Running and Eating Better – You Can Do It


Eating Better – If I can do it you can too

Lori Nedescu was a member of our five person endurance team which recently ran the Grand Canyon Rim2Rim2Rim. aaaa

(USMES Team – Eric, Jami, Me, Lori and Dewey)

In preparation for this run, I got to spend a few days with Lori, who is a contracted Nutritionist for the US Military Endurance Sports team.   Lori is also a super-fast marathoner posting a Personal Best of 2:56:10 at the Columbus Marathon in 2016.  She is also a very competitive cyclist.  During preparations for our canyon run and during the time in Arizona she offered the team advice and suggestions on proper food selection and fueling.

lori pic r2r2r(Lori kicking the canyon’s butt)

I’ll be honest I was kind of embarrassed when we talked about my nutrition.  If you have followed my blog for any length of time you’ve come to realize food selection and nutrition are NOT my strong suits.  In fact…I border on being a junk food runner.  How I do what I do on my diet, sometimes baffles even me.  Understanding I have much to learn.  I asked Lori if she would take part in an interview to help my readers and I make better food selections.

Come on, some of you have confessed to being nearly as bad at eating correctly as I am. So here goes…

Lori, Thanks so much for taking the time to help us poor junk food runners.

Q.  Ruling out some life changing event that motivates someone to change “cold-turkey, what’s the biggest change someone like me, who may be living off of red meat, potatoes, pizza and Coke-a-Cola do to turn around their diet?

A. Small changes are key! So instead of thinking ‘no more’ think ‘a little less’. I would suggest being honest about how much of those foods you’re consuming and then making real objective goals for cutting back. For example, instead of having 2 diet cokes a day, aim for 1 a day for the first month, then 2 a week for the next month… When you set specific targets, you’re more likely to stick with them.  Also, consider what you CAN eat over what you shouldn’t eat. So focus on all the fruits and vegetables you’ll have room for by eating less of the other stuff. 

lori pics 3(Can you spot the dietitians plate?)

Speaking only about me, but I’m sure many others can relate, the biggest hindrance to eating better is knowledge and being lazy when it comes to preparing food.

Q.  What are some simple ways people/amateur athletes can turn around their diets/nutrition?

A. Meal prep and meal timing are important. You have to learn to be consistent, yet flexible at the same time. Its all about balance. The best thing to consider for an athlete is to ”eat more on the bike (or during whatever sport) and less off the bike”. Meaning you should fuel your activity more to promote more energy and cut excess calories at times of inactivity.  

Q  If you had a choice between, red meat, pork, chicken or turkey what’s the best choice from a fitness point of view.

A. Honestly I am a red meat fan. If that red meat is grass fed/ pasture raised… It makes a big difference in the quality and nutrition profile of the meat and offers up the iron an athlete needs along with B vitamins, protein, and a better fatty acid profile. The trick with animal proteins of any variety is choosing the best quality, lean cuts, and small (4ounce) portions.

Prior to a big race/run I always second guess my eating habits.

Q.  We have all heard about carbo loading the night prior to a big race, but is that theory true and when is the best time to load up.  One experienced Ultra-runner told me that he had his big meal, the night before, the night before the big race (two nights before race day).

A.  Carb loading is a very old practice. It used to be that athletes would go super low carb to deplete stores before eating excessive carbs pre race. Science has shown us this is not necessary, but an athlete can still benefit from ‘carb increasing’. One or two days before your race, reduce foods from fat and protein sources, replacing them with carbohydrate foods. This should be a change in the ratio of Carbs:Pro:Fat, not an increase in overall calories. Most athletes will benefit from reducing fiber, protein, and fats while increasing the carbohydrates the day before racing.

Q.  I love a big plate or two of spaghetti with meat sauce as my big meal and pizza the night before…(it works for me).  Thoughts on this line up and what would be a better alternative?

A. Every runner loves a good plate of pre race pasta. I’d personally skip the meat sauce as it tends to be greasy and creates a sluggish GI system. Instead, choose pasta with plan tomato or better yet, a butternut squash sauce to keep the focus on the easy to digest carbohydrates. 

One of my biggest fears going into our Grand Canyon run was that I would not carry enough or the wrong kind of food.  I’m used to having a buffet of food available at aide stations.  You reviewed each of our food/nutrition plans and made some great suggestions.

Would you share with my readers the nutrition requirements for long distance races/runs like Rim2Rim2Rim. Recovery is another area I lack education…I simply chug down a chocolate milk and think I have it covered.

Q.  What is your body looking for right after a long hard run/workout? 

A. Chocolate milk is a great option because it contains the body’s preferred ratio of carbs:protein. For endurance that is typically 4:1 as the body is still in need of carbohydrates to replenish stores, but also begins to require protein for rebuilding. Chocolate milk is also due its ease in consuming; no prep and gentle on the GI system post workout. However, for example, at R2R2R we had a vehicle in the sun for 14+ hours, not idea for storing dairy products. This is why I bring Cocoa Elite along. It is a form of dehydrated chocolate milk that is packed with flavonols to enhance recovery. Because the powder is shelf stable, I can bring it anywhere and mix it with water post event for a better than chocolate milk drink.  

Q.  What are some easy and available food items that would help with recovery?

A. Its best to have something prepped ahead of time. A hungry athlete walking into a full kitchen post workout is a dangerous thing that typically results in too many calories being consumed and the ‘recovery window’ closing. Personally I make an extra sandwich and put it in the fridge for post workouts. Smoothies are pretty easy to throw together and help the body cool off. Remember that you only need something small immediately after, it doesn’t have to be a full meal. 

It was fun hanging out with you “young folks” for a few days.  I learned a lot about fitness, food and life during our time in Arizona.  But the fact is time is catching up (with me).

Q.  Ruling out eating for fitness or race performance, how can someone who’s just trying to drop a few pounds jump start a slow or dormant metabolism?

A. I always prescribe a 3 day diet plan. This way, you aren’t revamping everything. Three days will help you switch things up enough to see changes in your body. 

I’ll be honest Lori at the rate you flew down the canyon and pulled away from the group I thought for sure we would come upon you in a crumbled mess along the trail at some point.  After all you had never run such a strenuous ultra before.  Much to your credit and my amazement…YOU ROCKED IT…being the first of our group to finish and by a number of hours.

Q.  What did you learn about yourself during your double canyon crossing?

A. Thanks! When I first began cycling, I went on a hilly charity ride. An ex pro cyclist friend was being nice and accompanying me. On the first hill I was struggling, complaining, going so slow… He looked at me and said ”You know, if you get to the top faster, the pain ends faster”. I can’t tell you how many times that statement has pushed me forward and kept me focused. I repeated those words to myself throughout the canyon with a determination to get it over with!   During R2R2R I felt so euphoric to be able to accomplish such a feat. A small portion of people get to experience what we did out there and it is an amazing thing. 

lori pics 4(Done in 14hr 20mins)

Q  What did you learn about running in general while in the canyon?

A. Omg where to begin!!?? It was a very challenging experience that really reinforced the mental aspect that comes into play when doing endurance activities. A strong mind can keep a struggling body moving!

Thank you so much for taking part in this interview. My readers can find Lori’s blog the Cadence Kitchen here (Eating clean and Training mean) and you can follow Lori’s running and cycling on Facebook and Instagram @cadencekitchen lori pic Lori has written her own cookbook capitalizing on her knowledge of nutrition and experiences as an athlete, you can check it out here.

lori pics 2Click here for a sample recipe.