Ask Theresa: Diet and Nutrition for Athletes

by Dr. Theresa DeLorenzo, RD


Ryan Cooper

What is a good meal to eat the night before a race?  Ryan Cooper

A meal that contains a mixture of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat is idea.  A favorite of mine is pasta with chicken.  I also like to add some ergogenic foods to enhance my performance so I make sure there is some spinach either in the meal or on the side to enhance my nitric oxide release.  Nitric oxide helps to dilate blood vessels allowing for greater nutrient and oxygen delivery to muscles.  If you can tolerate it, adding some beans can assist with topping of stores of calcium and magnesium which are lost in great amounts during a race.  Make sure you know you can tolerate all of these foods though and don’t try having beans for the first time the night before a race.  Ideally try having the night before a run or long run to make sure they don’t cause gastrointestinal distress.  It’s also helpful to add more salt than you normally would so plenty is on board going into the race; especially in the heat. 


       Frank is with Team Nark wearing Lift Heavy, Run Fast

Explain the intricacies of carb loading for a marathon.  Frank Gwinn

Carbohydrate loading for a marathon should start 5-7 days before the race.  The amount to shoot for per day is 7-10 grams of carbohydrate per kg of body weight (weight in pounds divided by 2.2).  This is a large number of carbohydrates so it helps to decrease fiber, fat and protein so as not to fill up.  On a normal basis, a runner’s plate should be 30% carbohydrate, 30% protein and 30% vegetables.  Race week this should go to 50% carbohydrate, 20% protein 30% vegetables and include some starchy vegetables.


                                   Tom is on the right

Do any foods lead to or result in cramping during running?  Thomas Gabriel

Stomach cramping can result from eating too soon before a run or drinking too much before or during a run.  Cramping can also result from improper breathing and inadequate oxygen.  Leg cramping is usually a result of inadequate electrolytes. Including a hydration drink each day and before and after long runs, adding more salt to foods the day before long runs or runs done in extreme heat can help.  Potassium, calcium and magnesium are other important electrolytes so including potatoes, bananas, beans, and nuts can help prevent leg cramping as well. 


IMG_7315.jpgDr. DeLorenzo has been a Registered Dietitian (RD) since 2001. She received her BS in Food Science and Dietetics from the University of Rhode Island and her MS and Ph.D.in Clinical Nutrition from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ. She currently is the Program Director for the MS in Nutrition and Human Performance Logan University and serves as the team dietitian for USA Para Powerlifting at Logan.

In addition to dietetics, Dr. DeLorenzo is a 200-hour trained yoga teacher and is currently obtaining her certification in yoga therapy with an emphasis on improving body image. She teaches online yin yoga and power yoga and provides yoga therapy for clients with anxiety, body dysmorphia, and pain.

As owner and founder of Nutrition for Optimal Performance, Dr. DeLorenzo specializes in working with athletes.

Click here for more information about Dr. DeLorenzo

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