Coach Mike Mead

September 2013

You are What You Eat?

In our fast-paced, on-the-go, fast food society, how does a serious runner expect to get adequate nutrition? In human history, we are at a time where most people have easy access to an abundant supply of food. The problem is the most convenient foods are not the most healthiest choices.

During the past 40 years, most serious runners have evolved into nutrition-conscience beings. When I started out running in the early 1970’s, I did not give much thought to what I ate. The only efforts I made in my early days was being aware of what I ate that might adversely affect my training and racing results.

For example, I knew I needed a certain amount of time – about 3-4 hours minimum – between the time I ate and the time I ran. I learned I needed to lay off dairy before I ran, but that didn’t stop me from eating a banana split in the middle of an easy five-miler with my running buddies on some of our summer training runs. I stayed away from greasy or spicy foods and learned to drink more fluids. Stuff like that.

There really was not a limit on what I or my teammates ate since we were burning up all those calories, but probably laying the groundwork to clogging are arteries. Two Big Mac’s was a light lunch. Splitting two thin crust Pizza Inn large pizzas on a Sunday night with a teammate was not a problem and there were no leftovers!

However, late into my college career, I began to pay closer attention to what was going in my pie hole and how it could help or hinder my running performance. I also paid more attention to the news and the steady reports on the negative effects of certain foods.

First, there were the reports how eggs were bad for you – high cholesterol. Then there was how too much red meat was bad for you. It seemed that just about everything you ate wasn’t good for you and caused cancer!

Personally, I decided to make small changes in the foods I ate. First, I cut back on adding salt to my foods so that I wasn’t overdoing it with the sodium. To this day, I don’t know where our salt shaker is!

Next, I cut way back on soda pop. These days I might drink a soda a once or twice a month. We don’t stock any at the house, expect when we have guests. Another adjustment was cutting down on red meat and eating more chicken and fish.

The cut backs meant I had to adjust my diet and add other food types to compensate. Cutting out red meet meant I had to eat other food types so that I still got my iron. Cutting down on sodas meant I drank more water for proper hydration.

These days, I have had to be more aware of not just what I eat, but how much. As I have aged and run fewer miles than my college days, I have struggled on my meal portions. I’m slowing adjusting to smaller-sized meals and now have leftover pizza when I share a medium-sized with my wife.

I still maintain somewhat of a boyish figure, but it takes a more conscientious effort on my part to not cave when I walk by the Twinkie isle. It has been said, “You are what you eat.” What you eat can help and hinder your running if you do not take the time and manage what goes into your body.

It’s simply about moderation and variety. There was a popular book in the 1980’s called “Eat to Win.” The book chronicled successful athletes and their dietary discipline. You are what you eat.

Eat to win and run to live!