I know I’m not alone in being really interested in nutrition and running. Over the last few years there have been all sorts of various diets and certain foods recommended or to be avoided. I have watched with interest as friends have radically changed their eating habits with the aim to improve their ultra running performance.
Personally I have worked fairly hard to keep my weight down hoping that it would help my endurance running and I do feel it has. To do this all I have really done is to try and eat sensible portions and avoid puddings during the week. We generally eat healthily with lots of fruit and vegetables.
So I was very interested to be given a copy of Matt Fitzgerald’s latest book, ‘The Endurance Diet’. I have read a few of Matt’s books and always found them very interesting and thought provoking. This one was no exception.
Before I started it I wondered whether it would be advocating a particular diet which would mean a radical change in eating habits but it is nothing like that at all.
The basis of the book is Matt’s extensive research. The subtitle is ‘Discover the World’s Greatest Athletes’ 5 Core Habits to Look, Feel and Perform Better.’ Matt uses his research of athletes from various sports in many countries to show how they have worked out by trial and error what works for endurance athletes.
According to the book there are five core habits that elite athletes follow. They are:-
1. Eat Everything
2. Eat Quality
3. Eat Carb-Centered
4. Eat Enough
5. Eat Individually
Each chapter is really easy and interesting to read. Matt starts each section with a story from his travels giving an example to follow or a things to avoid.
I found that there was loads of common sense and really helpful yet challenging ideas to think through. I found myself agreeing with so much especially when compared with many diets which encourage us to avoid certain foods or drastically reduce particular food types.
The chapter on Eat Everything starts on this theme that we need a balanced diet which includes all the food groups. He uses the example of the LottoNL-Jumbo professional cycling team and shows what they eat when they are training and competing.
For chapter I found most interesting was the 3rd habit – Eat Carb-Centered. I was also listening to a podcast which was advocating a low carb diet at the same time I was reading the chapter. I found myself agreeing with Matt’s reasoning and the examples he gave and I was struggling to see how the podcast’s ideas would help my training.
I have always struggled with the idea of eating a low carb diet as I thought it would compromise my training and in races carbs are always available. Matt uses the example of the Kenyan distance runners and shows how their diet is carb rich and needs to be because of the amount of running they are doing.
By the time I had finished the 5 chapters I was really encouraged that the way we eat is not far from what Matt is encouraging. It has certainly given me a blueprint of comparing and analysing various diets and nutrition plans that come and go in the endurance world.
In the final five chapters Matt deals with issues like Building Elite Eating Habits, Fine-Tuning Your Endurance Diet, Endurance ‘Superfoods’ before giving some great examples of Endurance Recipes and finishing with a chapter on Diet-Exercise Synergy.
I found the chapter on Endurance ‘Superfoods’ particularly helpful as it gave reasons why the 22 foods he highlights are helpful for our diet.
I would thoroughly recommend the book for anyone interested in how to improve their performance through what they eat. I love the fact that what Matt proposes is a healthy lifestyle rather than a particular diet.