In this post, I wanted to write about my plan for structuring my diet and nutrition in training for my first 24 Hour race Across the Years on December 31st . I wanted to write about it for 2 reasons:
1) Not much space or effort is usually given to detailing a nutrition plan for training for a foot race. In most books on training for a long distance race, it is almost all about the theory and methodology of executing the runs or cross training… with perhaps a half chapter on nutrition which usually comes down to “get in enough carbs, take in protein after your run.. etc..” The focus is on building a 12 – 14 week running schedule and in a sense expecting that the reader will know how to eat. Now of course this isn’t always the case for those books, but it generally is.
2) My approach to my daily nutirion for training for a foot race is different from most and as such you may find some value in it and be able to take a few things away that you can apply to your training. If nothing else at least it will be interesting to see how it works for me… and if it doesn’t than I am the one that lost and not you 🙂
I will be following a slightly modified “bodybuilder’s” diet. It is actually a variation of a diet that a good friend of mine was on for 3 months starting in April to lean up and preserve his muscle while hitting the gym (he was not training for a race). It worked tremendously well. I have been on it for about 4 months now too and I just really feel a serious difference in my strength, recovery and lower perceived effort (both at the gym and when on the road). I am leaner and more muscular and wake up less sore than I used to. I am also better hydrated because I emphasize super hydration on a daily basis (whether running or not).
But make not mistake it is not an easy diet to follow.. for the main reason that you have to eat and drink so much. It is quite challenging to cook and eat so often.
The basic tenets of this diet are high protein, more moderate (but still plentiful) clean carbs, and lower amounts of healthy fats.
I don’t believe that most runners get in enough protein. It is that simple. I am not going to go into the benefits of increasing your protein intake here because they can be found with any search on Google, but basically I find that with the volume and variety of training that I am doing (and it is going to be seriously increasing) that I need to consistently feed my muscles throughout the day to ensure proper growth, recovery and repair. By timing my intake I also help to ensure a more consistent flow of usable aminos and a positive overall nitrogen balance. Running breaks down muscle tissue and requires repair too (as the gym does). It isn’t like squatting 500lbs for reps, but it creates tissue damage and it needs adequate repair to be able to recover and perform at its best. Of course I also hit my upper body (and now legs) in the gym hard and they need serious amounts of protein for repair. My main sources of protein will be lean red meat (london broil, flank steak and lean sirloin), white fish (with some fatty fish like salmon and tuna 3 – 4 times a week), chicken breasts, eggs and HumaPro. Even if you are not hitting the gym at all, but are running 6 days a week or running and cross training you need more protein than you would get from 3 low protein meals a day. You can only process so much protein at one meal. It is generally accepted that the maximum amount is (give or take) 50 grams of protein, but if it is relatively easily digestible than in 2 – 3 hours you are ready to start processing more.
The carb sources will be high quality clean complex carbs with some small amounts of simple sugars added in. My main carb sources are brown rice (sometimes jasmine, sometimes quinoa), sweet or other varieties of potatoes, whole grain breads (a fan of Ezekiel bread), and oats (or high quality high fiber cereals like Kashi brand). I will also get carbs from vegetables like brussel sprouts, tomatoes, zucchini and broccoli. My main sources of simple sugars will be bananas, raisins, blue berries and other fruits but I won’t be consuming very much.
My sources of good fats will come from various forms of nuts (walnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews and almonds and they will be fresh not roasted when possible), the small amount of fat in my animal proteins (they are very lean cuts) and flax/chia seeds. I don’t honestly know how much I believe in chia seeds but they are a very easy way to get in more fiber and that is good. I just find it odd sometimes how hard they are to clean up if you spill them… they sort of become glue and need to be scraped off. I guess the idea is that they are binding up in your stomach etc. Like I said it is just an easy way to add more fiber and some healthy fats for me. I have always been a big fan of flax as a healthy and anti-inflammatory fat. Nuts are wonderful and just generally healthy. I have found that walnuts have had a positive effect on my cholesterol too.
One more addition to my daily diet that I plan on keeping going (I guess it would best go under the protein category but that isn’t the main reason why I am consuming it) is Kefir. I believe in the value of probiotics and Kefir has the highest amount of any milk based product out there plus it is lactose free (and I am reasonably lactose intolerant so I like that). I like the taste and with as much food consumption as I am doing on a daily basis… as much healthy bacteria as I can get in my gut the better. I might sometimes have a Greek yogurt, but Kefir works better for me and is lactose free. It is the only dairy that I basically consume (except for ice cream.. I can’t give that up to be honest 🙂 ). I feel better without dairy, but I am not advocating eliminating it necessarily. I just don’t need the bloat.
Liquid consumption is also a big part of my diet and is also pretty simple. I work to take in over a gallon of water a day every day. I try to do between a gallon to a gallon and a half, but it is usually closer to a gallon because it is just really hard. This isn’t just about hydrating and ensuring being hydrated for my runs… it is about muscle recovery and performance. Your muscles are mostly water. I just feel stronger, am more vascular and run easier when I am consistently consuming a lot more water than I want to. I find it challenging some days though. I like carbonated water (like Club Soda) and some days (especially on the weekends) a good portion of my water intake comes from it. My other liquid sources are generally a cup or two of coffee in the morning, my pre workout drink (currently Cellucor C4… but N’Gorge NOS is a good one too). Water is crucial.
Another thing to note is that I plan on being 75 – 80% strict to the diet outlined below but allowing myself the occasional candy, ice cream, beer or Scotch. I will be burning so many calories and have such high caloric needs when I get into the thick of my program that those additions will mean very little (especially as I am not dieting down for a bodybuilding contest or something) and will do me some good mentally in having those “cheat” episodes. There is a possibility about 10 weeks out from the race that I may get much stricter in an attempt to get leaner and more disciplined. Not certain yet if I will, but I will certainly let you know if I do decide to eliminate the “cheats”.
One more thing of note is that I have learned how I am able to adhere to this diet through a standard week. I find it much easier to adhere to it during the week when I am at work. I am lucky that I have a desk job because it makes it easier to bring my big suitcase full of food 🙂 and water bottles and eat and drink throughout the day. There isn’t anywhere I can go or anything else that I can do besides work, eat and drink so I tend to be able to stay to this diet and consume the amount of food and water prescribed much easier. On the weekends it is harder. I just really find it harder to get all of the meals and liquid in because I have so many things to do on my days off. I do my best but things just seem to come up that take me away from my plan. I usually get one less meal in and not as much water, but I will continue to try and be vigilant. At least I know this going in. Another day which will undoubtedly be very tough to stick to this diet is the day of my long run (when they start to get 12 miles plus). I just find that tough long runs knock both me and my appetite out. I usually am really hungry and have a big meal (usually breakfast food actually… I love a big omelette, pancakes etc. after a long run) right after my run (or I will have a big calorically rich smoothie) but then I am just too knocked out (and my appetite suppressed for whatever reason) to continue to eat every 2.5 hours the rest of the day. It just is what it is. I just try my best but long run days will probably be really tough. Extra long and tough gym workouts I don’t have as much problem.
One final thing before the diet is it will be a bit tricky when I have to do my 2nd workout of the day. I can’t eat a big meal too close to it or I feel sick and bloated and can’t perform as well… so I will have to try to adjust for that.
My daily diet is generally as follows:
Wakeup: 5 grams of HumaPro
Pre-workout: 3 scoops of Pre Workout Drink
Meal Post-workout: 10 grams of HumaPro, 50 – 75 grams of carbs from Oats or Cereal (generally about 1.5 cups) with walnuts and chia seeds and a banana or other fruit.
Meal: 6 oz chicken breasts, 250 grams sweet potato or other potato
Meal: 6 – 8 oz white fish, 220 – 250 grams of brown or jasmine rice
Meal: 2-3 omega three whole eggs plus 4 – 6 egg whites, 3 slices of Ezekiel bread and as much vegetables as I want to eat (which is sometimes not very much)
Meal: 6 oz chicken breast or 10 grams of HumaPro and variety of nuts
Right before Bed: 5 grams of HumaPro
So basically between 250 – 300 grams of protein, 250 – 375 grams of carbs and probably around 40 – 80 grams of fat or between 2400 – 3600 calories. As I get deeper into my schedule (and am working out more and more) I may increase my total caloric intake a bit mostly from carbs. The HumaPro when I wake up is to jumpstart feeding starved muscles (from not getting nutrition while asleep) and taking it again right before bed is to help prolong the amino feeding as long as I can.You will notice that my carb intake reduces as the day goes on. This is by design. Consume more of your carbs earlier in the day because your body can use them and burn them. The later in the day it gets, the less chance your body has to use those carbs. It will help you stay leaner. A pizza at 10:00pm at night is fun, but it won’t help the waistline!
I know that the above diet features a lot of animal protein. I am not going to start a debate on the merits of an animal protein diet vs. vegetable protein here. You could follow the same diet and subsitute the animal protein for vegetable based protein. It would be even more challenging (to get in 250-300 grams of protein a day through vegetable sources) and I don’t believe as effective, but it could definitely be done and would at least be more functional than a typical vegetarians diet for such a serious volume of training. I would actually be interested to hear from some of you that have tried a similar approach as a vegetarian.
Oh and one final and very important thing that I am going to do that most runners don’t. I am going to be consuming protein on my long runs along with my carbs. With HumaPro it is easy because it mixes so well and doesn’t upset your stomach or make you feel full. I am going to be training (when I start running or walking over 10 miles) consuming 15 grams of protein per hour (HumaPro mixed in with my water or carb drink). I really believe that by feeding your working muscles while you are damaging them you will be able to recover faster and do less damage. I will let you know how this goes, but I don’t know why more runners don’t consume protein while running. I really don’t.
I will report on my weekly recaps if I deviate significantly from this nutrition plan and why I did, but I don’t plan to.
** I want to write that I am only detailing what I am planning on doing nutritionally for my upcoming race and am not offering this plan as advice or as instruction. I don’t have a medical or nutrition degree and am not advocating this or any specific dietary approach. Always get clearance from your doctor before you make any significant change to your diet**
We will see how my training and nutrition goes! Both approaches are significantly different from typical running training and nutrition, and I for one am interested to see how things work out!
Best of luck in your training,
Hey Chris, I thought you might find Pam Smith’s (women’s winner of the WS100) recent article on her training and nutrition plan for Western States interesting. She did a lot of research and planned incredibly well for the race, and provided a great write-up with lots of detail. She also uses protein during ultras, and she can be funny (see her crew instructions in her race report 🙂 ).
This sounds great. I can’t wait to read it!