The word "FUEL" is a hot button in the sports nutrition world.
Many athletes these days understand the importance of eating good ingredients to fuel their bodies, like a machine or a car. They want "high octane" in their system.
But despite this (positive) trend, I have also heard the same athletes, or parents of athletes, also say that it's important to "cut sugar, watch portions, and eat clean."
This is where i say, "hmmm... I think the sports nutrition world has misguided some people."
Because along with the need to put high octane fuel in the tank, the tank also has to be FULL. And "cut/watch/clean" are words that contradict this very important need.
A runner has a much bigger tank than non-athletes. With more engine (muscle) and a longer distance to drive (run), filling the tank up halfway, even with high octane, just won't cut it.
But, I am going to cut the metaphors now.
What I'm trying to say is... athletes need to eat a LOT more than other people.
And unfortunately, America is so focused on weight loss (understandably) that the concepts of cutting back has trickled into the sports nutrition community as well.
My only guess as to why this happened is because so many people pick up exercise to get in shape, and simultaneously change their diets for better health. They then want "sports nutrition" advice since they are trying to tackle both exercise & diet at the same time. And the industry has met this demand with products, powders, and diet plans for "sports nutrition" that focus on being a certain figure, weight on the scale, body fat percentage etc. for somebody's "optimal performance."
I applaud these people. It takes a tremendous effort to get healthy, to change your diet, and to stick to exercise plans. This is not an easy feat and I am SO glad that we have dietitians, programs, and running groups to help this community.
But respectfully, I think this category of fitness & health enthusiasts have far different nutrition needs than the athletes and the sports nutrition model that I practice. I see hundreds of athletes, whether established or on the rise, who do NOT need to focus on less, they do NOT need to think about "lighter" foods, and they do NOT need to care about losing.
In fact, I believe that if these athletes STOPPED focusing on losing, they'd actually start to win.
You see, many athletes, though they eat "healthy" and "clean", simply don't have a full tank. And for anybody with a driver's license, what starts happening when the gas light goes on?
The car begins to break down.
. . . I guess I'm back to the metaphor.
Now I'll be 100% honest, I'm not the best with cars. I simply know that it's bad to let it get to the point where the gas light goes on. So I googled why this is so...
According to https://clark.com/cars/low-gas-tank-can-be-costly/, letting your gas tank get so low that the light goes on means:
You could break down at any moment. You see, the gas gauge isn't exact, its an estimate of what you have left, and the intensity, style of driving, and many other factors could have you stalled out on the side of the road sooner than you expected.
[ Running translation: Letting your body's fuel source get too low could result in passing out, fainting, bonking, or unable to go further due to lack of energy. Despite thinking that you have "some left in the tank", there are many factors that could influence when and how soon this happens such as intensity of a practice, environment such as heat or humidity, stress from other areas of life, epinephrine and adrenaline from a race...and it's simply too many factors and unknowns to control]
The electric fuel-pump motor can wear prematurely and potentially fail.
[Running translation: You can exhaust your muscles quickly, forcing you to stop your workout sooner than intended or with less intensity than you desired. This leads to reduced training response and reduced performance over time.]
The catalytic converter can fail and need to be replaced completely, which can be a large financial expense.
[Running translation: You could injure yourself and need physical therapy, time off training, or surgery.]
So for runners it will take you a lot further if you FILL UP THE TANK.
Understanding this concept is vital for running success.
So when it comes to portions, I wont say that more is always better... but I can positively say that less is rarely good for athletes. Sugar, despite the fact that fear mongering documentaries blame it for all of America's health issues, is often an athletes "high octane" fuel when used appropriately. And "eating clean" is simply a new-age, and very catchy, phrase to emphasize fresh foods ...so I won't argue against it. But I will argue that it isn't always the priority or the realistic option for athletes.
If you'd like more info on what the warning signs are that your tank is low . . .
. . . and how to know exactly how big your tank is so you can appropriately "fuel up" without being over-full
. . . and what fuel is high octane and preferred for runners
Then stay tuned for my next blog post!