Published on by Holly Rush
I can say with certainty that save from a few exceptions, I have eaten everyday of my life, which if I do my maths is 12,775 day. Thats a ton of food! When I reflect on on what I eat literally transforms into the substance and makings of my body, the amount of sugar I have eaten is frightening! I have a sweet tooth and as some of you may have clocked onto, I do love cake. Baking it and eating it, especially if it is washed down with a latte (with sugar of course). My favourite cafe, Society Cafe in Bath can vouch for this......I am first name terms with the staff and have my name engraved on the comfy sofa downstairs.
Fortunately for us endurance runners, we exercise enough that the immediate effects of eating poorly are not too often felt but I do worry about what the amounts of sugar and toxins I am putting into my body are doing and if it is effecting my training and recovery. With this in mind and my quest to become an ultra runner I decided to set about working out the best way to fuel myself.
I began by looking at the way other top runners eat with the thought process being 'they are fast so therefore they must eat well?'. What I found was both interesting and hilarious. For example a Mr Andi Jones seems to spend most weekends fuelling himself on large plates of fried foods at the Asda cafe post his long run, many of the girls I have shared with on training trips have lived off Haribos or black coffee and Ben Moreau is subjected to eating various types of offal by his chef offal eating girlfriend Amelia. In the ultra world Anton Krupicka seems to subsist on Nutella and tortillas 95% of the time and Anna Frost only ate grapes for an entire week. Brendon Trimboli took an even more extreme view on eating several years ago and stopped eating completely. Some people only eat meat and veg others dont eat carbs after 6pm other none at all. Others cant eat dairy or wont eat wheat whilst some just eat fruit. Scott Jurek filled a whole book about how to eat without really eating at all!
So as you can see, the above findings indicates to me that most descent endurance runners have some sort of clinical eating disorder!? Thus finding nothing of any value from my running friends I decided to look elsewhere.
I have amassed a shelf of books on eating and diets. The Paleo Diet for Athletes, The Zone Diet, Food for Fitness: Eat right to Train Right, The Dukan Diet and Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald and many more. The first thing I found about these books is they take along time to read and the second thing I found is that they use something called 'science' to make their claims. I learned about how amnio acids create proteins, how carbs and sugar are the same thing and despite all the bad media coverage fat can actually be a good thing. However, I found that the more detail I encountered the less likely I was to be convinced and carry on with the research. I soon realised that to truly understand what I was reading I would need to get a degree in biology and chemistry, which quite honestly seemed to be taking me further away from my goal of learning how to eat better.
In the end I decided to do the best with the knowledge I had learned which seems to suggest, 'Eat food, not too much and mostly plants'. From what I can tell, veg have greater nutrients, meat build strong bodies and help repair and carbs and sugar give us energy. The literature is a whole lot more complicated than that but I do think there could be a solution to my problem, should I be looking at what I shouldnt eat? In other words instead of fretting about what I should be eating I should look at what is not a good idea to shove in my mouth everyday. For example, I love peanut butter more than I love my mum but I am pretty sure that a load of peanuts mushed up with palm oil, salt and sugar is not going to help me feel good, look good and help me recover especially if I get through a 2kg tub every week?
I also think we all need to relax a little, being up tight about the whole diet thing is really not going to help us feeling healthier. Every meal will not be perfect, but you can make that goal to be a little better next time. Eating better is a process and will evolve over your entire life so make your own personal values for how best to eat.
I for one will continue eating just about everyday, thats a given, and so should you. But I am also going to try and eat healthy and watch those sugars as that seems the best way to ensure longevity in this sport that batters the body like no other.