Do you wonder what to eat before, during, and after a run to maximize performance? Do you link what you eat to your long-term health and fitness? You might want to run a PR in your next half or full marathon, but wouldn’t it be nice to be running well into your sixties, seventies, and why not, eighties? What’s the right approach to eating well, being healthy, staying fit, and performing at high levels?
Everyone seems to have the answers about nutrition, but strangely there is very little, or contradictory, science to back up most diets’ claims. Paleo, vegan, macrobiotic, whole foods, low carb, clean eating are all nutrition theories that some people swear by, but they can’t all be right. How do we cut through all this nutrition information clutter to discover what we runners should eat for maximum performance and long-term health?
Here at Salty Running, we are all about looking at the facts to discover the truth, so over the next few weeks I am going to be writing about nutrition for runners and looking closely at different theories, schools of thought, and the science to help us formulate a better understanding of our dietary needs as athletes.
There are likely as many nutrition stories, theories and preferences as there are runners. The environment is fluid with new ideas popping up almost daily about good health and nutrition. Once considered hard and fast rules about “healthy diets” are changing. The USDA food pyramid (created in 1977) morphed into the food plate. Scientists have now debunked the low-fat/high carbohydrate diet encouraged in the ’90s, which was based on the belief that saturated fats were associated with heart disease, effectively dispensing with meat, eggs and whole-dairy products. Now, while the authorities have yet to give the green light to unlimited red meat, eggs are back in their good graces and many others espouse the benefits of returning to whole milk.
As history has shown, what may once have been considered the gold standard for eating well to perform well could, in fact, be wrong. Alternatives to the standard American diet, including vegan, vegetarian, low-carb, “plant-based,” and Paleo, have their proponents and doubters in the running community. While it’s often a topic of conversations, blog posts, and books there is no consensus on what is the right way to eat.
I am not a scientist, dietitian or medical practitioner, nor someone who espouses to any particular diet. I don’t profess to have the answers but try to be vigilant and smart about eating and training.
Goal for the Series
My goal with this series of posts is to shed some light on nutrition for runners and how it has changed, alternative ways to eat for training and performance, and practices that might seem far-fetched now but have strong dietary support from respected scientists and nutritionists. There’ll be resource materials if you want to “dive deeper” into some of the science and research behind the information presented.
Maybe this information will encourage you to be open to new perspectives, innovation, and ways of eating that may be uncomfortable or contrary to life-long habits, but may also be important to your current running goals and performance, your long-term health, and your overall fitness. Thinking about nutrition and trying different foods may also decrease your chances of developing chronic illnesses, inflammation, and other precursors to disease.
The posts will include a basic primer about the connection between food and performance and how the body metabolizes carbohydrates and fats (think about sprinting versus running an ultra marathon). There’ll be information about the current thinking about fat-adapted diets for endurance athletes, the benefits of intermittent fasting, the importance of sleep to general health and athletic performance, new thinking about hydration, and the impact of sugar on health, fitness, and performance.
Before we dive into it, let us know what you’re interested in on the topic of nutrition or if you have a nutrition style that works great for you. We’d love to hear from you about food!