I hear it all! One minute the “experts” are swearing that your body gets used to running, so if you want to lose weight you have to incorporate other workouts. The next minute the same “expert” is insisting that nothing burns more calories than running, period. It can be pretty disparaging to the average person making the effort to get fit, eat with discipline and achieve some personal goals.
It really gets worse when I talk with people about their diet. Even when they are getting contradictory technique advice at least they are getting a workout done. Workout technique and routine is easier changed than bad diet advice that has become habit. Also, when it comes to food, the choices we make inevitably impact our mental and physical performance.
There is some really bad advice out there, but what else is going on?
Diet advice for athletes are always riding a trend wave. Some of the trends are amazing, some are harmless (but offer no effect), and others are just dangerous. Usually, it is the same basic content like power foods, strange food combos or repackaged starvation plans respectively. The worst piece of diet advice has resurfaced again in the form of fasting diets.
Some of this stuff can be easy to dismiss because it just doesn’t stand up to common sense. Hearing this advice from “experts”, though, can plant a seed of doubt and keep you from making the best decisions. I try to keep things simple when training. I have five rules I follow and if a new fad doesn’t fit into these then I am not willing to give it a try. Feel free to print and post this free quick reference guide somewhere handy and gain some confidence about your food intake while training.
We are definitely an over scheduled culture. I talk to so many athletes who are struggling to find the time for workouts. The awesome part is I get to hear so many stories about how people are doing it - defying odds, hitting the road with discipline and getting the joy that comes from an active life. But getting your workout done and getting it done with great food intake are two different disciplines.
I hear often that the time runs out when the workout is over and it is quickly back to the long list of tasks left undone. From women I hear that they are overtaken and overwhelmed by the routine of getting all of the kids fed, ready for school, or making dinner. No matter what time it is, feeding themselves typically takes a backseat to feeding the family. Sound familiar? From men I hear that they get bored as they don’t have time to put variety into their meals. They are more apt to down the same old protein bar and get burnt out on the routine of it all. Is that your experience?
The easy answer is to do less and be more, but as that advice is rarely taken I ask runners to be realistic about their time constraints and do a little planning once a week to make sure the best snacks are handy. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, but having a plethora of quick choices available make it so much easier (think yogurt, nuts, avocados, dried fruit, protein bars or cheese). People need to remember that the fueling process is not just right after workouts. A few hours later is a crucial time and typically we are well into our day’s schedule by then. For those quickly off to work, make sure you stock your car and office with great fuel.
A big concern for everyone and not just athletes is getting enough sleep! Arianna Huffington wouldn’t have written an entire book on basically the idea that Americans don’t get enough sleep unless it were at epidemic levels. It’s common sense, and therefore not trendy or very popular, but getting enough sleep is as important to processing your food and improving your performance as what you put into your body for fuel.
Tired minds also make poor decisions. Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” If we are to be brave enough to carve out a healthy lifestyle in this very unhealthy world, we need sleep. For training it is also important WHEN we fuel up in relation to our sleep. With enough sleep we can remember the basics and feed our body when our bodies are active. We can improve our running performance and our sleep by eating during our active times of the day and going to bed “on empty”. Your body needs a break from processing food too and it is a much overlooked detail to great sleep and great athletic performance.
When presented with contradictory advice, I like to revert to the basics of what I know about health and fitness. As a handy reference be sure to download my quick reference guide entitled 5 EATING TIPS TO BE A LEAN, MEAN, RACING MACHINE. As fads come and go, this offers practical and sound advice for carving out the best mindset about food and training. I hope these thoughts have helped you frame the situation and get you thinking about a sustainable and healthy approach to running.