You've seen them, maybe you are one of those really skinny, lean, thin runners that seem to be able to eat whatever they want with reckless abandon. And you're kind of wondering, can runners eat absolutely anything?
I wanted to cover this topic on today's episode of Runner’s High because it's something near and dear to my heart. Over time, my weight has drifted up, in part because I went from just running to doing triathlon, which means I'd put on muscle both in my upper body even though it may not look like it, as well as some of my legs from cycling.
But not just that, I know I've gotten fatter over time. I'm not fat by any means, but I have gained weight because I'm not paying attention very, very closely to what I'm eating. And the simple but boring answer is that no, you can't just eat whatever you want.
We all exist by this kind of immutable law of calories in, calories out, it’s very boring. It's not this nice silver bullet. That's not what the whole diet industry is about is these silver bullets that are going to fix all your problems. But when we realize that we live by calories in versus calories out, then things become a little bit clearer in our minds about what we can and should eat.
When you see and know somebody who's incredibly lean and seems to eat whatever they want, they're still being guided by that principle. Whether they're literally counting their calories, getting a piece of paper out, writing it down. It doesn't matter whether they're doing the math or not, their body is still guided by that principle.
My friend and triathlon mentor, Olympic triathlete Barb Lindquist often tells wannabe professionals and greenhorn professionals that if you live by a nine to 10 rule, then you're going to be fine. Her suggestion here is 90% good foods, 10% indulgences, whatever it is.
I have a penchant for ice cream, I make small-batch ice cream. So, in my case, I make sure 90% of my calories are going to be feeding me good macro and micronutrients so that my muscles get repaired, I'm taking in enough protein, and then micronutrients to make sure all the other things in my body need to go on and go on. Then I can have, you know, some ice cream from time to time and it's no big deal.
The big trick here is that it seems like those people can eat whatever they want, but they're not necessarily fueling for performance. Maybe they're continuing to stay thin because again, calories in, calories out, they're not over their limit. They're gonna stay thin if they're right at break even or slightly below. But they're not necessarily fueling their bodies to be the best runners they can be. They're not paying attention to that macro, micronutrient kind of profile.
Fortunately, there are people that do study this kind of thing and they offer their advice to us. Much of the advice we get on eating has to do with people that want to lose weight, which isn't necessarily what you need as an athlete. Now, I've had the fortune of interviewing people that do this kind of thing, especially Nancy Clark. She literally wrote the book on sports nutrition. And you can check out my interview with her on the Smart Athlete Podcast, Episode Number 25. Hit that subscribe button in the bottom right-hand corner, then go check that out on the channel.
Nancy has a lot of good advice to give. If you don't pick up her guide book, check out my conversation with her. She'll tell you a little bit more about fueling as a runner, and to fuel for performance instead of just thinking about. I want to be thin or I want to look good. Those will come along with it but you'll also be a better athlete.