Saturday, April 26, 2014

Clean Eating & Running 100 Milers

I've been marinating this article for a while. The reason I have not written it up until now is simple: we all require an unique diet for training and racing and I don't want to come off like I know more than anyone else on this matter. This article is based on my own personal experience and eating habits. If you get anything from it, I hope it's the importance of what I term "Clean Eating." My unique eating habits will not apply to every athlete. I feel that my experiences will help runners get an idea of how to make their diet work for them in training, specifically for running 100 mile endurance races. I do not claim to have any scientific understanding of nutrition, rather my knowledge is based on a lot of experimentation the end result being that my body is healthier and performing better than ever.

I've tried just about every method of eating out there from raw food to blood type diet to Paleo. In my early 20s I was fascinated with Naturopathic medicine and alternative medicine and I studied many of diets and healing methods. Before becoming a Race Director, I worked as a massage therapist for 8 years. Working with the body on a therapeutic level gave me a deeper understanding of my body and a sensitivity to the small changes that result from diet, exercise, and stress.
An assortment of foods that I eat regularly
What I Eat
It's pretty simple really, I eat fruits, vegetables, seaweed, fish, meat, nuts, and things like olive oil, coconut oil, balsamic vinegar and a variety of spices.  No grains, no dairy, no sugar, no beans, a little salt here and there. I eat a lot of raw fish and a lot of seafood in general. Unlike paleo, I do eat fruit. I frequently make smoothies and find them to be perfect after hot yoga class. I also drink 2-3 cups of good quality coffee every morning. Over the years, I've come up with foods that really seem to fuel my body with very little digestive effort. I've also identified foods that slow or hinder my digestion. I avoid those foods. I discovered recently that potatoes were a problem, I cut them out and feel a lot better. It's a learning process. This kind of diet makes me very sensitive to how foods affect my body.
A common dinner/lunch for me
Eating During Training
Usually I don't eat during training runs and cycling. On bike rides or runs longer than 2 hours I will take some Lara bars with me or nuts, nut butter, plantain chips, dried fruit, and on occasion dried/smoked meat. If I'm going to be out on a long route all day or longer I will take VFuel Gels as well as some heartier food.

Eating During a 100 mile Race
Anything goes in a race for me. Whereas in training it's important for me to eat clean, when I race I consume a lot more gels and processed sugary food like soda. Performance is the most important thing to me here and I eat the best I can to run the fastest I can. I tend to eat more during races than I do in training, but I've found that because of my very simple and clean diet I don't need as much food as I used to in ultras. I don't need as much water either. I don't know why on a scientific level, but it has worked for me and I believe that consuming less makes it easier for my body to focus on running. As far as electrolytes go, I'll supplement with a few here or there if I'm racing hard or in hot weather. If I feel like I'm getting cramps I'll take a couple. I don't take them on any sort of regular basis though.

What About Beer? 
Ah! You know me too well! Normally I enjoy a good IPA microbrew on a regular basis. Enjoy doesn't quite cover it, I love a good IPA. When I want to run my best though, I cut out alcohol. It's not that I think it is bad. I just find that I don't get in other key calories when I drink because beer and other alcoholic drinks fill me up pretty quick. That's not to say that I don't have a beer here and there. No rule should ever be followed so closely that it takes the fun out of an experience!
If you're gonna drink, drink the good stuff! Pictured, local Kulshan Brewery beers.
How I Cleaned Up
Getting to where I am now took a while! It's been almost a year for me. I began slowly and gradually cutting out various foods as my body adapted to the new way of eating and as I realized how certain food were keeping me from performing optimally. You cannot expect to change your diet overnight and keep with it for the long term. I began last summer 2013 cutting out grains and most sugar. At that time I was still having things like banana chips (with sugar) and I'd get tea from the gas station with added sugar. Sugar was one of the more insidious foods that I kept finding ways of including in my diet. It took 7 months for me to truly cut all sugar out of my diet (except for during races).

Over the weeks and months I slowly cut out all dairy and almost everything processed as well. The only foods that I currently eat on a regular basis that are "processed" are pretty minimally processed. I enjoy canned salmon and tuna on occasion as well as hearts of palm (they come in a jar with a little added salt) and plantain chips (added salt, roasted but no sugar). I bring all the aforementioned foods with me on road trips and during my travels to eat healthy without resorting to fast or low quality food.

One of the most surprising things about my cleaner way of eating has been that I need far less food than I used to. I expected to have to eat boat loads of vegis, fruits, fish and meat to get enough calories. Not so! I eat several smaller meals throughout the day needing less food than I used to. Without processed foods and (most) added salt, I also need less water than I used to.

How to Eat Clean

  • All processed food
  • Sugar: I avoid all sugars. If you are going to use sugar, consider grade B unprocessed maple syrup and raw honey. 
  • Anything with sugar added to it like dried fruit or green tea
  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Processed meat: salami, bacon, sandwich meats
  • Fast food
  • Low quality restaurants (Goes along with the above "Fast Foods")
  • If you choose to eat grains, choose unprocessed grains like brown rice and quinoa and avoid noodles, white rice, white bread, bagels, muffins, and donuts. Avoid corn. 
  • Alcoholic beverages

What to Eat:
  • Substitute sugar with stevia
  • Substitute store bought salad dressing with a simple balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing or another vinegar/oil combo
  • Seafood
  • As clean as possible meat (read: organic/free range) 
  • Vegetables are excellent. Consider avoiding or reducing your intake of potatoes
  • Fruit, lower sugar varieties are best. Go for darker colored fruit and berries. This is one area I am not so good at. I probably eat too much fruit. Always room to grow, right?
  • Smoothies
  • Seaweed
  • If you choose to drink alcohol go for higher quality stuff like good microbrews

I don't find the need to supplement with anything on a regular basis. I will add a green powder to my smoothies sometimes. Occasionally I take acidophilis. The way I am eating now, I don't seem to need any supplements. 

My Best Advice
Cut out all processed foods. Eat whole foods. Cut out all added sugar. Find out what works for you personally. 
Making a smoothie!

A Few of My Favorite Recipes

A Little Sunshine
Sunshine Smoothie
1. 5 bananas
2 cups of frozen peaches
1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup of fresh, unpasturized orange juice
2-3 TBS Chia Seeds
2 TBS Coconut Oil
*optional 2 TBS peanut butter

Add more or less almond milk as needed to get the consistency that you like. Blend all ingredients thoroughly.

The Big Blue
Big Blue Smoothie

1. 5 bananas
2 cups of frozen mixed berries/blueberries
1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup of fresh, unpasturized orange juice
2-3 TBS Chia Seeds
2 TBS Coconut Oil

Add more or less almond milk as needed to get the consistency that you like. Blend all ingredients thoroughly.

Spring Green Smoothie
2 bananas
2 cups of strawberries
1/2 cup of almond milk
1/2 cup of unpasturized/fresh orange juice
2 TBS chia seeds (optional)
1 cup of bagged spinach greens

Add more or less almond milk as needed to get the consistency that you like. Blend all ingredients thoroughly.

Poke: pictured with turmeric, sesame oil, pepper, and hearts of palm (not the recipe listed below)
Sesame Poke
2 cups Sashimi Grade Ahi Tuna, cubed into bite size pieces
1/2 cup Fresh pineapple, chopped into bite size pieces
1/2 cup Hearts of palm, chopped
4 TBS Almonds, diced

Mix all the above ingredients and sprinkle with spicy or regular toasted sesame oil and serve with salad or seaweed.  

Quick & Healthy Snacks that I Eat:
Hearts of Palm
Canned Salmon
Smoked Salmon
Plantain Chips with a little Coconut oil
Carrots, celery
Seaweed salad (rehydrate and eat!)- my favorite seaweed is wakame

Raw, sashimi grade tuna
Hearts of palm
Comments: What do you like to eat? How do you eat clean with so many unhealthy food choices out there, or do you choose not to?

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  1. Great post. I think this will be very valuable to folks. I can't do that poke though. :)

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  3. Great post! I especially appreciate the mention that everyone is different and this is what works for your body. I'm an ultrarunning Holistic Health Coach who specializes in endurance athletes and find it to be a beautiful thing when a person finds what fuels their bodies the most efficiently. Well done and happy bioindividualized eating to all!

  4. Enjoyed the post, thought it was very helpful. Wondered how many serves the smoothies make?

  5. Hi David, the smoothie recipes make 2 small smoothies or one big one. I usually consume a big one after workout, but sometimes it is too much and I save half for later.

  6. this is great! i am at the beginning of my 'eating clean' regimen...boy am i feeling the lack of sugary carbs....dragass runs! hoping this phase passes SOOON!

  7. getting by on less water and sodium could spell disaster for a ultra runner and power vinyasa student if its in a hot room. be careful

  8. Great, great post! Really enjoy following your blog and the advice here. Especially the great attitude you have on not knowing anything. I don't enjoy advice when given like that. Here, I think you nailed it: learn your body and how you work, but here are some tips that helped you.

  9. Candice, how do you know if your tuna is Sashimi grade? Is fresh ahi good to use for poke?

  10. did you live in HI? only thought those of us who did recognized poke :> yummy good stuff!

  11. Mer- No, don't live in HI and never have, just LOVE love love raw fish and trying new things. Got totally hooked on it this past January when I spent 3 weeks in HI before the HURT 100. Susan, I would always ask the store you're buying the tuna at if it is fresh enough to eat raw. Tuna is special in that it doesn't get parasites so as long as it is fresh it should be ok. Salmon, also wonderful as poke, is another story. They say it has to be frozen at a certain temperature to be ok for eating raw. So for salmon you should definitely ask the butcher/fish person. I often just go to a store that just sells seafood since they always seem to have lots of fish that can be used for poke. It's expensive, but worth it. The co-op here in Bellinghma sells sushi grade tuna and salmon in their frozen section and whole foods usually does.


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