Health

Food vs. Dietary Supplements

This is the second article in a multi-part series about athlete nutrition and eating for performance.  These articles are written by Katie Mazzia, Clinical Dietician and Diabetes Educator at the Vail Valley Medical Centre in Colorado.  Katie is part of the Golden Ultra family and a fantastic runner herself.  As a multiple time podium finisher at the TransRockies Run, she knows a thing or two about healthy eating as an athlete!

Proper nutrition is the first line of high level performance and recovery for all athletes. 

Did you know...

1) Drinking tart cherry juice or concentrate before and after activity can help muscle soreness
2) Fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon and Barramundi can decrease inflammation
3) Carbohydrate + protein (3:1 ratio) intake within 30-60 minutes after a race or hard work-out can significantly decrease muscle damage.   

Although benefits may exist for some dietary supplements, poor manufacturing practices, cross-contamination, and illegal drugs disguised as dietary supplements can cause athletes to test positive for banned substances and result in serious consequences.

Dietary supplements and herbal preparations can also cause adverse health effects, especially if you already take prescription medications. Talk with your pharmacist and physician to determine what’s right for you. A sports dietitian can also review your current nutrition plan for optimal performance.

Resources that test, screen and certify dietary supplements for quality and banned substances:

Learn from organizations that provide dietary supplement information specific to athletes:

8 Golden Ultra Training Tips

We asked popular coach and running streaker, Derrick Spafford, for some Golden Ultra training tips.  You won't believe what happened next...  (we got some great advice!).

1. Train Hard

To successfully complete any race in the Golden Ultra weekend of races, you need to commit to training hard, consistently and smart. The distances and terrain at the Golden Ultra are challenging, so regular training averaging five times per week of running and cross training over the final few months are key. Gradually lengthening your long runs to the three to four hour range should be enough to prepare most runners to complete their chosen races.

2. Do your Hill Training

Hill training is the most important form of training that you can do to prepare for the Golden Ultra. Getting comfortable running (and hiking) uphill and downhill is vital. Alternate between hills that are long and gradual and those that are shorter and steeper. If you don’t have access to hills or mountains, be sure to hit the incline on a treadmill as a substitute. With the highest point of the course cresting over 2,400 meters, the altitude will also pose a challenge. If you don’t live at altitude, making sure that you regularly run intense anaerobic hill repeats in training will help to prepare you for what you will be experiencing at the higher elevations on the course.

3. Try Back-to-Back Long Runs

If you are running two or three of the Golden Ultra races, you’ll want to add some back-to-back longer runs in the final 6-8 weeks before the race. A typical example would be a three hour hilly run on the first day, followed by another two hour hilly run the following day. This is a great way to get your body used to running while already fatigued. Make sure that you recover well with additional rest days and light running days after B2B runs for several days before your next hard session or long run.

4. Engage Cross Training

Add additional specific types of cardio cross training (Elliptical, Mountain Biking, Stair Master, Stepmill) to your training week to boost your climbing fitness. Adding one to two days of specific cross training weekly will allow you to increase your volume without the risks of adding more running days, and with the benefit of working different muscles that will come in handy with all the climbing.

5. Add some Strength Training

A strong core, in addition to strong legs, is important for helping you to power up the climbs and stabilizing on the descents. Basic core exercises such as planks, abdominal crunches, and other stability exercises should be performed two to three times per week.

Additional leg exercises such as walking lunges, single leg squats, calf raises, and some bounding drills are also helpful for your climbing and descending muscles and to prevent you from overloading these muscle groups on race day.

6. Plan and Test your Race Day Nutrition

Stay on top of fuelling, hydration and electrolytes early and often during the race to ensure you’re well fuelled throughout each day. Be sure to get a moderate amount of carbs and protein into you asap after each stage to aid in recovery, especially if you’re doing multiple races over consecutive days.

7. Practise Mountain Running Form

Shorten your stride and maintain your stride turnover rate and effort on uphills. Run tall, don’t lean excessively forward at the waist. Hike any uphills necessary to maintain the same effort or heart rate. For downhills, make sure you relax and run with quick steps. Don’t brake or overstride, run with the momentum of the hill. Look ahead and pick your line through any technical sections.

8. Test your Gear

Don’t make a rookie mistake and try out new gear on race day. Be sure you wear the shoes and other gear that you have tried in long training runs to ensure that everything works well for you. Make sure you choose the footwear that gives you the traction and protection that you need for the conditions of the race. Trekking poles can provide a big help in climbing and descending; if you plan to use them on race day, be sure to get lots of practice with them in training.


Derrick Spafford has over 30 years of competitive running and coaching experience. He has competed in hundreds of races in distances from 800 meters to 100 miles; from track to ultramarathons. While he enjoys competing in a variety of different events, his current favourite races include trail, mountain, ultra and snowshoe running races.  For more information on Derrick's personal coaching services, please visit: www.healthandadventure.com

The Golden Ultra is a three-day stage running race (or relay) in Golden, BC, Canada.  Runners may participate in all three stages as a solo or part of a relay, or may register for any single or combination of two stages separately.

Healthy Eating: How Much Sugar is too Much Sugar?

Katie Mazzia

Katie Mazzia

This is the first article in a multi-part series about athlete nutrition and eating for performance.  These articles are written by Katie Mazzia, Clinical Dietician and Diabetes Educator at the Vail Valley Medical Centre in Colorado.  Katie is part of the Golden Ultra family and a fantastic runner herself.  As a multiple time podium finisher at the TransRockies Run, she knows a thing or two about healthy eating as an athlete!

How much sugar is too much sugar?

Sugars are carbohydrates. Whether its natural sugar, like molasses or honey, or processed sugar, like cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, too much is harmful for your health and training. On average, Americans consume more than 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day or about 140 pounds in one year!

Simple sugar during exercise is okay!

  • Simple sugars such as glucose, fructose, cane sugar/syrup are the most important energy source during endurance activity. Studies suggest a combination of these sugars can increase absorption 40% faster than just one type.
  • Maltodextrin is “technically” a complex carbohydrate although breaks down fast and is often found in sports gels or other sports nutrition products.
  • Aim for a minimum of 25gm carbohydrate per hour if exercising > 60 minutes.
  • Quick energy ideas: Clif Shots or Bloks, Honey Stinger Chews, 2T. Raisins, Skratch or Tailwind sports drinks.

Too many simple sugars are not okay!

  • Excess added sugar in your diet increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
  • Limit added sugars to 25 grams a day for females (100 calories) or 37 grams per day for males (150 calories).
  • Added sugars are on the Nutrition Facts label are under “Total Carbohydrate-Sugar”.
  • Limit your juice intake to 8 oz. per day.
  • Remember fruits and plain milk have NATURAL sugars and this is not counted as “added” sugar. 

What does 100 calories of added sugar look like? ½ ounce dark chocolate (10gm), cereal (10gm), 1 tsp. brown sugar (4gm).  20 oz. Vitamin Water=31 grams added sugars. Starbucks flavoring (2 pumps) =10gm added sugars.

Stay tuned for more healthy eating tips to get you ready for event day!

Katie Mazzia on the top step of the podium at TransRockies Run

Katie Mazzia on the top step of the podium at TransRockies Run

The Golden Ultra is a three-day stage running race (or relay) in Golden, BC, Canada.  Runners may participate in all three stages as a solo or part of a relay, or may register for any single or combination of two stages separately.