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Thirty years of truth about diet plans, los­ing weight and midrun fu­elling

Runner's World (UK) - - IN THS ISSUE -

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.


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.


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.


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).


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.

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