Thirty years of truth about diet plans, losing weight and midrun fuelling
Thirty years of food and fuelling wisdom, distilled
IN 1986 I wrote my first column for Runner’s World US, covering sports drinks and hydration. Over the years, my columns have been based on the latest scientific research available. And while performance nutrition has undoubtedly changed, even flip-flopped, these are steadfast truths to keep in your fuel belt.
THERE IS NO ‘MAGIC’ PLAN
What you eat depends not just on factors such as gender, age, fitness and genetics, but also on your training plan and goals. This means your recommended range of macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat) changes – which we now call periodised performance eating. Start with nutrition articles, but tailor the advice to fit your body’s demands. WHAT TO DO Keep a log and/or take photos of your training diet during your lowmileage and higher intensity phases. Use a health-tracker app to better understand your calorific intake and macronutrient breakdown. For example, a 10.5-stone runner logging 25 miles a week and eating 2,300kcals a day needs 70-100g of protein, 250-350g of carbs and 30-70g of fat.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Training runs prepare you for race day. But you also have to practise your nutrition. Research shows that you can teach your body to better absorb carbs by trying your fuelling routines before your race. Too often, marathoners try to consume carbs every 30-60 minutes (which is good!) during their race but haven't trained their stomach for this type of constant fuelling.
WHAT TO DO Practise your midrun nutrition – 30-60g of carbs every hour. Try the drinks and gels (if any) that will be offered during the race, and take note of what works for you.
DON'T (ALWAYS) BELIEVE THE HYPE
Superfoods (such as kale, blueberries and sweet potatoes) are called super for a reason. Nutrientpacked foods have health benefits, but an all-kale diet won't make you the next Olympian (sorry!). The same goes for supplements. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
WHAT TO DO Eat these foods but look into the validity of sky-high claims (use credible sources, such as the British Nutrition Foundation and the US Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).
A MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT
On the road, you want to be fast. But to sustain a lifelong healthy weight, patience and consistency are key. Strategies for weightloss and maintenance have changed based on research, but the bottom line is the same: burn more calories than you consume. Studies show that those who keep their fit figure are consistent with their fitness routines (60 minutes of daily physical activity), avoid dieting extremes (don’t ditch the carbs) and have balanced nutrition.
WHAT TO DO Keep tabs on weight fluctuations. That will help you curb weight gain by seeing which lifestyle changes contributed to the creep. Taking photos of your meals is an easy and accurate way to see how much you’re eating.
Eating sensibly is a great place to start, but don't deny yourself the occasional treat.