To Eat or Not to Eat

Should you really indulge in that treat after the Paczki Run? An expert weighs in.


Photograph by Trevor D'Silva // Courtesy of Tour de'Troit

The annual Paczki Run, a 5K race before Fat Tuesday, returns to Hamtramck on Feb. 10. Hundreds of runners will hit the city’s streets aiming for the best time. Of course, it wouldn’t be the same without the paczki greeting at the finish line. Post-run racers are welcomed by a beer from Motor City Brewing Works and a paczki, courtesy of New Martha Washington and New Palace bakeries.

But what are the health implications, if any, of eating that gluttonous (and delicious) pastry after physical activity?

Dr. Diane Cress, Registered Dietician and Associate Professor at Wayne State University’s Department of Nutrition and Food Science has good news. According to Cress, there really are no health implications for most runners, unless you are a part of an at-risk group, such as those with pre-existing heart disease and/or obesity. These runners may be susceptible to a heart attack under strenuous activity and excessive consumption.

“For individuals at risk for heart attack, running the 5k, if it’s really cold out and if you’ve had a beer beforehand, constitutes risky behavior,” says Cress. At-risk runners should moderate both exercise intensity and post-exercise consumption. Plenty of warm-ups and a more comfortable pace is recommended for these runners.

Cress says that a paczki has between 350-400 calories, about the same as a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder without cheese. It packs 19 grams of sugar and 15 grams of fat. In reference, a recreational event runner will usually burn approximately 200-300 calories. So, if running the 5k is a matter of calorie burning, skip the post-race paczki.

The real risk is the weather. Cold weather can increase dehydration, so dressing in layers, wearing a hat, and making sure to warm-up sufficiently is highly recommended. Here are a few parting tips for the Paczki Run from Dr. Cress:

  1. Dress in layers to prevent dehydration. 
  2. Eat a small meal beforehand. A few options include a bowl of low fiber cereal, a hard-boiled egg, or peanut butter on toast 
  3. Hydrate yourself. Post-race drinks may include chocolate milk or oral rehydration solutions. 
  4. For individuals who are not fit, consider walking/jogging; enjoy the race at a comfortable pace. 
  5. Have fun, Na Zdrowie!

Dr. Diane Cress is a Registered Dietitian and Associate Professor at Wayne State University's Department of Nutrition and Food Science. Along with teaching and research, Dr. Cress works on community-based outreach for nutrition and food access programs, like the Detroit Food Policy Council. 
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