Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fueling the Runner Part III

Previously: Fueling the Runner Part I and Part II.

In a continued effort to understand my diet, I picked up the book "Racing Weight" by Matt Fitzgerald. His book provided the motivation I need to finish Part III or my "Fueling the Runner" series. Part I of the series discussed the need to count calories. I highly encourage everyone to do this. Research has shown a link between tracking what you eat and your general health and weight. In part II of this series, I began a discussion and exploration of how to break down your diet based on the sources of food.

In the final section I will spend a little time putting the final piece together and addressing specifically what it means to "Fuel the Runner". As I showed in the table from part II, there is no one way to divide the macro nutrient allocation (carbs, fats, or proteins) of your diet. It really depends on a variety of factors like your life goals and your training volume. For the purposes of this post I am going to assume that the reader is a runner or, more generally, an endurance athlete that trains at least seven hours per week. While there is little scientific evidence to support one theory over another, there is enough to suggest than an endurance athlete should eat a high carbohydrate diet. (Obviously we are talking primarily about "good" carbohydrates like whole grains and vegetables). This evidence has been combined with observation of elite endurance cultures, like Kenyan marathoners, to generate the recommendations below for macro nutrients:

Low Medium High
Carbs 60% 70% 75%
Fat 10% 20% 30%
Protein 10% 15% 20%

Kenyan marathon runners typically eat more than 70% of their diet in carbohydrates and roughly 10% in protein. Having a diet that is high in carbohydrates provides the fuel necessary for a runner to recover quickly and remain energized for continued hard training. Additionally, it will promote a lean body mass necessary to performing well on race day. Carbohydrates are crucial to increasing fitness gains and race day glycogen stores.

In continued hopes of improving my diet to stabilize my weight and my energy, I am going to attempt to eat a minimum of 65% of my diet from carbohydrates for at least one week. Considering my diet is currently closer to 40% carbohydrates, this will require some radical changes. For example, that means I will be eating between 2000 and 2500 calories per day of just carbohydrates. That is a whole lot of fruits, vegetables, and grains! In addition, I will ease off my protein and fat by eating less meat and less whey.

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