The Endurance Diet
By Matt Fitzgerald
You could say The Endurance Diet evolved from “the school of hard knocks” because the good and bad experiences of elite endurance athletes from around the world are the basis of its research. The common eating habits of successful individuals and teams are combined in this plan to help readers look, feel and perform better.
Matt Fitzgerald is a certified sports nutritionist who works with non-elite athletes and exercisers. He finds that inferior nutrition is a common problem and that clients often look for help in the wrong places.
“Elite endurance athletes take their dietary cues from other pros – especially the most successful ones,” he writes. “Non-elite athletes and exercisers, meanwhile, tend to obtain diet information from sources in the mass media and pop culture.”
Setting out to identify best diet practises, Fitzgerald gathered information from top performers in 32 nations and 11 sports. He was surprised at how similar the eating habits and food groups were despite the broad geographical and cultural differences. His research analysis led to a list of five core habits that maximize the benefits of cardiovascular exercise for anyone: EAT EVERYTHING to provide your body with a variety of nutrition sources including six categories of whole foods and occasional treats like refined grains and processed meats.
EAT QUALITY – with nutrient-dense foods to get more overall nutrition from fewer calories, which helps to maximize fitness levels and maintain optimal race weight.
EAT CARB-CENTRED – as much as 60 to 80 per cent of your diet, which Fitzgerald found can still be diverse: “Ethiopian runners eat a lot more teff than Chilean mountain bikers, who eat a lot more potatoes than Chinese swimmers, who eat a lot more rice than Danish cross-country skiers.”
EAT ENOUGH to make sure the energy demands of training are being met while staying mindful of hunger signals to avoid overeating.
EAT INDIVIDUALLY to discover what foods or eating patterns work and don’t work for each individual’s unique dietary needs.
In high school Molly Huddle, an American top distance runner, had a typical diet of breakfast cereal, sandwiches, meat and potatoes. During college her mainstays were cold cereal with milk, bagels with peanut butter and the occasional salad. After graduation, Huddle struggled when she started training with elite runners and so she adjusted by eating more, reducing her cereal and increasing her salads.
“It helped me to see that the women I was training with were eating full, carb-heavy meals and kicking my butt in races, so I figured they were doing everything right,” she told Fitzgerald.
Resources in the book include recipes, a list of superfoods, and how to build better habits with small adjustments. Fitzgerald also reminds readers that there is a diet-exercise synergy: “You are not what you eat. You are what your body does with what you eat. And what your body does with what you eat is strongly influenced by what you do with your BODY.”—HELEN