I realize this could be a controversial topic since food has become almost like religion & politics… but here goes…
As a Certified Health Coach, I deal with food, nutrition, and “diet” issues on a regular basis. Let’s face it: it is downright confusing and complicated these days. Should you try paleo? What about vegan or raw vegan? Heard good things about gluten-free? High-fat vs. low fat and high-carb vs. low-carb? Standard American Diet (okay, I must say: avoid this one, there is a reason the acronym is SAD)? Mediterranean? What if you have food allergies/sensitivities? What if you love EVERYTHING?
The truth is that no single way of eating works for everyone! So as much as I want to tell you exactly what to eat and when, I cannot and will not. As runners, we may think we can “get away” with eating whatever we want because we are so active. But food matters and I believe it can make you or break you.
I love to eat and you probably do too. So let’s keep it enjoyable and simple.
Here are 5 food “rules” that everyone, especially athletes, can probably agree with and benefit from:
1. Figure Out What Works Best for YOU (not the pros, not your dad, not me). This can be challenging and doesn’t happen overnight so be a little patient. It involves really listening to your body. How do you feel after you eat certain foods: tired, bloated, can’t think clearly, headache? Or do you feel energized, motivated, and rarely get sick? Food should make you feel GOOD! How do you perform when you consume certain foods: GI distress, heavy legs OR a strong finish, PR, quick recovery?
2. Count Nutrients (as in vitamins and minerals) Not Calories. We get a bit caught up in the number of grams of carbohydrates, protein, and fat AND calories. But your body actually needs (and craves) the vitamins and minerals. You know there is a difference between 500 calories of a fast food meal and 500 calories of a nice big salad! If you follow the other rules here, things will work themselves out.
3. Quality Matters. The terms “vegan”, “gluten-free”, “paleo” do NOT automatically equal healthy. Lots of processed, junk food is vegan, gluten-free, and/or paleo. There is a difference between salmon from a fish “farm” and those caught from clean water; there is a difference between corn grown from genetically modified seeds and corn grown from organic seeds and; there is a difference between fruit sprayed with pesticides and fruit that is not. If you buy food from packages, take a gander at the ingredients and make informed decisions. This goes for all the “sports” drinks, bars, chews, gels, etc too!
4. Eat Vegetables and Fruit, and lots of them (like every time you eat). Period. No explanation necessary.
5. Cook and Eat More at Home. You do not need chef training to throw together a vegetable-filled, nutrient-dense, and delicious meal, I swear! Bonus: you save $$$!
I will leave you a quote by Walter Willett, MD: “No single food will make or break good health. But the kinds of foods you choose day in and day out have a major impact.”