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Before long-distance races, can the carbs and serve up the beef

The Kansas City Star

Ah, yes. The big pasta meal the night before a race. It’s one of the best things about being a runner.

The goal is to load up on carbohydrates, which help provide fuel to the muscles. So pass the parmesan, right?

Not so fast. New research reiterates that runners can’t live on carbs alone. A serving of protein — often in the form of meat — is equally important.

According to sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, red meat is a great source of iron, which prevents anemia, and zinc, which aids in injury recovery and promotes healthy immune systems.

In her book, “Nancy Clark’s Food Guide for Marathoners,” she writes: “Without question, the iron in red meat is more easily absorbed than in popular vegetarian sources of iron (e.g., beans, raisins, spinach).

“In a study of 18 women runners who consumed the recommended daily allowance for iron, eight of the nine women who ate no red meat (but did eat chicken and fish) had depleted iron stores as compared to only two of the nine red-meat eaters.”

Mark Niblo of Blue Springs doesn’t need convincing. He’s running Monday’s Boston Marathon and hasn’t shied away from eating beef.

“Beef is part of my training diet for quite some time,” Niblo said. “I’ll eat at least three small servings of lean beef each week.

“I actually tried to cut back on meat a few years back when I was running, and I found that I didn’t have quite the stamina. … I found it makes me feel a lot better when I’m training. It keeps me full longer, because it takes longer to digest.”

Niblo, 52, along with Jannie Barr, Jeni Camerlinck and Meridith Bihuniak, is part of a team from Kansas City that will be running in Boston. The quartet makes up Team Beef and is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Beef Council.

Camerlinck, 42, said people often asked whether she’s a vegetarian.

“As far as my personal experience, I do better when I eat a higher-protein meal before and after a run than if I carbo load,” Camerlinck said.

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