Let me first start off with a disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or nutritionist…these opinions are my own.
What to eat (and perhaps more importantly what NOT to eat) is a question that inspires, haunts, intrigues and plagues many of us runners quite frequently. It’s a personal choice for many that ignites fiery debates and even eating contests:
“Diet” nowadays also often expressed as a plethora of brands that capitalize on labeling , defining and selling various (often strict) regimes (i.e. Paleo, Atkins, RAW, Frutarian, etc). Let me first state that I’m not on any “commercial” diet, I don’t count calories or carbs and I drink an Avery Beer just about every day. Let me also state that I do watch what I eat, cook at home with Sandi a lot, and have seen first-hand the strong correlation between running performance and eating quality food (yes, I have read Jurek’s “Eat and Run” book). In college and at Hansons I used to run pretty well off of beer, pizza and pancakes..so why change? Well, I learned that it was not a sustainable practice (just like Running For The Hansons) that would eventually limit me and/or lead to my demise in the sport (I also met Sandi and started listening to my parents more and more so that helped refine what I eat). Now you can see a sharp contrast in how my personal diet has evolved from my early twenties to my later twenties:
College/Hansons diet days:
What I eat nowadays:
A recent former teammate of mine from Hansons (a 2:14 marathoner no less) recently asked me how I recovered from ultras so fast and didn’t get injured (knock on wood). I thought about this for a moment: Surely having chicken-like bone skinny arms and a low body fat % has helped lessen the force of impact that my legs have to tolerate every day…then of course there’s the HOKA shoes and the fact that I do speed work to help iron out my form (hasn’t worked much, I’m still a heel-striker). Gear and biomechanics aside though, I came to the conclusion that my diet plays a very large role in my recovery and “resistance” to injury.
First off, I was born and raised as an ovo-lacto vegetarian..That’s right…I’m built mostly out of cheese and peanut butter! I can thank my parents for that. But it is a diet that I have basically continued for the last 28 years of my life, except now I eat more gluten-free, more organic and (at times) more vegan. I eat a ton of avocados and almond butter. I take Flora Health “7 sources oil” for Omega-3s and eat the occasional egg. But I’m not here to expouse my high carb- beer infused nearly vegan lifestyle on you. No strict diet propaganda here…
Rather, I invite you to analyze your own diet and it’s role in affecting not just your future health, but your running and general sense of well-being. Obviously I’m biased with my upbringing and living in the “bubble” that is Boulder, CO – however, my personal diet journey is still ultimately a study of one (as yours should be) but there are studies out there that you can take with a grain of salt (pun intended):
An interesting study with some elite marathon runners I know:
No long-term low-carb diet restrictions, but rather strategic carb depleted runs as mentioned in my earlier post. Also check out my the videos on my YouTube channel, “Vo2max Productions” on diet, race day strategy and nutrition:
In closing, I will continue to ingest some “high octane” fuel (aka Vfuel gels) in ultra marathons and races even as short as a marathon (which I plan to take about five Vfuel gels at Chicago this fall attempting to qualify for my 3rd US Olympic Marathon Trials with a sub 2:18:00 marathon). The name of the game is fitness, and how close your lactate threshold velocity is to your Vo2max velocity. This determines your marathon pace and also how efficiently you can utilize your glycogen stores to hold off “the wall” beyond 20 miles. Of course the more finely tuned the aerobic engine and the running economy (read: efficiency) of your form/stride/structural soundness the more you can utilize higher percentages of fat at higher intensities. That is the name of the game! Both Meb and Rita Jeptoo , the recent 2014 Boston Marathon Champions took their special fluid bottles at the last elite aid station (around mile 24)…this says something about putting down a drink late in a race for a strong finish! Sure, I can do 8+ hours in the mountains at 12,000′ on a single gel or less (I did the 10-mile traverse from Frisco to Breck last summer in this fashion) but at higher intensities I’m going to bonk very hard (just like everyone else!).
Okay, now I gotta pack for Transvulcania and run the Wings of Life World run in Denver!