Riboflavin: How This B-Vitamin Could Change the Sport of Ultra-Running

Riboflavin: How This B-Vitamin Could Change the Sport of Ultra-Running
By: Amy Tribolini, MS, RD, LD
You may not be familiar with riboflavin, but it is likely you have heard of or even supplemented with B-vitamins.  B-vitamins have been marketed as “energy enhancement vitamins” and added to sport supplement bars and drinks for years.
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, has stayed relatively under the rug and gained little attention by itself, but all that may be changing after a recent study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine proposed that supplementation may have significant benefits on muscle pain and soreness both during and after completion of ultra-running events.  
In 2016, researchers performed a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial on participants at one of the most iconic ultra-marathons of all time: The Western States 100-Miler.  Researchers split up participating runners into a control group or a placebo group.  The controlled group received a riboflavin capsule both before the race and again at mile 56, the other group received a placebo at both intervals.  Participants in the study rated their soreness and muscle pain before the race, during, immediately after, and for 10 additional days.
The results were significant.  The runners that received the riboflavin reported significantly less muscle pain and soreness during and immediately after the race.  While this is newer research into this area, the findings suggest that riboflavin may be a highly beneficial supplement to decrease soreness and aid in the performance of ultra-runners.  
What Does Riboflavin Do in the Body?
Riboflavin plays an important role in metabolism and protecting against cell damage.  Essential to ultra-runners, riboflavin is involved in the process of energy metabolism.  Without adequate riboflavin, the enzymes needed to break down nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fats) do not function as efficiently.  This can lead to feelings of exhaustion and fatigue in an athlete.    
The second essential role riboflavin plays in athletes is enhancing oxygen delivery.  Hemoglobin, the protein responsible for transporting oxygen in the body, requires riboflavin in order to synthesize.  Having adequate oxygen transport allows athletes to perform better with less fatigue.  
How Much Should I Take?
In this research study, participants were given a 100mg supplemental capsule of riboflavin twice during the race (once before the race and another 56 miles into the race).  According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, this far exceeds the estimated daily needs of healthy athletes- 1.2mg (men) and 1.1mg (women).  But, because riboflavin is water soluble, healthy individuals will excrete excess out through the urine instead of storing it in toxic levels.
Can I Get Enough Riboflavin in the Foods I Eat?
It is easy to meet your estimated nutritional needs by selecting foods high in riboflavin.  However, in order to experience the decreased soreness that the Western States athletes reported, supplemental riboflavin may be needed.  
Foods High in Riboflavin:
Riboflavin occurs naturally in foods and it is also fortified into many grains.  If you are looking for natural ways to enhance your intake of riboflavin during a race, these handy grab-and-go snacks are good sources:

  • Fortified cereals
  • Fortified Grains, Crackers, and Breads
  • Fortified sports bars and supplements
  • Almonds
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Yogurt

With new research suggesting that increased riboflavin intake may be a significant component of decreasing soreness among ultra-runners, there is likely to be more chatter in the ultra-running community over this topic.  While more research needs to be done to identify optimal dosing and benefits, the preliminary research seems to point to this B vitamin as a nutrient that may be changing the field of ultra-running.   
Hoffman, M. D., Valentino, T. R., Stuempfle, K.J., & Hassid, B.V. (2017). A Placebo-Controlled Trial of Riboflavin for Enhancement of Ultramarathon Recovery. Sports Medicine – Open, 3(1).
Denny, S. (2014). Vitamin Needs of Athletes. Retrieved April 5, 2017, from https://www.eatright.org/resource/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitmains-and-nutrients/vitamin-needs-of-athletes
Zempleni J, Galloway JR, McCormick DB (1996). Pharmacokinetics of orally and intravenously administered riboflavin in healthy humans. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The American Society for Nutrition. 63 (1): 54–66.
About the Author:
Amy Tribolini currently works as both a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Instructor. She lives, trains, and competes as an ultra-runner out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Amy specializes in fueling endurance athletes, athletic performance, and plant-based diets. Amy holds both a Bachelors Degree in Dietetics and a Masters Degree in Human Nutritional Science from the University of Wisconsin
Instagram- @ultrarunningdietitian
Email contact: [email protected]


Know Your Macros: A Recovery Guide for Endurance Athletes

Know Your Macros: A Recovery Guide for Endurance Athletes 
By: Amy Tribolini, MS, RD, LD
You’ve done it!  Maybe you finished your long run for the week or your highly anticipated race.  You are feeling proud and accomplished but your body is feeling run down.  No matter how good your fueling strategy during your run or race is, it is near impossible to end up anything short of depleted.  It can be easy to overlook the proper nutrition your body needs to repair, recover, and rebuild.
While there are many factors to consider, let’s start with the basics:  carbohydrate, protein, and fat.  These substrates are the building blocks of food and athletes have specific needs when pushing their bodies to the next level.
Carbohydrates are stored in your muscles and liver in the form of glycogen.  If you have been running more than 3-4 hours, your glycogen stores are likely running on empty.  There is a short window of time after finishing your workout or race, when carbohydrate is more effectively absorbed.  This window is about 30 minutes.  This is why it is very common for runners to begin to imagine, dream, or even fantasize about what they are going to eat at the finish.  This is the body’s natural way of cueing the mind to consume carbohydrate-rich foods while the body is still rushing with adrenaline and enhanced blood flow.  During this window of time, your cells are more receptive to breaking down carbohydrate to glycogen and rebuilding the body’s stores.  The faster your body’s glycogen stores get re-filled, the less muscle soreness you may experience.
It is also important to understand that all carbohydrates are not the same.  A research article published this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition evaluated the effectiveness of glucose vs. fructose at re-fueling muscle energy stores.  The results showed that glucose was significantly more effective and lead to increased exercise performance the next day.  Some handy whole-food, post-run snacks high in glucose include: bananas, grapes, dates, and dried fruits.  There are also many sports bars and supplements high in glucose that are easy to take during or after endurance activities.
endurance athletes
Protein is another big factor in refueling.  While protein is not a primary substrate that is burned for fuel, it is critical to repair the standard muscle breakdown and tears that can occur.  If you are in the market for a post-run protein or amino acid supplement, look for ones high in the branched-chain amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine.  These amino acids are especially beneficial because they are more rapidly absorbed.  Unlike other amino acids, the branched-chain can bypass the liver and be directly transported into the muscles for repair.
Marketing and media have really pushed the idea that more protein is better, but science disproves this theory.  According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the athlete needs only slightly more than non-athletes.  The daily recommendation for athletes is 1.2-2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.  The lower end is better suited for endurance athletes while the higher end is more directed toward bodybuilders and power athletes.
Fat is definitely part of a healthy diet, but science has yet to demonstrate that fat consumption is essential for recovery right after a race.  Its function may be more to provide satiety and let the brain know that the body no longer has to be in fight or flight mode.  Fat is also essential to aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.  Remember to choose foods high in healthy fats like avocados, nuts, chia seeds or olive oil.
An Important Mineral for Recovery – Magnesium:
Repleting magnesium may aid in preventing stress fractures and demineralization of bones.  Magnesium largely exists in muscles and bones where its primary function is muscle contraction and energy metabolism.  Ensuring you consume enough magnesium-rich foods after events can aid in longevity
and quick recovery in your sport.  Some great whole food sources of magnesium include dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and nuts.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure:
Going into a race or a hard workout well rested, well nourished and well hydrated can be worth more than anything you can do to fix your body up after.
While exercising in moderate doses boosts your immune system, long endurance events, such as ultra-marathons and multi-day events, tend to do the opposite.
Prolonged endurance events can kick out the release of cortisol (a stress hormone), which causes your immune system to kick into high gear.  This may be one reason it is common to hear athletes complain of getting a cold after a hard race.
Research shows that consuming sports drinks or carbohydrate-rich supplements during a race can slow down the production of stress hormones leading to less stress on your immune system.  This, coupled with consuming adequate macronutrients post-run (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) can really get you out running again quicker with higher performance.
Protein and the Athlete – How Much Do You Need? (n.d.). Retrieved March 16, 2017, from https://www.eatright.org/resource/fitness/sports-and-performance/fueling-your-workout/protein-and-the-athlete
Rosset, R., Lecoultre, V., Egli, L., Cros, J., Dokumaci, A. S., Zwygart, K., . . . Tappy, L. (2017). Postexercise repletion of muscle energy stores with fructose or glucose in mixed meals. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 105(3), 609-617.
Matias, C., Santos, D., Montiero, C., & Vasco, A. (2012). Magnesium intake mediates the association between bone mineral density and lean soft tissue in elite swimmers. Magnesium Research, 25(3), 120-125.
Nieman, D. C. (2007). Marathon Training and Immune Function. Sports Medicine, 37(4), 412-415.
About the Author:
Amy Tribolini currently works as both a Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Professor. She lives, trains, and competes as an ultra-runner out of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Amy specializes in fueling endurance athletes, athletic performance, and plant-based diets. Amy holds both a Bachelors Degree in Dietetics and a Masters Degree in Human Nutritional Science from the University of Wisconsin
Instagram- @ultrarunningdietitian
Email contact: [email protected]


Failure… or is it?

Failure… or is it?

I have just watched a movie Karl Meltzer on his successful FKT (Fastest Known Time) on the Appalachian Trail. The movies called ‘Made To Be Broken!’
While watching the movie I thought of Karl’s previous failed attempts, the most recent being in 2014. Let’s get one thing straight, the Appalachian Trail is tough – very tough. The first time you try something and fail you can put it down to inexperience, bad planning, bad luck or whatever… but I say failure is good!
Life is full of failure and if we don’t learn how to pick ourselves up and try again, then our lives will not be complete.
Karl Meltzer
Karl personified this tenacity. I respected him 100% when he said he would try again in 2016. I knew and more importantly, he knew, that should all things go well and he breaks the record, he was in for a miserable and tough time for 40+ days. Days that would send him to the edge, take him to a whole new place mentally and yes, may even break him.
So why, why go back?
To live!
As the closing credits rolled in, I sat watching the celebrations. Scott Jurek was there, David Horton, Karl Senior, Eric Belz and Karl’s wife, Cheryl. Karl’s triumph was all the sweeter through previous failures.
He’d nailed it!
My attention then turned to the Barkley. What a race unfolded in Tennessee. It was an epic and it may well go down in history as the most memorable. Not because John Kelly was the 15th finisher of the race but because Gary Robbins ‘failed!’
Notice here that I place ‘failure’ in commas – for me, Gary didn’t fail. He achieved a great deal, he just didn’t achieve his goal.
Just as John Kelly had failed on 2 previous occasions, he triumphed on a 3rd attempt and the victory was sweet.
Gary, of course, was left on the floor, a tired wreck facing demons.
Initially many of us had thought Gary had missed the record by 6-seconds! The reality was, as race director Laz pointed – Gary missed completion by 2-miles. At the final book (13 need to be located and a page is torn away to prove that you visited it) Gary removed the page but in the mist and through extreme tiredness, he navigated the wrong way and therefore did not complete the course as he should have – he finished from the wrong direction. Laz was clear to point out, had he been within the 60-hour cut-off it would still have been a DNF as he had not followed the specified route.
Gary confirmed it: “I did not finish The Barkley Marathons, and that is no one’s fault but my own. That one fatal error with just over two miles to go haunts me.”
This failure is a great example for us all.
Gary will be back. He will be fired up more than ever before. Will he achieve his goal in 2018? Who knows, that is part of the challenge. One thing I do know is that Gary will come back year-on-year until he does. When he finally touches the yellow gate with all book pages and within the 60-hours, that moment will last a lifetime and he will have the satisfaction of having worked his butt off for a goal.
Is it me but today does everyone want it easy?
Even schools are reluctant to run races because ‘everyone’ must be a winner… let’s get real folks, life is full of highs and lows, failure and success.
We want to make people happy, we want to wrap everyone in cotton wool and we want to say, ‘don’t worry, it will be ok!’
Some days my 100% and your 100% just won’t be good enough. Be happy with that. We all fall short. It’s not how you fall down, it’s how you pick yourself up.
For me, John Kelly and Karl Meltzer (amongst many others) should be applauded for their failures. For it is those failures that made them fight and succeed, just as Gary Robbins will do – one day!
Laz, thank you for creating something so tough that it takes all those who toe the line to the limit, to experience something so life-changing that they leave a new person. Finally, thank you for not bending, not waiving, not showing leniency in failure. Stick true to the values you hold – you and your race will produce more great stories and more heroes and yes, it will let all the world know that if we fail, at least we fail while daring greatly!’
Gary Robbins As Roosevelt said:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
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The Coastal Challenge 2017

The Coastal Challenge 2017 : Frost and Owens dominate

New Zealand’s Anna Frost and the UK’s Tom Owens dominated Costa Rica’s 13th edition of The Coastal Challenge 2017 – a six-day race that follows the coastline stating in Quepos and culminating at the iconic Drake Bay.

The Salomon sponsored duo grabbed the race by the scruff of the neck on day one and neither looked in danger of relinquishing the lead despite the intense heat, high humidity and a tough and challenging course that weaved in and out of the Talamancas for an overall distance of 250km.The Coastal Challenge 2017

Spain’s Chema Martinez, a participant in the 2016 edition of the race had spent several months specifically preparing for the race but despite his speed (he’s a 2:08 marathon runner) he could not handle Owens technical prowess not only climbing but descending.

Hardrock 100 winner, Jason Schlarb placed 3rd with a strong performance. His ability to transition from the cold and snow of Colorado to the heat and humidity of Costa Rica was impressive. The race was not without its challenges for the Altra athlete, on day one he made a navigational error losing him valuable time.

Notably, Costa Rican athletes came to the fore and impressed, the highest place going to Erick Aguero who just missed the podium placing 4th after fighting hard with Schlarb.

“I am very motivated and proud of my performance so far. I turned on my phone yesterday and was amazed at all the messages of support I’ve had from the Costa Rican running community. I will give it my all to complete this race 3rd overall. A podium finish has been my objective from the start.” – Erick Aguero

The ladies’ race had arguably the strongest line-up in the history of the race with 2016 champion, Ester Alves returning to defend her title. In addition, 2015 Marathon des Sables champion Elisabet Barnes toed the start line with mountain specialist and two time Everest Trail Race winner, Spain’s Anna Comet.

Frost, a last minute entry to the race, dominated from beginning to end with five stage victories, the only lapse coming on the last day when the New Zealander could ease off the gas and enjoy the Corcovado National Park. It was an emotional journey!

“This has been a tough and emotional journey, three editions in the making. I have finally won the race I love! I think I am done, not with Costa Rica or The Coastal Challenge – next time I will be watching and spectating though!” – Anna Frost

Elisabet Barnes placed second on day one and looked set for a strong race, however, her technical running could not match Alves and Comet. Finally finishing 4th a podium place had maybe been a possibility had she not made a navigational error on day four.

Anna Comet started steady and looked relaxed and strong as the day’s passed. She had a battle on her hands on day five when sickness and a stomach upset scuppered her otherwise consistent running. Her margin though over Alves was enough to allow her to lose time and still place 2nd overall.

Portugal’s Alves looked to struggle through day one and most definitely improved as the day’s passed. She excelled on day five and opened up a gap of 9-minutes on Barnes thus taking the final podium slot. Barnes was not willing to give up without a fight and vowed she would fight the last day. Alves was like a tornado on the sixth day and from the gun pushed hard leaving the rest of the ladies’ in her wake.

“I decided not to waste any time and ran the last 10km full out skipping the water point. It’s amazing what the body can do in this heat, the mind takes control and the drive is there.” – Ester Alves

Dense rainforest, technical trails, stunning beaches, palm trees, a plethora of wildlife and relaxed campsites in amazing locations make the ‘The Coastal Challenge ‘ one of the bucket-list races for the runner who is looking for the next challenge.

Race winner Tom Owens summed it up as he flexed in Drake Bay after the last stage, “This has been an incredible journey. It’s a stunning and magnificent part of the world and the course, terrain, views and the racing has been world-class. I have been blown away by everything – the final stage was just stunning and it managed to compress the whole TCC experience in just 22km. I’d be back to TCC and Costa Rica in a shot…!”

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Dean Karnazes – "The Road to Sparta"

Dean Karnazes

“The Road to Sparta” 

Tanned, chiseled, beaming smile, shortcut blond hair and a reverse turned peak hat –  Dean Karnazes personified cool. This guy is ripped and yes, he doesn’t look like a runner. Legs bulge with toned muscles and they are big; so far removed from the fleet of foot Kenyan’s. Dean’s arms are bigger than most marathon runners legs!
He’s edgy, almost nervous, but I soon find out that this guy can’t keep still. Sitting is an alien thing that is forced on him at social occasions and meal time. “I work standing up – I have a stand-up desk and that works for me. When I am ‘in’ training for an event, my day starts early – around 4 am! I will run a marathon before breakfast, I will work all day and then in the evening I will run again, say 12-miles with some faster running or hill work.”
It’s a grueling routine and one that is added to by numerous ‘HIT’ (high-intensity training) sessions throughout the day. Dean will include 4-to-6 10 to 15-minute sessions were he breaks away from his desk and goes through a routine of pull-ups, burpees, press ups and so on.
Dean Karnazes
Dean is in Bulgaria at FIZKULTURA – a one-day running event with guest speakers. Dean is heading up the day and I am joining him along with adventurer Sean Conway, marathon runner Irina Daniela, and host of local running talent. Dean’s first book, ‘Confessions of an all Night Runner’ has just been translated into Bulgarian and in addition, ‘The Road To Sparta,’ Dean’s new book is being launched worldwide.
For many, ‘Confessions…’ was the book that started their own ultra running odyssey – I included. Dean made a very niche and undercover world not only accessible but manageable. Today, ultra-running would not have the profile it does had Dean not made this world known.
Put a guy on a pedestal and there are those who are keen to knock him off. It’s the nature of things – a lack of understanding, jealousy, whatever it may be it has no bearing on the man, who at heart is a person who beams enthusiasm for a sport he loves. His charity work is boundless and as Dean himself says, “You have to ignore the criticism for all the thousands of emails and messages I receive that are positive!”
This guys body, face, health, and charisma shows no aging of his 54 total. At 5ft 8in he is not the towering ‘Greek God’ that many think he will be. Don’t get me wrong though – the dude is impressive. On stage he moves left-to-right, no doubt trying to add his talk to one of his daily ‘HIT’ sessions. It’s a new audience and coinciding with his first book, he takes them back to the old days.
“It was my 30th birthday and I was doing what anyone does on the 30th birthday – I was out drinking with friends. I had the car, the house, and the high-powered job but I needed more. I left the party, went home to my garage, took out a pair of run shoes and ran a mile for every year. Off the bat, 30-miles and a new story began.”
His talk is interspersed with video clips of documentary clips and a fascinating medical research program that showed how Dean does not produce lactic acid like a ‘typical’ human.
“I ran 350-miles in 80-hours, 44-minutes with no sleep. I found myself drifting to sleep while running and I would wake up in the middle of the road not quite sure how I got there. I single-handedly completed ‘The Relay,’ a 199-mile run
from Calistoga to Santa Cruz (normally done by teams) eleven times. I ran a marathon at the South Pole and if course I ran the iconic Western States eleven times.”
The audience burst into applause. Rightly so! But they all know the stories are not finished.
Dean has a mischievous glint in his eye while telling the story of running for 24-
hours in a glass box while being suspended above Times Square – “I needed the loo, not a no1 but a no2.” The auditorium is filled with laughter. “I had a potty and shower curtain inside the box, so, I go make myself comfortable, pull the curtain around me and start the task at hand… just as a helicopter sweeps in to film me for the news!” A whole new meaning to, oh shit!
He’s run across America, ran 50-marathons in 50-states in 50-days. He’s run and won Badwater 135, Vermont 100 and the 4 Desert Races amongst others and yet when asked, what is the most memorable achievement?
“Running a race with my son!”
Dean Karnazes
Dean did relax over dinner and yes, he did manage to sit down and say sit down. He talked about how fortunate he is, how blessed and how thankful he is for what running has given him.
“You know Dean Karnazes, we have a race tomorrow in the park,” Elenko Elenkov, director of events at Fizkulktura says. “It’s 12 or 6-hours to see how little or how far people can run. The real motive is to provide a 12-hour course so that those who want to qualify for Spartathlon”
Dean looks up from his spread of raw food and grilled Salmon, his eyes glow.
“Count me in for the 6-hour.”
True to his word, the following day Dean lined up on the start and ran 600m loops for 6-hours.
He and I would have it no other way, Dean Karnazes is ‘The Marathon Man!’
“Ultra Marathon Man – Confessions of an all-night runner” available here – https://www.ultramarathonman.com/web/books/ultra.shtml
Dean’s new book “The Road to Sparta’ available here – https://www.ultramarathonman.com/web/books/roadtosparta.shtml
Credit ©iancorless.com