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Active Expert: Nancy Clark RD CSSD

4 Posts tagged with the pre-exercise tag

About 60% of active people know what a side stitch is. It’s an exercise-stopping, stabbing pain in the abdomen that can bring you to a standstill. Because getting a side stitch is unpredictable—that is, one day you might get one, and the next day you don’t—they are hard to research.


While we aren’t 100% sure what causes a side stitch, the popular theory is exercise creates stress on the ligaments that connect the abdominal organs to the diaphragm. That’s why wearing a tight belt might help the problem; it supports the organs from getting jostled. Eating lots of food or drinking lots of water might contribute to a side stitch, but each athlete’s body responds differently to food and exercise.


If you are plagued by side stitches, you might want to record your food and beverage intake. Perhaps you can detect triggers such as too much pre-exercise water or too large a pre-exercise meal. Then, with repeated efforts, you can hopefully determine a comfortable dose of pre-exercise fuel for your body.


What should you do once you get a side stitch? Many athletes bend forward, stretch the affected side, breathe deeply from the belly, push on the affected area, tighten the abdominal muscles, and/or change from “shallow” to “deep” breathing. (Pretend you are blowing out candles while exhaling with pursed lips.)


Have you found a solution that diffuses side stitches in your body? I’d love to hear your tips!


Thanks in advance,



1,223 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: fuel, pre-exercise, side_stitch, abdominal_cramps, stabbing_pain

“Hey Nancy, I’m running my first marathon tomorrow. What should I be eating?” asked the young man at the running store where I was giving a nutrition clinic.


Questions like that always stun me. This runner hadn’t thought much about nutrition, to say nothing about the importance of training his intestinal tract, as well as the heart, lungs and muscles. He was missing an essential part of a training program! If a marathoner cannot train his intestinal track to  tolerate fuel in some form before and during a marathon, he or she will be more likely to hit the wall..

As I discuss thoroughly in my Food Guide for Marathoners; Tips for Everyday Champions, runners need to fuel well the day before with a diet baed on carbs (pasta, rice, fruits, breads, vegetables). The day of the marathon, the runner wants to enjoy a tried-and-true breakfast (so as to avoid losing time in the porta-potty line), and then consume about 200 to 300 calories per hour after the  first 60 to 90 minutes. The strategy shold be to practice this during training, so the day before the marathon, you have no need to worry about what to eat to enjoy going the distance.

1,692 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: nutrition, marathon, pre-exercise

Too many people who exercise purposefully do not eat before they exercise. They think they should exercise on empty, to prevent intestinal distress. While this may be OK for a short bout of exercise, when they build up to an hour of more of exercise, they start to run out of energy. Thye experience needless fatigue.


Research indicates consuming 100 to 300 calories (depending on your body size and how hard you will be exercising) within the hour before you exercise can improve performance -- to say nothing of enjoyment of the the session. Hence, if you have been avoiding food out of fear of "rapid transit", you should start to train your intestinal track to lean how to digest food while you exercise. This is important if you plan to workout for more than an hour. Start with a saltine, apretsel, a bite of banana, and work up to two saltines, two pretzels, two bites of banana ... With time, your intestinal track will adjust to digesting food while you exercise, and you'll have better, stronger, more enjoyable workouts.


Training your intestinal track as well as your heart, lungs and muscles is important if you plan to do workouts that last longer than one hour!

Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD


2,352 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: eating, pre-exercise, intestines

The hot weather has (finally) come to Boston and most endurance athletes aren’t use to it yet. Here are a few tips for managing the heat.


--Be sure to not only drink enough fluids during exercise but also add a little sodium to your pre-exercise stint in the heat if you plan to be outside for a a few hours. The sodium helps retain the fluids in your body (as opposed to have plain water go in one end and out the other). This can help delay dehydration and enhance your endurance.


While on a daily basis you might want to minimize your sodium intake, a little extra salt before hot weather exercise can be a wise choice.Some possible choices are chicken noodle soup (or any canned brothy soup), V-8 juice, salted pretzels, baked chips, olives, pickles, ham and cheese sandwich with mustard – or  any salted/salty food, before you go. This might be a change in eating habits for health-conscious endurance athletes who cook their oatmeal without salt, rarely eat canned or processed foods, and have no salt shaker on the dinner table.


You might lose 500 to 800+ mg sodium per pound of sweat. (Weigh yourself pre and post exercise to figure our how many pounds of sweat you lose in an hour.) While you need not get obsessed about replacing sodium milligram for milligram, reading food labels can give you a frame of reference regarding how much you replace with your food choices. For example--

    A can of chicken noodle soup offers 2,350 mg sodium

    A quart of Gatorade offers 440 mg sodium

    Eight ounces of orange juice has only 5 mg


Generally, if you crave salt, you should eat salt.

Enjoy that pretzel!




For more information:

The chapter on Replacing Sweat Losses in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook offers more information.

2,281 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: nutrition, dehydration, endurance, heat, sodium, nancy_clark, hot_weather, pre-exercise, salt_for_athletes

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Member since: Jul 8, 2007

Hi! I specialize in nutrition for exercise, and help active people figure out how to manage food, weight, exercise, energy and enjoyment of eating. Let me know if you have any questions!

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