Make Your Own PB Chocolate Protein UCAN

As much as I would love to believe that people come to my site to read my sage training advice and chuckle at my endless witticisms, I (sadly) know that’s not the main draw.

People want the recipes!

By far the most popular thing I have ever posted is my recipe for DIY Generation UCAN, a sugar-free race fuel made with slow-release carbohydrates that you can mix up in you kitchen for pennies.

So when a reader recently asked if I had a version of the Chocolate Protein UCAN, I decided to rise to the challenge.  I’ve already posted my chocolate version, but it’s naturally low in protein by design.

Of course, my version will not contain whey powder (obviously not vegan, but even if I weren’t plant-based, I wouldn’t recommend it, and here’s a few reasons why) xanthan gum (I’m okay with this ingredient, but I don’t like thick drinks), or sucralose (an artificial sweetener that definitely should be avoided) like the original contains.

The protein of choice instead is PB Fit Peanut Butter Powder, which makes this a rich peanut butter chocolate flavor.

PB Fit does contain a little sugar, so if you are looking to make this sugar-free, use a defatted peanut butter powder or flour that is sugar-free.

One scoop of UCAN’s protein version contains 110 calories for a 30 gram scoop, 18 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of protein, and 1 gram of fat.

My version is 122 calories, 19.6 grams of carbs, 7.3 grams of protein, and 1.9 grams of fat.  Mine also includes 354mg sodium, 87.5mg potassium, 4.7% of the RDA of calcium, 5.3% RDA of iron, and a touch of magnesium.

Now I’m not going to lie and tell you this tastes like drinking a luscious chocolate peanut butter milkshake.  But it’s still pretty good.

And let’s be real:  not even the pricey commercial version can claim that that people are ending their meals with UCAN milkshakes for dessert simply for the scrumptious flavor.

This is performance fuel, not dessert, and it works!

For me, this is far superior to any gel or other race fuel that I have ever tried and keeps me going without the crash!

Let me know what you think!

Make Your Own PB Chocolate Protein UCAN

Liquid starch-based fuel that is an alternative to gels or chews.

My version is 122 calories, 19.6 grams of carbs, 7.3 grams of protein, and 1.9 grams of fat.  Also includes 354mg sodium, 87.5mg potassium, 4.7% of the RDA of calcium, 5.3% RDA of iron, and a touch of magnesium.

5 minPrep Time

5 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons (16g) cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons plus one teaspoon (14g) PB Fit
  • 1 teaspoon (2g) cocoa powder
  • 1/16 teaspoon salt
  • 1/16 teaspoon Morton's Lite Salt
  • 10 drops stevia extract or other sweetener of your choice
  • 2 to 4 ounces of water or more, depending on preferred thickness

Instructions

  1. Mix all dry ingredients except water in a small measuring cup with a spout.
  2. Slowly add enough water to your desired thickness.
  3. Stir thoroughly and pour into a small running bottle.
  4. Shake before drinking.
7.6.4
25
http://theplantedrunner.com/make-your-own-pb-chocolate-protein-ucan/

When RICE is Wrong: A Better Way to Treat Overuse Injuries

It might start as a little twinge.  Or a dull ache that grows little by little.  Maybe even a stabbing pain surges through the back of your heel forcing you to stop mid run.

Oh no.  You are injured.

If you run, there’s a good chance that you’ll get injured sooner or later.  Up to 79% of us per year are smacked with some kind of running injury, making the odds of making it through a single year on two healthy feet almost a rarity.

So you suck it up, pop an anti-inflammatory, prop your foot up on a bag of frozen peas and settle in for a week-long Netflix binge session.

But you might not be doing yourself any good.

In fact, ice, NSAIDs and rest could actually make your injury heal slower.

Wait, what?

The common response to any soft tissue injury is the classic RICE treatment that we all learned in basic First Aid.  RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation and, along with taking an anti-inflammatory pill for pain and swelling, it’s prescribed for every common ailment that running can throw at us from acute ankle sprains to achilles tendonitis to hamstring pulls.

Except in many cases it’s the opposite of what you want to do.

The first step is to determine what type of injury you have before grabbing the Advil and the remote control.

There are two types of running injuries: acute and overuse.  When you trip and twist your ankle, that’s an acute injury and the RICE protocol works.  Immediate icing has been shown in research to dramatically improve sudden inflammatory response so go ahead and ice your swollen ankle, elevate it, and rest.

But that same treatment is not going to help your aching achilles and will probably end up slowing your healing.

So as backwards as it sounds, overuse injuries can heal when you continue to run and can be completely cured when you micro-damage the tendons and muscles even more.

Sounds crazy, right?

Not only should you run and strength train through this type of injury, but ice and NSAIDs should be avoided.

This sounds completely backwards, but the research backs it up.

What’s going on here?

Let’s continue to look at the achilles to explain.  For overuse injuries of the achilles tendon, most people commonly refer to it as achilles tendonitis.  The “itis” suffix refers to inflammation.

But that’s actually a misnomer.

“Inflammation of the achilles tendon or its surrounding tissues is not a common finding in athletes with overuse injuries to the achilles,” says John Davis, biomechanics researcher for Runners Connect.  “Rather, their pain is caused by real, physical damage to and degradation of the small fibers that make up the achilles tendon.  Because of this, some doctors and researchers advocate renaming the injury “achilles tendonosis” or “achilles tendinopathy” to make it clear that degeneration of the tendon fibers is the root of the problem.”

Ice and NSAIDs like Advil work to limit inflammation.  If that’s not happening, they won’t help much.  In fact, there is evidence that they might make your problem worse by slowing healing.

What has been proven to heal your heel (hee hee!) is eccentric heel drops, an exercise where you slowly lower one heel off a step, then use both feet to raise back up.  Eccentrically loading the the calves ends up strengthening the tendon and actually curing the degeneration.  Ten to fifteen repetitions twice a day for 12 weeks has been shown to be effective.

Once you get good at that, throw a bowling ball in a backpack and try them!  Eccentric heel drops while wearing a weighted backpack can further strengthen the tendon so much that the pain disappears completely.

Eccentric Heel Drops

But what about running through pain?  As a coach for Runners Connect, I’m always careful about cautioning our athletes to not run through pain.

Is that always the best advice?

Turns out that running through a little pain is okay.  In fact, continuing to train might not make the injury worse, and you may be able heal your injury without sacrificing your fitness.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well, it is a little.  Running through an acute injury or a stress fracture is not a good idea and that could most certainly make the injury worse.

But a fascinating study on the achilles showed that a group of runners who continued to through moderate pain (rated as no higher than a 5/10 on a scale of 1 to 10), had the same positive outcomes as the control group who were only allowed “active recovery” activities such as swimming and walking.  The running group was not allowed to continue to run if the pain worsened or remained throughout the next day, but as long as their pain stayed moderate and improved instead of regressed, they were allowed to run and healed just as well as the non-runners.

The key words here are moderate and improving, so I’m not saying that it’s a good idea just to push through pain until your tendon ruptures.  That’s just silly.  But you may not have to be perfectly pain-free to still be able to go out for a run.

Of course, I want to make it clear that I am not a doctor or a physical therapist.  If you are in pain and running just hurts, please be smart and go see one of them for advice.  Preferably, find a professional that is a runner and understands the obsessed runner’s brain to give you the best diagnosis and treatment plan that will help you get healthy and back to running happy.

What makes sense for you is highly individual, but it’s refreshing to know that every minor niggle doesn’t have to banish you to the couch.

And you can save that bag of frozen peas for dinner.

 

Breaking 19:00 with a Mental Breakthrough

Runners love two things:  running and round numbers.

We don’t like to run 7.98 miles.  We like to run 8, so we’ll take an extra few steps past our destination to get that 8 to appear on our watches and our Strava logs.

And just like a sale for $1.99 seems like a way better deal than $2, getting just under that round number you’ve chosen for your race goal is so much more satisfying.

Last year my goal was to break 20 minutes in the 5K and I did that in all three races I entered.

Of course, that meant the new goal became breaking 19.

But so far this year, I hadn’t been able to even break 20 again even though I had been focusing my training on speed. Each race felt harder than the last and I was wondering if I was moving backwards.

Doubts about my ability and progress started to cloud my normal optimism.  Had I reached my peak already?  Have I set my sights too high for my ability?  Am I just kidding myself here?

So I stopped racing for 6 weeks.  You can’t fail if you don’t try, right?

All this because of a number on a clock.

I wasn’t having fun and I didn’t want to keep putting myself out there just to disappoint myself.  The marathon is where I want to focus my training and the red-hot speed necessary for a great 5K is barely relevant to the marathon.

But I still had this last 5K race on the calendar.  It was technically my “goal race” for the spring.  I wondered if I should even do it.

Then my friend Veena who ran it with me last year said she might go, so that was enough incentive for me to hit the register button.

The Downhill at Dusk 5K, as the name implies, is downhill, but not the entire time.  The first mile has a short but steep descent, the second mile is flat, and the finish is an annoying uphill.  My watch calculated it as 45% downhill, 45% flat, and 10% up.

Last year I got a nice 21-second PR in 19:33 (6:17/mile pace).

It is not an automatically fast course for everyone since downhill running can beat up your legs more than you think if you are not prepared for it.  It’s also very easy to go out too fast on the first downhill without realizing what you are doing to yourself, coming back to haunt you later as you crawl up the final inclines.

Which is what I did last year.

In 2016, I certainly went out too fast and remember feeling the struggle start in mile two.  By mile 3, my pace had slowed by an entire minute per mile and the last tenth of a mile was a painful stagger, nearly two minutes per mile slower than the start.

Pretty much the opposite of what you want to do in a 5k.

But this year, I had no goal.  After flatlining on my progress this spring, I decided the time goal simply didn’t matter.  All I wanted to do was race hard and get it over with as soon as possible.

Getting below 19 minutes never entered my mind.

But here’s what did:  calmness.  Clarity.  Relaxed focus.  And even a little fun.

Call it the elusive “runner’s flow.”

I was even relaxed enough to say a few words mid race to the guys running around me, which is usually impossible when you are in the red zone.

I have been practicing getting into the right frame of mind while racing and running hard and it certainly paid off on Saturday.

I only glanced at my watch at the first and second mile splits and instead focused on how I felt.

Mile 1 felt easy and light.  I ran it 3 seconds faster than last year at 5:44, but my breathing was calm and smooth so I wasn’t worried about it being too fast.

I was expecting to start hurting in Mile 2 at about the same spot as last year, but that point never came.  There were no other women ahead of me to chase this year so I focused on the men, pretending they were women and making myself smile at the idea.  The water station at the end of Mile 2 seemed to arrive much earlier than I anticipated and again, I was three seconds faster than last year at 6:08.

I was actually feeling good and repeated that fact to myself over and over again.

But Mile 3 is where this race really starts. I knew what to expect this year and just focused on staying strong.  I wasn’t doing the math and didn’t bother looking at my watch anymore because it didn’t matter at that point.  I remember thinking as I turned the corner to start the uphills, this is the last 5K you have to do for a while.  It’s almost done. Just get there, just get there, just get there.

I later found out the Mile 3 split came in at 6:24 vs 6:43 in 2016.  The hills slowed me somewhat, but they were not a struggle this time.

The finish line is in a parking lot and the course makes a sharp right turn off the road with about 50-75 meters left to the finish.  As soon as I turned, I saw the race clock ticking at 18:45.

Huh?

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod!! 

I had no idea that I was so close to my dream goal and just pumped my arms and legs as fast as they would go in a desperate attempt to beat that clock.  I ran at full speed across the timing mats not stopping until I was well past them to be sure that I gave it my very best shot.

I made it by a literal split second: 18:59.2.

I closed the final tenth of a mile at a 6:16 pace compared to my exhausted 7:36 last year.

Veena also did awesome, knocking out a PR for herself after a long break recovering from injury, earning her a second place finish!

I plan to go more in depth about the mental work that I have been doing in future posts.   I credit staying calm and focused as equally important, or perhaps even more important, as the physical training.

This race felt better and less intense but yet was faster than last year.  Sure I’ve logged a lot of miles in the past year, but the breakthrough was more in my mind than in my legs or lungs.

Naturally, this begs the question, am I now reconsidering 5ks and going for an even faster goal?  18:45 or 18:30 perhaps?

As enticing at that sounds, I think the lesson I’ve learned here is to hold those time goals a lot less tightly.

Training with a goal in the back of your mind is probably a good thing.  But maybe racing without one is better.

Can I Start Marathon Training Yet?

After taking the spring off of racing marathons, I am so ready to get back to it.

I feel like I’ve been wearing someone else’s wardrobe for the past few months by racing 5 and 10Ks and nothing ever fit right.  I just want to put my jeans and t-shirt back on and get back to my passion.

So I have chosen my fall race, the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon on October 1.

The course is a lovely, point-to-point race along Lake Michigan.  With only a couple hundred feet of elevation drop over the entire course, it is about as flat as you can get.

Here’s the course profile for the first half:

Course elevation profiles always look a little more dramatic than they actually are.  The little rises and falls will feel almost imperceptible over this distance.

And the last 5K has a nice little descent which will be welcome at that point!

Besides the favorable course and the likelihood of good racing weather, the other reason for choosing Milwaukee is because I went to college there at Marquette University.  It’s always nice to go back and visit and hopefully catch up with some of my dearest friends from back in the day.

My sister also lives in Wisconsin, so hopefully she’ll be able to come out and be ready with a steaming bag of french fries for me at the finish line!

Milwaukee is a beautiful, fun city and while I didn’t run in college, I’m really looking forward to running there this fall.

Besides the race itself, I am mainly looking forward to getting back into the long grind of marathon training.  I know that sounds crazy to anyone who doesn’t run them, but I like the sense of accomplishment I feel when I train for a marathon.  I haven’t really fallen in love with the shorter races as I had hoped, and I have been a bit disappointed that I haven’t seen my times improve this spring.

Well, actually, I’m not sure if that’s true or not.  My racing times certainly haven’t improved, but there have been a few bright spots in workouts that have given me hope.

Nothing dramatic or clear cut, but a few track laps here and there that I know that I wouldn’t have been able to hit a year ago.

Little moments that show me that I’ve got it in me, I just need to coax it out at times.

For now, I’ve got one last 5K to race tomorrow and that’s the Downhill at Dusk 5K that I raced last year.  (Just rereading my race report is making me wonder why I’m doing this to myself again.)  It’s a very steep downhill the first mile, cruising to flat the second, with a nasty little crest at the end.

I’ve got no goal this year, except just to race it hard with an open mind and see what happens.

Because as soon as I cross that finish line, marathon training begins.