I may have mentioned a time or three my dislike of eating while I’m running and how it has made the nutrition piece of the endurance puzzle a constant frustration. When I first started running, I didn’t know what I was doing. I would rise early and run whatever the distance was that day without eating or drinking anything beforehand. It wasn’t until I trained with the local half marathon team well into my third year of running that I learned about “proper” nutrition and hydration yet I had been training with no food up to that point. Until two months ago, I didn’t have a strong enough argument other than a feeling to refute claims that I needed to eat carbs before every run and especially before/during long runs. I can run 14-16mi, or 2.5-3hrs, without any food, depending on the terrain.
Nearly two months ago I sent a message to a friend that said something like this: OMG. I just pooped for the 5th time in an hour and a half. How can there possibly be anything left in my colon?! Being the avid runners we are, said friend didn’t get grossed out and instead sent me this article.
I figured what the hell, right? It was worth a shot to see if I’d stop pooping four to six times on most of my runs. It sure beat the suggestion I got on a few occasions to drink Immodium.
So I started making the changes and realized I didn’t eat as many carbs as I thought. Long ago I had already decreased my intake of pasta, to me its empty calories and I had to eat too much to feel satisfied. The same thing for pizza. The only real struggle I have is giving up my bagels and little bit of bread; my favorite sandwich is still a toasted peanut butter and jelly. I’m mostly a vegetarian so having an excuse to eat a lot more veggies has been a big appeal. However, getting enough protein without eating meat has been tricky.
Almost immediately I stopped pooping on my runs. No more emptying my colon, no more squatting in the woods, no more need for alleyways, no more scouting for bathrooms ahead of time just in case. It’s fantastic because now I get to truly enjoy my time out in the woods; I can open the carburetor wide and get in a groove.
But the differences don’t stop there. After a few weeks, I began noticing a difference in how I run, or my performance on each run. Switching from high carb to high fat takes a minute as your body needs to first use up the carb reserves before it understands to flip the switch to turn on the fat burners. Meaning, you’ve got to deplete the easy energy in order to begin the process of training your body to go after the denser version that likes to sit around and consider itself lazy. Once that lever has been manipulated, though? The power is real.
I now feel much more satisfied after every meal. The desire for snacking has left. I’m less ravenous. Most important is I feel clean and healthy, like I’m fresh from the wash. During long runs and some short ones I used to feel frazzled, spent, empty almost like coming off a sugar high. I haven’t felt that way since the change to this “diet”. I can almost feel the exact moment when my body throws the gear to start burning fat.
Now I’m reading Metabolic Efficiency Training: Teaching the Body to Burn More Fat. I’m gaining justification with science as the educator for only needing 100-150 calories every other hour of running.
One piece of the nutrition puzzle I did figure out while training for IMTR is as long as I fuel myself well in the first half of the race, I don’t need much food during the second half. Not because I’m nauseated or unable to chew, but because my body is charged and ready to go. I have a keen sense of what I can take my body down to before I hit empty, I know how far I can push myself on as little food as possible. I know when I need to start fueling and that’s driven entirely by feel, not a clock. The key frustration has been finding the right food that will work with my needs and I found that in one simple fruit.
I eat only bananas on my long runs now. Sometimes a handful of grapes for the sugars. That’s it. Oh, and Skratch in my pack. I carry extra bananas for Chevy, he eats when I eat.
We often gain weight when training for a distance race. This is due in large part to our increased intake of carbohydrates during peak training. The week before our big event we ‘carb load’, right? What happens to all those carbs when they aren’t used? They turn to fat. And if we’re constantly sending the message to our body that simple energy is all it has to access, it doesn’t try very hard to reach out for help. Empty the main boiler, or break it down, and the back up generators automatically kick in, right? That is essentially how training your body to burn fat works. The main boiler gives up because it has to work too hard then while the generators are keeping your pilot lit, a new boiler is built. The new one knows how to work harder and is built for strength.
You start losing weight quickly. You notice a deeper strength. Maybe your runs become easier in terms of recovery. Maybe you start really kicking ass on hills. Or those days you run around in circles on rubber.
Below I’ve included some of the recently discovered resources that have helped make this a lot less difficult of a transition. Maybe they’ll help you, too.