Friday, April 4, 2014

A Runner's Diet

A Runner’s Diet

Here is an interesting article:

“Why runners can’t eat whatever they want.  Many marathoners believe that they can eat anything they like because they “run it off” but a growing body of research shows the danger in that thinking.”

We knew that runners are not immune to heart disease when Jim Fixx, dropped dead from a heart attack at the age of 52 during his daily run. Maybe he had a heart condition and it is possible that running extended his life, but, still, he was not immune as he thought he was.

What this article diplomatically avoids to address is what constitutes a healthy diet for a runner and the debate of carbs vs. fat in a runner’s diet. Traditional ‘running wisdom” tells us that runners need carbs and lots of them. It seems that this wisdom in being challenged today.  Some runners, like myself, are doing very well on a low-carb, high-fat diet.

It was interesting to read that Amby Burfoot (winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon and editor-at-large of Runner's World magazine), a lifelong vegetarian, he subsists mostly on fruits, vegetables and nuts, though he also eats "cookies and all dairy products—cheeses, ice creams etc.," now has heart problems.

I remember reading Amby’s advice for carboloading in one of his books, which made my hair stand up. He went to the extreme to recommend eating cereal with orange juice for breakfast (instead of milk, so you can get even more sugar/carbs in your body and avoid any fat/protein.  He said “do not knock it down before your try it.” Seriously?  Orange juice with sugary cereal for breakfast?  Oh, yes!  If you want to consume from 600-800g of carbohydrates per day, as recommended for runners.  Amby was convinced that low-fat, high-carb is a runner’s diet, not only for running performance but also for good health. Well, this dogma is challenged today by a number of runners and personalities like Tim Noakes, author of the “Lore of Running”.

Personally, I made the decision to change my diet from high-carb to low-carb/high-fat, 2 ½ year ago, by drastically cutting on the amount of sugar, processed food, starches and grains that I eat, in favor of fresh vegetables, healthy oils, nuts, some dairy (cheese!) some meat, and lots of eggs. My largest meal of the day is breakfast.  For breakfast I have a large salad of greens, with a chopped carrot, broccoli, mushrooms, topped with olive oil and vinegar, plus two eggs and some cheese.  My total carbohydrates for the day are below 100g, a bit high for other strict low-carbers, but low for an active runner.  Keto sticks show that I am in mild ketosis.

This has worked very well for me, running-wise. My body has learned to burn fat and not rely on glycogen during my runs. Not only I do not hit the wall, but I am usually able to run a consistent pace with a strong 2nd half in ultra races. I finished my last three 50Ks (Run for Regis, Green Jewel, Fools) without eating anything during the race only a handful of nuts for breakfast, and had perfectly even energy levels with a strong second half.  As an example, in the Fools 50K just last weekend, I was 30th overall at the first half and finished 13th overall in the end.  Which means that I passed 17 runners in the 2nd half (actually, 5 runners ahead of me dropped out of the race, so I "only"  passed 12).

Here are my "soon after the finish" pictures from two recent 50K races, Green Jewel (roads, 4:37 finish), Fools (trails, 5:57 finish).  In GJ50K for the first time I did not eat a large breakfast, as I usually do before 50Ks. I only had a handful of walnuts, plus I did not anything during the race. I did the same for Fools 50K. In both races I had even energy during the race, combined with a strong 2nd half.

This low-carb nutrition works for me better than my previous one, as far as running is concerned.
I keep my fingers crossed that it is also good for general health.

Happy running my friends!


MamaDiva said...

How long before your first race did you start the Keto diet?

DrT said...

A week later. I was a bit slow. I raced every week and by the 4th week I had a great race! I think the secret to adjust fast is to go really low in carbs and don't try to cut calories, i.e. eat a lot of fat.

rida habib chorfa said...

Sugar is the enemy of the people