Alternatively Speaking: Avoid running into trouble

Alternative medicine expert Natalie Marx answers your questions: Can aromatherapy help after a marathon?

Nike nightrun (photo credit: Courtesy)
Nike nightrun
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Q. Dear Natalie, I have been training for the Tel Aviv 10k Nike Night Run. Can you advise me on which diet I should be maintaining in leading up to the run? Thank you.
A. The diet aspect before any kind of long distance running is critical. Paying attention to what you eat, how much, and when are important for getting through the entire marathon.
As the marathon nears, you should try to increase the amount of carbohydrates since a high carb intake allows the body to store the carbs as glycogen giving you enough energy for the entire run. The recommended amount is between 7 to 10 g of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight.
I recommend carbohydrates found in whole wheat pastas and whole grain breads. The sugars found in potatoes, white bread and white pasta are converted to fat, not glycogen, so stick with whole wheat.
Try to avoid eating too much high-fiber foods during the 48 hours prior to your run to avoid gas and bloating on the day.  When running long distances, we take in an increased amount of oxygen. A byproduct of all this oxygen means that we also breathe in many free radicals. It’s therefore essential that you try to increase foods which are rich in antioxidants to counteract the intake of free radicals. This includes citrus fruits, carrots, green leafy vegetables, fatty fish, whole grains and fortified breakfast cereals.
In the lead up to the race, 20 to 35 percent of calories in your diet should come from fat. Hydration is a key factor for a successful run, no matter what time of year. If needed, you should drink at any of the hydration stations during the run, and of-course drink plenty to rehydrate after the run until your urine is pale.
Following the marathon you should consume an actual meal within two hours of the end. Nuts contain magnesium, niacin, copper, manganese and vitamin E, all of which are powerful antioxidants that eliminate free radicals, and as a result inflammation. Nuts are an excellent source of protein, which the body converts into energy and serve as an excellent snack leading up to the run.
Q. Dear Natalie, are there any specific vitamins or minerals that professional runners should take? Thank you as always for your advice.
A. As well as its amazing ability to boost our immune system, Vitamin C also aids in muscle repair and recovery. Since it is also an antioxidant, it will protect you from damage you might suffer from unavoidable environmental factors whilst running outside. It can also improve your lung function, allowing you to breathe more easily leading up to the run.
Calcium helps muscle contraction and is particularly important for runners because of its ability to strengthen bones. Running can cause repetitive stress on the bones of the lower body which can lead to injury.
I recommend trying to take 1,200 mg of calcium per day from calcium-rich foods such as cheese, green leafy vegetables and milk. Make sure iron levels are not too low. A runner’s blood flow is often greater than that of a non-runner and since there is more blood pumping, the iron is diluted. Increase iron intake with dark, leafy greens or take a 10 to 15 mg supplement daily.
Like calcium, potassium is important for keeping leg muscles moving during a running session. Potassium levels decrease through sweat and muscle contraction and is one of the causes of muscle cramps. Researchers advise athletes to consume at least 4.7 g of potassium every day.
Include more tofu, nectarines, prunes, bananas, potatoes and fish.
Q. Dear Natalie, how can aromatherapy help after running a marathon? Which essential oils do you recommend I try?
A. Not only is aromatherapy excellent for relaxation and healing, it is also an effective treatment for a number of muscle injuries. I often use aromatherapy in treating sprains, strains, inflammation and swelling. It can also be used to improve circulation and joint problems.
An aromatherapy massage with essential oils can benefit the muscles in many ways helping them relax and break down the build-up of lactic acid. The massage will release knots in the muscles and by using the correct oils can help to ease swelling and inflammation.
Essential oils that are particularly good for muscles include rosemary, ginger and black pepper. These oils allow for a warming massage and increase the blood flow to the skin.
Once the blood vessels expand, blood moves more quickly, bringing down the swelling, as the massage helps loosen muscles and get rid of knots.
If the idea of a massage does not appeal, then you can also enjoy a soak in a hot bath that contains 10 drops of either rosemary or sweet marjoram.  If you have severe swelling, apply a cold compress to help reduce swelling. Add five drops sweet marjoram, one drop of basil and five drops of citronella in 100ml (20fl oz/1 pint) of cold water in a bowl, along with several ice cubes. Once the ice has melted, soak a flannel in the water and place over the affected area.This column is brought to you as general information only and unless stated otherwise is not medical advice nor is it based on medical experiments. This column is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. For more information about specific problems, please contact a doctor.Natalie runs a clinic both in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem offering a wide range of natural treatment, including a women’s clinic every Wednesday. To make an appointment please email [email protected].Ask Natalie: If you have a health query and would like an alternative answer, email Natalie with your question at [email protected]Someone Once Said: ‘No one ever drowned in sweat.’