Even as summer winds down, running in the Atlanta heat can still take a toll on anyone from an amateur runner to a professional athlete.
Keeping hydrated and eating healthy are key factors to getting the most out of running, according to Sandy Springs sports nutrition expert Page Love.
New fad diets encouraging people to go gluten-free or low on carbohydrates — including the popular cross-fit diet Paleo, which promotes a hefty portion of meat and protein — are not suitable for runners, Love said.
“What I find is a lot of people coming in to [running] training groups with a health consciousness but they are under fueling,” Love said. “My message is about fueling adequately with whole grains, fresh fruits and produce. I use the MyPlate model, which promotes three-quarters of your plate being carb foods, which is the exact opposite of a low-carb diet. My goal is to help them run fully fueled so they don’t break down muscle mass and minimize opportunities for injury.”
On top of the diet, Love, who has worked with the Atlanta Track Club and Leukemia Team for the past 20 years, also teaches runners how to hydrate properly and add appropriate amounts of salt to replenish the body’s electrolytes.
“When training in hot months, runners may realize their hydration needs may double from one to two liters to three to four per day to prepare their bodies for sweat losses during running,” she said. “My standard recommendation is that if you’re going out to run for more than an hour, carry water on your body.”
Shawn Hammond, a Chamblee resident who works for an IT company, said he first heard Love speak at a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society event. He is a seven-year survivor of lymphoma and was diagnosed with the disease twice.
Hammond put it bluntly, describing himself as “fat” and “slow,” but said Love’s nutrition plan helped him better keep up with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Running Society over the last two years.
“I didn’t realize that what was happening while I was running was that I was getting really dehydrated,” he said. “I was drinking about 25 percent of the fluid I should have been.”
Hammond, who just signed up for his fifth half marathon, said he now has more energy and stamina, and his running has improved overall simply by hydrating and adding salt and sport gels to his daily runs, which Love says are “great tools” for distance runners.
Aside from following Love’s program, Hammond suggested new runners join a running club.
“All of the local running stores have programs that help you and it’s a great way to meet people,” he said. “Nobody ever gives you grief that you’re slow. They’re all proud of you that you got out there.”
Stephanye Peak, a Marietta resident and coach with the Atlanta Track Club’s marathon training group, said Love’s speech to her group just more than a week ago was much-needed information, as more than half of the 100 runners in her group are first-timers at attempting a marathon.
“Those that have just started out don’t know the proper nutrition they need,” said the 30-year veteran runner. “When you’re out there running in the Georgia heat, you want to be nourished.”