Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Clean Diet Makes You Run Faster

Since I started running marathons and keeping myself in better shape after the age of 40, I've been a really disciplined athlete about 90% of the time.

Wake up early ... CHECK!  
Keep the core strong with plenty of supplemental strengthening ... CHECK!
Hit my splits during endless Speed Drills, Tempo Runs, Fartleks, Long Runs .... CHECK, CHECK, CHECK, and CHECK!
Eat right ....... crickets.
I repeat ... eat right ......... um, well errr, that would fall into the 10% that I really struggle with.

At the beginning of every marathon season I start to rationalize with myself ... you know what I mean, y'all do it too, "Well, I DID run that 8 miles this morning, and tomorrow is a 10 mile Tempo Run ... so I guess it wouldn't hurt to have a donut or five!"  Or, "Ya know, if I don't get plenty of carbs, I'm just not gonna have enough fuel for tomorrow's workout ... sure, let's order a pizza!"  Fast forward to the next day's workout and you're standing there on the track with a full stomach of unprocessed wheat and really don't feel like doing anything at all ... certainly not running fast.

As a result, for almost every marathon out of the 26 I've ran, I've felt a little too heavy standing at the starting line.  Granted, part of that is because the taper period can definitely have a weight gaining effect.  But mostly it's because I've been very undisciplined when it came to my diet.

But this marathon training cycle has been different.  As I've been training for Chicago, I've made it no secret that I want to run my fastest marathon ever.  So I finally decided that if I was going to constantly train and run with a certain goal in mind, it was essential that my diet mirrored this same plan. Continually killing myself during the workouts and then filling my body back up with junk just didn't make sense.

So this summer, Michael and I have made a concerted effort to eat as clean as possible.  We've done everything possible to eliminate processed food, added sugar, much of the gluten we were eating ... just basically most of the wasted empty calories in our lives.   Gone are the Pop Tarts and potato chips, replaced with quinoa and fruit.   We waved bye-bye to thick wheat buns on every sandwich and subbed in more salads.  We haven't been perfect about it, but it's a much improved daily balance of the things our body can process, as opposed to the manufactured calories that our body struggles to utilize.

Here are a list of some the things we try to eat on a regular basis that promote good health and are ideal for runner's diets ...

     Blue Berries & Strawberries
     Black Beans
     Salmon - but not farm raised salmon
     Spinach, Broccoli, & Asparagus
     Bananas & Oranges
     Cinnamon & Ginger
     Dates & Raisins
     Almonds & Walnuts
     Steel Cut Oats
     Red Peppers & Avocados
     All natural energy bars w/Flax
     Brown Rice
     Sweet Potatoes
     All natural peanut butter
     Kale (at times, not as much as I should)
     Carrots, green beans, basically any vegetable
     Lean beef about once every two or three weeks

Nothing earth-shattering here - most of you know and eat everything on this list as well.  But the main thing we've tried to do this summer is just be a lot more consistent.  We've really tried to stay away from unhealthy snacks, and we've really cut out a lot of bread that's filled with gluten and very hard for the body to digest.

The main thing I've noticed is I've a lost a few pounds and am a lot leaner and healthier.  I know, I know ... I'm basically a skinny wimp already.  But I feel a lot healthier during workouts and have really noticed an improvement in most of my times.  It seems the more I pack my diet with the essential nutrients I need as a runner, the stronger and more fluent I feel while running.  I've never really struggled a lot with GI issues while running, but little ones that were there are now gone.  The main thing I still have trouble balancing is having enough fuel for long runs.  There seems to be only so many veggies you can eat in a day.  So I will typically load up on rice or quinoa the night before and it seems to be working.

The only dietary supplement I take is a vitamin C pill every morning, other than that I feel great.  It's amazing when you try to eat a lot healthier, just how much better you feel.  Hope your training and nutrition is going well too!  Have a great week!
... be great today!


  1. I'm a big healthy eater at mealtime - I like to cook, and I cook with good ingredients. We eat a lot of legumes, whole grains, fruits, and greens (lots of greens: I love them). But I am a junky snacker. I love to sit down with a book and chocolate covered peanuts or have cheese and wine. I can really tell how much it affects me when I'm not running or I'm running lower mileage - I immediately gain weight (it balances in a few weeks because I lose my appetite when I'm not running - but I can see the effect of my diet at first!).
    Next time I actually buckle down and train for a race I'm buying a body fat scale and doing the Racing Weight book program. It's scary for a food addict like me, but I suppose it has to be done. If I don't cut out some of the junk I'll be one of those thin runner types who dies of a heart attack.

  2. I read this during a light breakfast of bacon and potato chips. But it should be ok, I'm doing a 10 mi tempo later :)

  3. I had chocolate cake for breakfast... but in my defense I nearly never do that anymore and it was really good. I do agree running in general is better whn eating a healthy diet.

  4. My aim is always to eat the best, healthiest and most nutrient-dense foods that I can but I have problems with the sugar side of things. I love a bit of the sweet stuff and have very little will power where it's concerned. So I will eat really well 95% of the time and allow myself what I crave and generally that keeps both the good and evil sides of me happy.
    Well done for having the strength to shun all that less-nutritious stuff.

  5. I prefer only juice and salad in the breakfast. I avoids junk and sugary foods.

    Aaron |
    Mobile Massage

  6. I hate this post.

    (It could be because I'm trying to eat better too but I have a Dr. Pepper on my desk staring at me right this very second.)

  7. I am kind of in the same boat. After years of allowing myself to carb up on pizza and whatnot because I thought I would burn it off running I switched things up and ditched a lot of the junk. I have little cheats here and there but 95% on target and do feel better somehow I used to get sick from GU gels after workouts or racing and don't have those issues now. The hard part is trying to find a substitute for all the gels and shot blocks. I have been using Huma gels recently and they seem to be a good replacement for me.


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