Team ME: Ms Sylvia LAM – Accredited Practicing Dietitian (Australia) and Chairman of the Hong Kong Dietitians Association
Weight gain during Christmas is also a big concern for people, especially for marathon runners. A gain of few pounds or two can greatly affect their performance. A study in UK showed that people usually gain 2 kg over Christmas, so marathon runners have to be extra careful when choosing their foods during this festive season.
Christmas foods always have a bad reputation of being unhealthy as they are often cooked in a lot of sugar, butter, and cream. But when you take a close look at some of the Christmas foods ingredients, they actually provide great health benefits. Besides, healthy cooking methods such as grilling, roasting, poaching, and steaming should be used when making Christmas dishes, so people can still enjoy healthy eating during the festive season.
Potatoes, carrots and pumpkin – A good energy source for runners
Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and pumpkin are often used as side dishes during Christmas. They are low in fat and loaded with complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Steaming, poaching and roasting are healthy cooking method for starchy vegetables as very little oil is use. Avoid glazing or deep-frying as it would increase sugar and fats intake respectively.
Turkey – the leanest protein of all for runners
Turkey is a good high quality protein source. A palm-size piece of turkey provides only 134 kcal with 25 grams of protein with only 3 grams of fat. It is also a very good source of zinc and selenium. Adequate intake of zinc increases immunity and helps the body to fight infection during winter; while selenium which is a strong antioxidant, can reduce cancer risk. When eating turkey, one should remember to remove the skin and choose more turkey breast as it is lower in fat. Marathon runners can choose turkey as a good protein source during the festive season.
Chocolates – A substitute for power bar
Chocolate or cocoa contains abundant of flavonoid, especially in dark chocolate, which scientific studies show that moderate intake can help reduce “bad cholesterol” and prevent artery blockage. Chocolate could also boost your serotonin level which makes you happy. If you want to take a break from having a power bar at training during Christmas season, now it’s time to indulge in chocolate before training as chocolate is also a low glycemic index foods which is also good for endurance exercise.
Alcohol – drink in moderation
Don’t’ forget that alcoholic beverages are packed with calories which people often overlooked. 150 ml of wine already provides 130 kcal (similar to a can of soft drink). Cocktails with added fruit juices, syrups and coconut milk are even worse. A glass of Pina Colada can go up to 400 kcal per serving. Not only excessive alcohol intake can put a few pounds on you, but also dehydrates the body. If you decide to drink during Christmas, make sure that you should not exceed 1 – 2 drinks per occasion, and drink a lot of water to prevent your body from dehydration.
Other lifestyle tips at Christmas for Marathon Runners:
- Do not try to save calories by skipping meals. Maintaining a solid meal plan throughout the day will keep you from getting too hungry and eating too much in parties or gatherings.
- Keep training during your holiday. Don’t’ give yourself any excuses.
- Keep a food diary to monitor your intake.
- Weigh yourself every day so to prevent/monitor significant weight gain.
- Learn to say “No” to foods or drinks if you think you already have too much.
- Plan ahead and maintain a healthy eating during holiday seasons.