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Nutrition is Everything

This article that went viral really resonated with me. It made so much sense. Graduating with a degree in health, we learned the majority of people in America are medically overweight. It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. The majority of Americans aren’t running and exercising like they should be. That is why over half of Americans are overweight and 1/3 are obese.

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That isn’t the case of the majority of runners. Most runners are not overweight. Many people begin running to lose weight, find out they really like to run and are hooked. Do you know what? That’s awesome. That is so awesome you began running to lose weight. Now you’ve lost weight and are living a healthier lifestyle. To each person that shares that common factor, I couldn’t be happier for you.

There is a sub section of athletes that take running and nutrition to the extreme. Whether you started running to lose weight or whether you want to continue to improve your time. Nutrition is one of the key factors to running well. You can’t run a marathon at your full potential fueled by Doritos. Similarly, you can’t run a marathon to your full potential under fueled.

Something I found extremely interesting was that eating disorders and disordered eating are extremely prevalent at a college level. I saw this first hand in college as well as post college (when I worked at a college). I saw several athletes dropping too much weight during season and PRing the entire cross country season. Only to arrive at the championship race, underfueled and both mentally and physically exhausted. It resulted in having the worst race of their season at the championship level. It ended the season on heart break and most often an injury or two.

Eating disorders are almost nonexistent at an elite level. Why is that? You cannot reach your full potential by under eating and not fueling appropriately.

If an elite runner eats a more nutritious but identifiable diet, then why can’t a standard person or a sub elite athlete? There isn’t a secret to becoming a faster runner, a more toned athlete or living a healthier lifestyle. We don’t need the “latest and greatest” or “recently discovered” most nutritious food. Most elite athletes aren’t counting calories or worried about too many carbohydrates and calories. Both men and women at the elite level are more worried about not enough calories.

I think part of the issue stems that America is very much a for profit society. Our healthy insurance coverage proves that. Marketing companies prove that. We as a society are lured into trying the “latest and greatest” foods. Meanwhile Kenyans far continuously produce the top distance runners fueled on oatmeal and high calorie tea.

What are your thoughts? Are we as a society to wrapped up in quick fixes?

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25 responses

  1. Culturally we are all about quick fixes and we’re so easily swayed by flashy marketing that some product is the solution to all our problems. Some people treat running that way too. Being honest with ourselves is key – there are no quick fixes and, if we want to reach our potential we need to work hard and treat our bodies well at the same time.

    • I totally agree with what Michele said … and look at her GMA spot as a great example. We know from all of her posts the reasons she chose Paleo, and how well it works for her. But for GMA – and many people – it is just another weight loss ‘fad diet’. You would think that by now we would realize that fad diets don’t work.

      But I have also been dismayed at how prevalent eating disorders are with runners – and seemingly even moreso with running bloggers!

  2. Well written. I don’t believe it’s caused by the want for a quick fix, though. I think it’s a more a combination of societal ideals and the media – even in running. You have the elites who are typically look like they have very little body fat (even though as you said, often eat a relatively normal, nonrestrictive diet) and set incredible times. And if you’re trying to do anything to get faster, losing weight might cross your mind, even if it would be harmful to your body… I guess that counts as a quick fix – losing weight unhealthily to quickly improve in competition (before crashing).

    • I completely agree with you Erin. Most elites couldn’t train as they do surviving on a restrictive diet. I think at some point “losing weight will improve my time” has crossed most runners mind. It’s so much more devastating in the long run and never worth it.

  3. I loved this post too, and I am glad it did go viral. People need to see that elites eat just like everyone else. I have cooled down with olympians and other famous athletes, and right after the race we went right to get pancakes or sandwiches. I am so glad this article showed that there is no magic diet, it is all about getting the right fuel to recover, and most importantly getting enough of it. I am very passionate about this, and I am so glad you are too Hollie. It is interesting about eating disorders though, I definitely saw a lot of it in collegiate athletics, but people I know who do still suffer from it as elites are very up and down, injured a LOT. Makes sense though!

  4. In a very simplistic way, your body is like a car, you have to keep it topped up with fuel, give it good MOTs and treat it nicely. You can’t expect to perform well when you’re not eating well. Though lower weight does correlate with faster times, there is a line not to cross.
    I think it is more forgiving at the other end – when you run a lot and eat a diet of crap and fast food. The energy is still there albeit in a poor form. But not eating enough is when your body just goes “nope, no can do today I’m afraid.”

    • I love using that phrase of thinking of your body as a car. It’s such a great reference. I agree and think your body is more forgiving. While losing weight might seem like a great fix, it is only short term and your body will eventually pay.

  5. I still think the biggest issues are naivety & miss-information. So many amateur runners see the professionals with 5% body-fat and think the answer to quicker times is cutting their calorie intake by 50-70%. They may well see an improvement to begin with but the human body just can’t cope with that sort of deficit while exerting itself that hard. You only have to look to professional runners who are bashing out 150mile weeks. Some of their diets are atrocious but they can get away with it when they are burning 20,000+ calories a week!! I’ve had issues in the past with overly watching my calorie intake and it can be quite scary!!

    • I agree with that! That is something I have thought a little more about too. That is such a good point. There is so much information on diet and exercise out there.

  6. Eating right and fueling for performance is crucial for athletes. And it’s so personal–what works for one person may not be ideal for someone else. It’s gotten to the point where I know which foods work for me (all the eggs, salmon, and sweet potatoes!) and which don’t sit well. Case in point: I can’t do Mexican the day before a key workout. 🙂

  7. Yes and great blog post! I wish there was a way to reward people financially for being fit or healthy. Instead of short term profit making by companies.

    Picture an activity tracker that stores your energy outputted, converts it to electricity and pays you for it…that’s the kind of thing we should be making!

  8. Awesome post, Hollie!
    I do think it’s a combination of a “quick fix” and wanting to look like how society tells us we should look. Plus all the instagramming and Tweeting food and workouts.
    No amount of training and/or starving myself will having me running a sub-3 marathon. It just won’t happen. Elites are blessed to have a combination of genetic and physical factors so they can do what they do.

  9. I have the worst diet. When I’m running/training 4-5 days a week (or really any amount, but serious training), I never want fast or fatty foods. They make me run like crap and I regret it instantly. When I’m not running, it’s all I want. Aka why I’ve gained 5-7 pounds since quitting the gym in July. Oops. I’m starting to run more now so it’s (luckily) a mostly instant diet fix. Some people have no problems coming home from a workout and eating crap but me on the otherhand, I don’t even want to drink a beer after a hard workout — just give me water and something nutritious.

    • I agree with you there Britt. When I’m not training (like now) all I seem to want is fried foods. When I am training, I want healthier foods.

  10. I agree with everything you said in your last paragraph – I also think we have ZERO attention span/ability to truly dedicate ourselves to a craft unless it’s going to give us instant gratification. That’s why we just go too hard too soon looking for completely unrealistic results and then we get hurt. Then, it’s just a sad cycle of intensity, of “When can I run again!?!?” Think about people in Kenya, like you said. It’s juts run, eat (REAL FOOD), run, eat. They fuel their body with real food (imagine that) and over years and years develop their running skills. We are too easily motivated by profit, quick fixes, and instant results.

  11. I can tell you from personal experience that you will crash and burn and it will show up later in life in the form of injuries, warped food issues etc. If you focus on eating a QUALITY diet, nutrition takes care of itself. Most elite train, they train hard and they are focused on performance and their goals. They’re also in love with running and have that necessary drive and desire to succeed. There is no way an elite athlete can under-fuel at perform at their best, particularly for a long career.

    There are a ton of diets out there – it’s nuts – and people obsess over it. I tell people – let that go. Here’s what the foundation of a good diet is: eating more vegetables and vitamin-rich fruits! That’s the cornerstone! Eat lean proteins and try to include it at every meal to balance blood sugars and ward off cravings; eat healthy fats.

    AND THE REAL KEY: is to eat regular, balanced meals – BOOM. Done. Eat. Not skipping meals or skimping on nutrients. And yeah, you can still have your ice cream or whatever in sensible portions if that’s what you want: just don’t JUST eat ice cream for dinner. Actually EAT dinner first. People don’t realize that the real key to finding your healthy, happy weight is to regulate your hormones. Skipping meals or under-fueling or whatever f*ks that all up.

    Good topic Holly.

  12. I really enjoyed this article as well. I love the take home message of just eating quality food and giving yourself enough fuel to become a fast runner!

  13. I am an elite runner and I have seen loads of people (runners) struggle with eating problems. I have found that getting enough of the RIGHT calories is important.
    Eating enough protein and concentrating of POST WORKOUT nutrition within the first 20mins/1hour following a hard session is vital to keep injury free and healthy.
    The Kenyans have a very basic diet and this keeps them lean but healthy.
    Timing is everything.

    Charlotte

  14. Thank you so much for sharing this article! It is so rare to see sanity in the nutrition/athletics world.
    It’s shocking how refreshing it is to hear normalcy!

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