Leslie Bonci has spent her life around athletes.
As one of the country's most recognized sports dieticians, Bonci serves as the sports dietician for the University of Pittsburgh's department of athletics and is a nutrition consultant for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Browns.
Bonci spoke to several members of running rEVOLUTION - a local women's walking and running group - Tuesday at Beaty-Warren Middle School. She hammered home the message that performance has as much to do with what you do before and after the physical activity, than during.
Times Observer photo by Allen Seybert
Leslie Bonci, who serves as the sports dietician for the University of Pittsburgh’s department of athletics and is a nutrition consultant for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers and Cleveland Browns, spoke to members of running rEVOLUTION — a local women’s walking and running group — Tuesday at Beaty-Warren Middle School and hammered home the message that performance has as much to do with what you do before and after the physical activity than during.
Leslie Bonci, R.D.
"What you put into your body is of the utmost importance," said Bonci. "In order to perform at your highest level, you need to be conscious of not only what you're putting into your body, but also of when you are putting it into your body."
Bonci acknowledged that while that applies to most everybody, there are exceptions to the rule - something she learned while working olympic gold medalist and fastest man on Earth, Usain Bolt.
"On the track, he's the fastest man in the universe," said Bonci. "But I can tell you, before I worked with him he had horrible eating habits."
"Every runner should try to put 20 ounces of fluid into their body one hour before running."
- Leslie Bonci, R.D.
Bonci said that a workout doesn't necessarily begin when you lace up your shoes and walk out the door. Rather, the workout should begin about an hour before physical exertion with putting fluids and even food into your body.
"Every runner should try to put 20 ounces of fluid into their body one hour before running," she said. "Studies show a six to eight percent increase in strength, stamina and performance right there."
Doing so one hour before beginning a workout is critical as well. Any sooner and the water may not be where you'd like it to be at the beginning of the workout.
"It takes one hour for those 20 ounces of water to leave your stomach," said Bonci. "Starting your workout with the water still in your stomach will not be a good thing for you. Or for the person running beside you because that water is going to want to come back up."
Eating before running, though going against conventional wisdom, is also a good idea according to Bonci.
"It is best to try to get a baseball sized amount of food in you one hour before running," she said. "Not a soccer ball, not a football, not a watermelon. Some don't like to, but eating something before working out is very important."
Bonci continued by adding that eating and drinking during the workout aren't particularly necessary - especially if the workout is 60 minutes or less in duration. For every one hour after the first, one should try to pack 30 grams of carbohydrates back into the body. A typical standard-sized sports drink contains 32 grams of carbs.
How that fluid is put into your body while your working out is important as well.
"Most people do it, but sipping the drink is not the best way to take the fluid in," said Bonci. "If you sip your drink, it will take twice as long to leave your stomach. Gulping it one gulp at a time is the best way to keep your body hydrated during physical activity."
How you treat your body after a workout is also vital to the recovery process.
"Replacing the fluid you lose during a workout is key to letting the body recover and keeping you performing at your best," said Bonci. "The main rule of thumb is to put 24 ounces of fluid back into your body for every pound of fluid you lose."
And while most certainly don't feel like it, a small amount of food should absolutely be eaten within 15 to 20 minutes after the conclusion of a workout.
"I'm not talking a full course meal," said Bonci. "Just a small appetizer - maybe something like 200 calories. If you do not eat within 15 to 20 minutes after finishing a run, it can delay your body's recovery by up to 24 hours."
Bonci said that while it may not appear to be a big deal on the surface, the timing and amounts of food and fluid taken into the body before, during and after a workout are perhaps the most important factor in performing at a high level.
"What you do before and after physical activity is of the utmost importance," she said. "It takes a conscious effort for you to perform at your peak level. If you eat right and drink right, the end result is you performing at your highest level. You only get one body. You may as well treat it right."