In the last 15 years I have read a lot of books and thousands of articles on sports nutrition. What did I learn ? That athletes in general and runners for sure are unhealthy and have a week stomach.
When I see recommendations like, do not eat a bell pepper or any night shades as it might cause stomach upset, avoid fiber by eating white and not whole wheat pasta, do not eat anything with little grains like a kiwi, strawberry or a fig, avoid sulfur rich vegetables like cauliflower and kale, do not eat nuts and seeds, peel and steam your fruits and vegetables and so on, I say to myself, that there is a big big problem. There is, because athletes and nutritionist take this to a whole another level and create obsession. That is a very bad place to be, as it can create disordered habits.
The issue is actually very simple to solve. This is called health. If you were healthy, a simple sensible meal, like every single day you do, would suffice. It would work perfectly the day before the race, the week before the race, but also 3 hours before the race too. The reality is that neither athletes, nor professionals are healthy. I can see nutritionist being obese, being in pain of any kind, being injured, having disordered eating patterns. It is very true and real, that a lot of nutritionist have disordered eating patterns and actually would want to force their ideas to the public.
” -Look at how lean I am ! / -Look how vibrant I am ! / -Look at my results ! “
The thing is that very often, the real results are not immediate not the good ones, neither the bad ones. The little minor bad habits will come down to big issues after 2 decades of micro-abuse. Leanness and skinny body can be achieved by caloric restriction. It will hide fatty organs, bone mineral issues, thyroid dysfunction and much more.
In the knowledge of all of these, what would I recommend ? It is easy. Understand health first. Work on it and keep on working on it. It is not something that you achieve and can forget about it. You can make it however a habit and put in the subconscious mind. You can create quality routines that not are automatised.
- Eating for instance a large quantity of raw foods daily. Fruits and veggies. I do not think about getting that magic number of 51% of total calories, but definitely eat more than 5 pieces. I like the idea of fresh, raw, sun-ripe, in-season, local, organic, hand-picked fruits and vegetables. However If I can have only italian water-melons at the beginning of the season, I don’t take that as an excuse to buy a snickers bar.
- Chewing that food properly, focusing on eating with no distraction. Moving the jaw correctly.
- Tree hugging is a funny business. However touching natural objects in nature is real. Ion exchange with the earth, rocks and dirt, vegetation, animals, bathing in natural waters have tremendous amounts of benefits.
- Breathing fresh air. Breathing by the nose. Using the diaphragm is very important.
- Sunshine is essential. 20 to 30minutes on the bear body daily. It is part of the human existence. We wait to wake up with the sun. We should go out and be with it. It is not only about vitamin D and blood purification.
- Hydration. Drinking enough water is absolutely essential. Not only for hydration, but elimination and detoxification too. Pure water. Mineral water. Artesian water. Spring water. River water. Stream water.
- Emotional Poise. The full spectrum of positive emotions trigger the production of a large variety of hormones. The love for your wife, children, friends, pets, certain areas. The satisfaction of achieving a task and sorting out a problem. Organising something. Seeing something new. Emerging in meditation. Feeling of cold, warmth, kindle and hugs. Much much more. Tasting and hearing can trigger other type of emotions too. Using your eyes properly, looking and observing close objects, exploring vast distances from a mountain top and so, are not only to work the eyeball and the brain, but to have a wow, amazement and the understanding of the smallness of humans. Emotions are necessary chemical reactions in the body !!!
There are much more to health, like chemical free lifestyle, stress free environment, radiation free surroundings, quality stance, posture and breathing, mindset, education and mental work, progression, playtime and games even for adults and so much more. The most complete human can be the best athlete actually.
It all however starts with the three basics of nutrition, hydration, sleep. Get these right and your brain will function correctly to understand and thrive for other aspects of health.
Back to out original subject. What would I eat the race week ? Nothing special, but like usual. I don’t particularly like beetroots, I eat them once a week. During race week, I might eat one medium beet every day or make a beetroot juice with apples and lemon. I find that it very positively affects my health and well being. I don’t care about the blood purifying and nitric oxide boosting science. I feel personally that it is good for me and helps my racing. Otherwise I would eat normal. Fruits, veggies, meat, fish and eggs. Some nuts, some seeds, some cereal. I eat rice nearly every day, sometimes polenta, fonio, sweet potatoes and yams, cooking banana (plantain), manioca and others. I make sure I eat my raw greens every day. That is one crucial thing for me and I never found anybody who followed this advice and went wrong. Eating microgreens and germinating during winter and going with the deep greens and light greens during summer. Juicing is a fantastic way to bring in huge quantities of greens what you dislike. I for instance eat a lot of celery. I however honestly dislike it. Making a juice with a full branch of celery, 3 apples, a lemon and ginger, with a couple of carrots, is just epic. Taste good, doesn’t turn my mind into disgust and aides my performance.
Pre race Day
What would I eat the day before a race ? If I chose to eat meat, that would be a chicken breast the lunch with some lettuce, avocado, olives and a slice of bread for instance. I like easy seafood. Lobster, crab, fish. They digest ultra fast and super efficaciously. I really like to introduce protein the day before, to cut cravings and hunger binge. A lot of runners focus too much on perfection, they go hungry for 2 hours out of their traditional mealtime, then they finish their perfect meal with a pack of cookies. Next day, the stomach is upside down because of the high white sugar and high margarine content. I find that protein satisfies hunger in smaller quantities than carbs. If I was really hungry, I could eat like 3 bowls of rice with salad. That is great, though it might hinder my next mornings departure. Multiple toilette stops before really can start running. If I ate 3 eggs for breakfast, a chicken breast or a fish for lunch and maybe a meal with an avocado for dinner, I feel better and I don’t need to eat a lot. If you were a vegan, there are options out there to elevato to protein content for that particular day, but try not to go overboard with omega 6, so not to eat too much nuts and seeds and keep on avoiding this day the overeating of pulses. I don’t think that a little bowl of lentil soup will do harm, but if you ate a giant fibre rich salad with 350g of hummus, you’ll fart your brain out during the first 2 hours of the race.
Basically breakfast can be anything you like and what don’t disturb you. I feel that breakfast cannot make you race better, but definitely can jeopardize your race. One single meal will not overwrite your lifestyle ! This just simply means that if you cannot for instance have the quantity necessary to fill you up, no issues, you just eat a bit more during the first sections of the race and start out slightly slower. If you did not have your morning fruit salad, but had a porridge with dried fruits, 3 toasts with honey, a green omelette with an avocado, sushi, it doesn’t matter. It will work. Just don’t do anything out of ordinary. Don’t forget, that these advices work only if you were healthy. If you were out of balance, you might have 100 times the same breakfast working for you during long runs, but it won’t do it during race day. You used the same nutritional strategy, the same gels and energy drinks for months with success and they won’t work during race at all. This is because of health problems or bad race execution choices.
You must be living healthy to be free that is for sure. There must be some testing going on time to time however, to understand what your body can tolerate at what speeds, at what temperatures at what hour of the day, with what equipement. Then choosing the right nutrition, you must execute the correct way your efforts, to assure that you’ll be alright. I would eat differently for an ultra starting at 4am at high altitude with 5°C morning temperatures, than a 10k road race 8pm summer time when there is 28°C.