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I like to run first thing in the morning, but find my energy evaporates quite quickly. On the other hand, I hate running with a full stomach. What should I eat and how long should I wait before setting off?

I like to run first thing in the morning, but find my energy evaporates quite quickly. On the other hand, I hate running with a full stomach. What should I eat and how long should I wait before setting off?
Charlie Murray, by email
Make sure you have packed your muscles with glycogen (sugars) the night before. A carbohydrate-rich meal will set you up for the next day. Most people's glycogen stores will last a couple of hours. If you are running longer than that, you will need extra fuel. It is possible to train yourself to run with some food and fluid in your stomach by slowly increasing the amount you eat and drink each time. If you feel weak,take a rehydration drink rich in sugars with you, or chocolates or sweets to keep you going. The longer after a meal you wait before you run, the more comfortable you will be. Three to four hours is the optimum for most people.

Which of the athletes you treat as Olympic doctor are the fittest in an all-round sense? Decathletes? Long-distance runners? Rowers? and who's the fittest athlete you've ever treated?
Ben Pennington, by email
It may sound as though I'm dodging the question, but it all depends on how you define fitness. Are you looking at strength and power, speed, endurance, flexibility, or even balance and skill? Many people think of aerobic capacity as fitness. This is measured as the amount of oxygen you can absorb through the lungs (for use in muscles to burn sugars to produce energy) in one minute. It's called VO 2 max, and is a good predictor of performance in any sports that last longer than 2-3 minutes. Top marathon runners all have a high VO 2 max. Most athletes can manage 75 per cent of their maximum over a long period, but some marathon runners can keep going at 90 per cent. I'm prejudiced, having won an Olympic gold medal with Steve Redgrave back in 1984 (his first), but rowers have the highest absolute values of any sport. No one could pull in more oxygen than Sir Steve could; now it's generally accepted that no athlete in the world can pull in more than Matthew Pinsent.

I play a fair bit of snooker, but just can't seem to control my cue action. What drills can I perform to improve its stability?
Ian Phimister, Sheffield
Snooker is a game of straight lines, so you must develop a style that allows the cue to to come through in an exact line on to the cue ball. The back elbow is important and should be tight into the body when you are in your stance; it acts as a pivot, and the cue swings like a pendulum. To get a consistent action and make it second nature, check all aspects of your stance and practise bringing the cue through straight by aiming at a chalk mark at the other end of the table.

Dr Richard Budgett, the medical director of the British Olympic Association, led this week's panel of experts

Send your questions to: SportsActive, 'The Independent on Sunday', Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or email: sportsactive@independent.co.uk

While we take great care in answering your queries, Independent Newspapers and the contributors to Sports Clinic cannot be held liable for any advice tendered, and you should consult your own practitioner

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