Q&A on Pasta and Exercise with Kim Hoban, RD
For many families, September marks the end of summer. It’s the time of the year when kids go back to school and life is back to busy! For athletes, September also marks the beginning of Fall running season, as the cool weather makes Fall the optimal training season for long-distance events. We’ve asked registered dietitian and fitness enthusiast, Kim Hoban of KHNutrition to weigh-in on how to choose foods to fuel training and how pasta and exercise are a great fit!
1) As an endurance athlete, how do you feel your diet effects your training?
When I don’t eat well, it absolutely reflects in my training. The saying “you can’t out train a bad diet” really rings true for athletes, no matter what sport you do and whether weight loss is a goal or not. A healthy, balanced diet is key (along with adequate sleep and hydration) to training and performing at your very best. Taking in enough good carbs, lean protein and healthy fats will lead to higher energy levels, a healthier immune system and faster recovery times…all things athletes should be aiming for! We put so much effort into creating and following specific training plans, so why not support it with a nutrient-rich meal plan to maximize performance?!
2) What makes pasta an ideal food for athletes?
Pasta is an easily digested carbohydrate, making it a great choice to fuel both our everyday lives and our workouts. Carbs are stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver, and we draw upon those stores to power through exercise. If we don’t take in enough carbohydrates and those glycogen stores become depleted, this is what is called “hitting the wall”, or experiencing severe fatigue and loss of energy during exercise. Pasta is great as it provides those necessary carbohydrates, as well as B-vitamins which are important for energy metabolism. It’s also often enriched with iron, which helps transport oxygen to your muscles. All in all, a smart food choice to fuel exercise!
3) Are there any foods you would suggest pairing with pasta to enhance a workout?
One of the reasons I love pasta so much is because it is so versatile, you can pair almost any food with it! While there are certain “superfoods” that may have exercise benefits (i.e. beets, salmon, broccoli), I might suggest paying more attention to what you leave out of pre-workout pasta meals. Avoid anything with too much fiber or fat, as those take longer to digest and may cause stomach upset. In general, you can’t go wrong with pairing pasta with lean protein and nutrient-rich veggies! Adding omega-3 rich foods (think olive oil or fish) to pasta dishes can help overall by reducing inflammation and promoting immunity.
4) Do you have any tips how to keep yourself motivated in the Fall and Winter months?
Staying motivated through fall and winter can become tough as the cooler temperatures make your warm bed seem more appealing than a chilly morning run. I use a few tricks to keep myself motivated and on track to achieve my goals! First, I make it social! I regularly schedule “sweat dates” (especially for longer runs) to hold myself accountable and to beat the boredom of lonely workouts. If I’m training for a goal race, I make sure to also sign up for smaller races within the training cycle. These can be a good way to test out your fitness level and add some fun into the mix! I love running my local Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot and holiday fun runs every year! Last but not least, I use new running gear as motivation. Investing in a few new pieces of cold-weather clothing or accessories can be a great incentive! I mean, what girl doesn’t like showing off a new outfit or pair of shoes?
5) What’s your favorite pasta dish?
If I have to pick just one, it’d have to be a pasta primavera dish, with whole grain pasta and lots of veggies! Now I know “primavera” means spring…but there’s no reason not to carry it over into fall with seasonal favorites like broccoli, brussels sprouts or even squash! I love whole grain pastas because they boast extra fiber and B-vitamins and I often toss in some shrimp sautéed in olive oil to add lean protein and healthy fats!
Kimberly Hoban is a Registered Dietitian and blogger in NYC. She employs a realistic and individualized approach to nutrition counseling, working with clients to help them achieve a healthy and happy life. Kim is also a fitness enthusiast and runner, who has completed four half-marathons and is currently training for her first full marathon. For more information, visit KHNutrition.com. You can also follow Kim on Twitter at @KimHobanRD.