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Fighting the cold war.

If you're like most runners, the mere thought of catching a cold can be more unnerving than tackling a daily workout or an upcoming long run. For the most part, running does appear to confer a protective effect against the common cold and other upper respiratory infections (URI). As proof, runners generally report suffering from fewer colds when compared to their sedentary counterparts. You're not alone, though, if you've been knocked off your feet by a cold during periods of heavy training or immediately before or after an important race.

Turning to your refrigerator, rather than the medicine cabinet, may be your simplest and most effective means of outsmarting the common cold. Establishing sound eating habits that keep your blood sugar from plunging can improve your chances of Outrunning a cold or other URI.

Whenever you run low on energy, whether it's during a long run or because you've skipped a meal, your blood sugar level takes a nosedive. Your body responds by releasing large quantities of stress hormones, such as cortisol. High levels of cortisol suppress your immune system, opening the door for opportunistic germs and viruses, such as those lurking on doorknobs and the weights you lift at the gym. Strenuous exercise, in particular track workouts or prolonged runs lasting 90 continuous minutes or longer, can be the final blow to an immune system already overtaxed by poor eating habits, inadequate sleep, or mental stress.

When you eat is just as important as what you eat. Back-loading your calories by skimping throughout the day and feasting at night means you're out of energy balance most of the time. Choose to eat breakfast, make lunch a priority, and sit down for dinner. Since most runners need to eat every three to four hours while awake, be prepared for snack attacks between meals. Stash healthy snacks (such as energy and breakfast bars, low-fat granola bars, dried fruit, soy nuts and pretzels) in your desk drawer, briefcase, gym bag and glove compartment of your car.

(Suzanne Girard Eberle, M.S., R.D,. is a former All-American runner and nation al 5K champion and is the author of Endurance Sports Nutrition, 2000, Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL, 296 pp., $18.95. Call 1-800-776-2732 to order.)

RELATED ARTICLE: EATING for PERFORMANCE

* Coordinate your eating schedule with your running so you don't start out with an empty tank.

* During strenuous or prolonged bouts of running stabilize your blood sugar level by consuming carbohydrates during exercise, such as a sports a drink or energy gel or bar, plus water. Consume four to eight ounces of a sports beverage every 15 to 20 minutes when running longer than 60 minutes.

* Within 15 to 30 minutes of finishing reach for a carbohydrate-rich beverage or food such as a sports drink, banana or cup of yogurt.
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Title Annotation:eating to maintain blood sugar levels
Publication:Running & FitNews
Date:Jan 1, 2001
Words:467
Previous Article:Good for you? Eggsactly!
Next Article:Eating for recovery.
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