Sunday, October 24, 2010

Food Guide for Marathoners

Today I was procrastinating by going to the bookstore for a running book (Daniels' Running Formula--more on that later) and instead of that one book I came home with TWO, because I also impulse-bought Nancy Clark's Food Guide for Marathoners.  I had heard of this book before but wasn't sure it would be helpful/easily adapted to vegan eating, but I sat in the bookstore and read it for awhile and I liked the simple approach she takes to nutrition.  I'm decent enough at finding vegan equivalents now that I thought I'd get it and see what I can learn.

I'm really diggin' this book.  So far I only have one point of hesitation and it's only a small one: Eating the things she suggests constantly would be SO. BORING. But I think this is mostly because I like to cook and make things, and I like complexity of flavors and etc etc... so the inner foodie in me sort of cringes.  But at the very same time I appreciate how simple her options are.  The suggestions for meals that she has are things that could be viable when you're pressed for time, which is inherently valuable in and of itself.  I'll be stealing a lot of these ideas to make sure I'm actually eating more often. And it's not like she says "Oh you have to eat these boring things all the time"--rather, she gives a lot of fast, easy options and you could make more complex things that abide by the same principles.  I also still bring my own biases to the table (raw is better, unrefined is better, unprocessed is better, not using a microwave is better).  She doesn't disagree with these things necessarily, but sometimes comes down on the side of "faster is better" or "something is better than nothing"--both of which have their place as well.

The book wasn't a huge eye opener for me nutrition-wise--kinda already knew about the percents carbs/proteins/etc for sports nutrition.  But what it DOES give is some ways to do this practically and simple ways of thinking about things to keep you on track without having to overanalyze things.  In other words, it's a busy person's guide to still being fueled well for a marathon.

Here are some of the best points I've taken from the book so far (when she says dairy, i'm assuming dairy equivalents here btw, which I will get to in a minute).

She has a simple definition of eating well which I find really awesome--it's such a simple way of thinking about how to eat what you should:

  1. eat three kinds of foods (kinds: grain, fruit, veg, protein, dairy) at each meal
  2. eat two kinds of foods at each snack
  3. eat evenly throughout the day, not more as the day progresses and ending with a huge dinner
  4. eat at least 80-90% of your calories from quality foods (she says the last 10-20% can be sweets or whatever)
I know that I am often lacking in dietary variety because I get lazy, so I'm going to try the three kinds/two kinds rules for a few days and see how it goes.

Then she gives these general guidelines for a 2000 calorie diet (so remember if you're deep in the thick of marathon training you'd need more--I was aiming for 2500-3000 before):
  1. eat at least 2c of fruit and 2.5c of veggies per day
  2. choose a variety of colors of fruit/veggies
  3. eat whole grain products at least 2x a day
  4. drink or eat 3c/day of milk/yogurt/cheese (equivalents--but remember that soy cheese is often oil-based and some other vegan cheese subs are flour/water based, so soy cheese may not always "count".  Non-dairy milks/yogurts are the best subs in this category, and I always try to look for enriched milks too.)
More on milks:  she lists things you should eat 2-3 of per day to meet your calcium needs and gives these on the list as the equivalent of 1c milk, 1c yogurt, or 1.5 oz cheese:
  • 1c soymilk
  • 8oz tofu (half a block)
  • 4oz almonds
  • 3c broccoli
  • 1c collard or turnip greens (cooked)
  • 1.5c kale or mustard greens (cooked)
She says that to get the most of your vegetables you should:  Eat more of the best vegetables (the dark or brightly colored ones) and less of paler ones like zucchini, cucumbers, etc.  Eat salads with dark lettuces.  And to get the most from your salads from a sports nutrition standpoint, add carbs to them:  dense veggies like peas, corn, beets, carrots; beans; cooked rice/pasta; oranges, apples, raisins, grapes, dried fruit; croutons; bread on the side.

There are a lot of other suggestions in the book for grab-n-go breakfasts, having "second lunch" around 4pm and things you can take to/leave at work to make that easier, and suggestions to make the rice/pasta/potatoes meals more interesting with different spices, etc.  She also talks about how fat can be good for runners (in moderation of course) because it makes you feel fuller and enhances performance.

I'm only about halfway through the book--still to come, there are sections on water/sports drinks and hydration; fueling before a long run; fueling for recovery; weight loss; and calculating your caloric needs.  But I was excited to report the whole "eat 3 at each meal, and 2 at each snack" way of approaching nutrition.  I'm going to try that starting immediately and hopefully will introduce some more variety.  I also like some of her grab-n-go ideas for days I have no time to be home.

Annnnd...with that, I have now wasted most of my Sunday which I should have spent doing work and cleaning.  Yay!


  1. Love this post. 1/2 of it is advice I live by, 1/2 is advise I'm excited to come by.

    So excited to find your blog. I'm a ways behind you in that I run but rarely more than 5 miles, and while I WANT to be vegan, shifting our family that way has been a slow process. Looking forward to watching your progress!

  2. Great post! I love that you veganized it, I'm a veggie (I eat greek yog.) and have found that half-mara and now marathon training hasn't really forced me to change my eating habits (all my peer's believed it would) I'm thriving on a vegetarian diet and loving the intense training!
    Good Luck in your future races!