome. So, be sure to hydrate before, during, and after your run.
Runner's World has a great tool for helping you determine what to wear based on various cold weather conditions. Check it out here

Friday, December 19, 2014

Burpees: A Love-Hate Relationship

One thing I can predict every time a client looks at his workout, is a low groan when he sees "Burpees" listed in the circuit. "Oh lawd, not BURPEES!"

If you workout, more than likely you are familiar with a Burpee, especially if you do any form of circuit training and or do plyometric exercises. For those of you not familiar with a burpee, it's  a full-body explosive movement that usually contains the following 6 movements.
  • Step 1: Squat down and place both hands on the floor (use dumbbells as hand grips if desired).
  • Step 2: Jump both feel back fully extending both legs so that your body is in a plank position.
  • Step 3. Lower your body into a pushup position
  • Step 4. Raise your body back into the plank position.
  • Step 5. Jump both feet back into the squat position.
  • Royal H. Burpee
  • Step 6. Explosively jump up into the air with your arms above your head.
You can do it with or without the pushup, add a dumbbell overhead press, do it with your hands on a medball, the variations are endless. I often have my clients use an inverted BOSU as a hand grip (with or without adding the pushup) and then instead of jumping, I have them press the BOSU above their head after returning to a stand.

I'm often asked, "Where did this form or torture come from?" Sorry to say, not from hell. LOL! It actually was developed by a man named Royal Burpee. He developed it as a part of an exercise test in the late 1930's. It was used by the military to test overall agility, coordination, and fitness. His version however, was a milder version. It was a 4-point movement without the pushup and vertical jump. His version was repeated only 4 times as a part of his testing. During the test he took several different heart-rate
measures and used them in a calculation he created that assessed the heart's efficiency at pumping blood which he used to measure the person's overall health.
Royal Burpee's Original 4-point Movement
Mr. Burpee actually warned against doing his version aggressively. Jump ahead about 80 years and boy has the burpee blossomed. Turns out it actually is a great full-body movement which can also incorporate explosive plyometric movement. Form is essential and like any exercise, if done with poor form, then injury can occur. So, be careful not to get too carried away with excessive repetitions as the cost of good technique. Burpees are a great exercise to do when you want a good workout, but have no equipment.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 A Year to Celebrate at RunnerDude's Fitness

2014 has been an awesome year for RunnerDude's Fitness. We've grown over the year with our biggest fall race training group ever (70+ runners)! Each and every runner is an amazing person with an amazing story to tell. This video tries to capture just a tad of their spirit which makes RunnerDude's Fitness what it is...a home for runners. I can't wait to see what 2015 has in store.

RunnerDude's Fitness Celebrates 2014 from Thad McLaurin on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Training Gear: To Each His Own

I'm asked frequently, "What running shoes do you wear?" What running shorts do you wear?" "What sports drink do you use?" "What fuel do you use on the run?" "What do you eat before a long run?" "What do you eat after a long run?" I always preface my response with, "Well, what works for me is..."

Running is a very specialized sport and that goes for the gear and fueling too. What works for one runner may or may not work for another. The trick is to read up on various options, talk to your running buddies and trainer, and then try things out for yourself. The training period for a marathon is not just for training the muscular and aerobic systems. It's also a time to test out fueling and hydration options, clothing, shoes, GPS watches, etc. Use the 3-4 months preparing for the marathon to see what works for you. But start early in the training, don't wait until the last few weeks.

Also, keep in mind your race date. A good portion of training for a fall marathon takes place in the heat of summer. So, most of your training runs may be in shorts and a singlet. But if your race is late fall and in a chilly location, you may end up racing in tights and a couple of top layers. So, be sure to have your race day attire options figured out. Go worst case scenario. Better to be ready than caught off guard. Be sure to test out all clothing too. Nothing worse than discovering that your bad weather clothing option is the king of chafing.

I'm always amazed when  I get calls from someone who isn't a client and they're asking about hydration and/or fueling and it's the week before the race. Anything they use or try to use that they haven't used during training is a gamble. My #1 Race Day Rule is never wear, eat, or drink anything on race day that you haven't used during your training.

Below are my favorites from my current training for the upcoming Philadelphia marathon. Remember these items work great for me. You may try something below and it not work at all for you. That's fine. It's all about finding what works best for you.

I've run in a lot of different shoes and have several brands that I like and that work for me. During my Philly training, I've run in the Saucony Mirage 4 for my shorter runs and speed workouts. I can wear the Mirages up to about 10 miles and then my feet really hurt. I need more cushion on longer runs. Recently I discovered Altra's Paradigm and they're like heaven on my feet. I've run five 20-milers in my training for Philly and my feet have not hurt at all on these long runs when wearing the Paradigms. All of the Altra shoes have zero drop. That means they are completely flat. There is no heel-to-toe drop. This is great for the balls of my feet. It's the fore foot that really hurts on the longer runs when wearing a shoe that has any kind of incline at the heel. The Paradigm is Altra's first offering in the maximalist category. Maximalist shoes have a thicker sole providing more cushion while still keeping very little heel-to-toe drop. I tried Hoka's, another brand of maximalist shoes, but they have about a 3 or 4mm heel-to-toe drop and they just didn't work as well for me. The Altra Paradigm is my new favorite running shoe.

My feet aren't too picky when it comes to socks. I do have a few requirements, however. First, I like a snug fit. Close fitting socks tend to cause less chafing and blisters. Second, no cotton. I like 100% technical fabric. This aids in the snug fit as well as moisture management. Third, no-show or low cut. I don't like socks that come past the ankle. Just my preference. I've run in many different brands of running sock from Champion, to SmartWool, to WrightSock, to Balega. They all work well. One sock I keep coming back to over and over is Feetures High Performance Light Cushion No Show Tab Sock. They have a great fit and work well for me.

Running Shorts:
My #1 favorite training short is made by Lululemon. You may not be familiar with this brand. They are fairly new to the running clothing arena. Lululemon is known more for their yoga clothing. I discovered Lululemon running shorts back in 2010 when running the Marine Corps Marathon with a buddy. He had a pair. They looked great on him and he raved about how good they felt. They are a bit pricey, running about $65 a pair, but pairs I bought after that race in 2010 still wear like the day I bought them. They hold up well to run after run and wash after wash.  For my training runs, I like to wear Lululemon's Surge short (1). It comes in a 5" and 7" inseam. For race day, I really like a race short that Lululemon use to make (2). I can't seem to find in on their website any longer, which is a shame. It's a great short. I recently discovered a racing short made by North Face called the Better Than Naked Split Short (3). This is a great racing short. It's short, but not too short. It's split, but not too split. It has a zippered back pocket as well as storage pockets on both sides of the zippered pocket that are perfect for storing GU packs.

GPS Watch:
I've used many different GPS watches over the years.  I've used two different TIMEX GPS watches, two different Garmen GPS watches, and two different Soleus GPS watches. Each had aspects I really liked and each had things I disliked. For my Philly training, I decided to try out the TomTom Runner GPS watch. I love this watch. It was easy to use right out of the box. It has a large customizable display. One of the best features is that it gets a GPS signal quicker than any GPS watch I've ever used. Literally just a few seconds after pressing the GPS button, I get a signal. As a coach, that's awesome. Another cool feature is that the display pops out of the watch band so you can easily slip it into the charging dock. It keeps its charge well too. No worries about it going dead in the middle of a long run. It also easily syncs up to Strava which is the app I use to keep track of my mileage, routes, running shoe miles and engage in friendly running competitions with myself and other Strava members.

I wear glasses. Used to wear contacts, but started having issues with them. I've gotten used to wearing glasses on the run. When it's light out I prefer to run in prescription sunglasses. Biggest problem with glasses is constant slipping on the nose. Eye Care Associates asked me to test out a pair of Oakley Jacket 2.0 frames. These frames are great. They allow for curved lenses so the frame wrap around your face providing more coverage of your eyes protecting them from the sun. The wrap design also keeps them from slipping on the nose. I tried an amber colored lens which I've never worn before. Usually I go with black or gray. The amber is great if your going for a run at dawn just before the sun comes up or at dusk when the sun is going down. Nothing worse than finishing a run as the sun goes down and you have on sunglasses and suddenly you can no longer see. The amber lenses allow for more visibility as it gets darker. (Note: If you eyes are very light sensitive, the amber choice may not work as well for you.) Don't wear prescription eyeglasses? No problem. You can have non prescription lenses put in the Oakley frames.

Chafing Protection:
I've never really had chafing issues, but for some reason in this training I did. I lost 23 lbs
during my training, so you think that would decrease chafing issues, but not the case. Anywho.... Body Glide and Body Glide Skin Glide became my friends. The original Body Glide is applied much like deodorant onto whatever area needs protecting. The original formula is thicker and provides great coverage. The Skin Glide is best described as a "dry lotion." What you squeeze out looks similar to lotion, but it quickly dries to a powdery feel after application. The Skin Glide can be a bit messy on clothing if you're not careful. Be sure to wipe your hands after application. If not, anything you touch will have white powdery smudges on it. Besides those few annoyances, the Skin Glide works well on shorter runs.

Night Before Long Run Fueling:
I'm a big multi-grain pasta and brown rice lover. Most of my night-before long run meals include either pasta or rice, chicken, and veggies. Below are some of the various combinations I've enjoyed.
1. Stir fried rice, veggies, and chicken over brown rice with whole grain bread
2. Chicken Primavera: whole wheat pasta, chick peas, broccoli, and cauliflower sauteed in olive oil
3. Mixed Greens topped with grilled chicken breast, dried cranberries, walnuts, broccoli, sprouts, and strawberry walnut dressing
4. White chicken chili. Contains navy beans (instead of kidney), white and yellow corn, Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix, and traditional chili spices.
5. Potato and carrot soup
6. Brown rice topped with black beans, grilled chicken, yellow corn, Mexican spices and low fat Mexican blend cheese

Pre-Long Run Breakfast Fueling:
I'm pretty consistent with the breakfast meal that I eat right before a long run. Usually I'll have a
toasted whole wheat English muffin topped with peanut butter and some type of preserve such as orange marmalade. Sometimes I'll put banana slices and honey on top of the peanut butter. Occasionally I'll have whole wheat pancakes. I eat my pre-long run breakfast about an hour to 1.5hrs prior to the run.

Hydration and Fueling Before and During the Long Run:
About an hour to 1.5hrs before the run, I'll drink one can of Earth Fare 100% Coconut Water.
Coconut water is Mother Nature's Sports Drink. It naturally contains sodium, potassium, and carbs...what you'd find in a sports drink like Gatorade. Coconut water, however has about 3x the potassium and a little less carbs. I use to deal with calf cramps on long runs, particularly on hot summer runs. I sweat a lot. Staying hydrated and keeping my electrolyte stores topped off is big for me. Since using 100% coconut water, I 've not had cramping or hydration issues.
As for fuel during the run, my go-to gel is Chocolate Outrageous by GU. I usually take one at mile 6, 12, and 18. Because the coconut water doesn't have quite a much carbs as Gatorade, I'm able to wash the GU down with the coconut water that I carry in my handheld bottle. I start my run with the handheld filled with coconut water and as I sip on it, I'll refill it with water. My long run routes take me by some water fountains. On race day I'll grab some water cups (as needed) and refill my bottle on the run. My favorite handheld water bottle is the one shown here by Ultimate Direction. It has a pouch perfect for storing gels and the unique nipple like spout allows you to suck the water out keeping spills from happening. It also cuts down on the amount of air being swallowed.

Post Run Refueling:
1% chocolate milk is my go-to post long run refuel option. I try to get this in within 15-30 minutes of completing the run. Chocolate milk has the perfect 4:1 carbs to protein ratio needed to optimize the rebuilding process after a long run. Horizon makes a juice box size that doesn't need to be refrigerated and is really convenient to throw in your car and have ready after a long run. If I have access, I like to jazz it up by putting the milk in a blender and adding a banana and some extra protein power. This makes a great smoothie.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Controlling the Holiday Bulge

The holidays are a time to enjoy friends, family, and good food. Problem is many of us attend so
many holiday functions that before you know it, you're entering the New Year with new pounds.  The Calorie Control Council has estimated that the average American could consume as much as 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. Just Thanksgiving Dinner alone could pack 3,242 calories for some.

I know what you're thinking, "I wait all year to enjoy those homemade seasonal goodies." You don't have to do without. BUT, you do have to practice moderation and accountability. Eat your favorite foods, but eat small to moderate portions. If you do indulge a little more, then account for it. Work it off with additional exercise.

Here are a few tips that also might help fight the Holiday Bulge:
  • Begin the day with a run, brisk walk, or hit the gym for a circuit workout. Getting your metabolism ramped up early will get your engines fired for the day.
  • Try to schedule your holiday meal at lunch instead of dinner. This way you'll be able to have time after lunch to get in a walk or a workout. Also, the digestion process pretty much stops when you sleep, so if you go to bed on a full stomach all that food is just going to sit there.
  • Bargain with yourself. If you really want a huge piece of pecan pie, determine what other goodie you can do without. "I'll skip the mashed potatoes and gravy, so I can have that pie!"
  • Be sure to eat breakfast. Many will not eat all day thinking they'll be able to eat more at dinner? Well, that basically is true, but if you haven't eaten all day, then you'll be more likely to overeat at dinner time. So instead of saving those 2000 calories till the end of the day, you end up packing in 3500 in one meal because you're so hungry. It's kind of like the old saying, "Don't go grocery shopping on an empty stomach." Don't come to Thanksgiving Dinner hungry either.