NUTRITION AND RUNNING
Certainly, it is not about obesity problem among runners, but it's similar to it from a common sense point of view: what to eat and how to eat? This topic always comes up in our discussion, no matter how much I try to avoid it. In running this is the most provocative and uncertain topic (after technique, of course). After the question about the mileage you need to run, the next one will be certainly be: what and how I am supposed to eat? I am usually getting into sarcastic mood at this point, because we are supposed to know how to eat. Isn't it something very natural for us and don't we receive this knowledge passed to us from our birth? Everybody knows how to chew the food!
Everybody, but not runners probably! Because if you know about something, say about running technique, you do not ask. As to runners, they don't just ask, they interrogate everyone in the discussion about the food. I fell into this trap as well and I am not sure, if my opinion will be accepted without anger or something worse. I know, I am not a dietician, or a specialist in nutrition or even close to these things and I am entering into somebody's field of interest. Yes, it is more like a mine field now, than a promised land, but nevertheless it is a good opportunity to test some ideas.
Well, judging by the number of nutritionists, their books, clinics, diets and money spent in this field, it is supposed to be a well researched and well known area of our life. Nevertheless, I have something opposite in my mind - I think that we have almost no clue about this matter. You don't need to be a genius to recognize this, just look around and see how many people are suffering from the absence of this valuable knowledge. America keeps a leading position in this field.
So there is a controversy here, we have the best food, best specialists, tons of knowledge and also an incredible amount of people running around with the question how and what to eat? Do we make this problem too complicated or is it so simple that we couldn't just get it? I do not know, but I just want to express my opinion and my point of view on this matter with a hope that it could be helpful for runners (and other people) to get some guidance in their approach to this matter. This is a general problem, inherent in our society as a whole and in the running community, as well, so I'll try to appeal to both sides.
In short, our food is an external source of energy to keep us moving. To a certain extent, it is a source of our pleasure, as well. Which part of it prevails is difficult to define. It is well known from the ancient times that "we eat to live, but we do not live to eat". But very often we forget this wisdom, getting busy chewing something in excitement. Where is the boundary between one becoming the other? I am not advocating a prison like restriction, but I am for the proportion and harmony between what we need to keep us alive and capable of producing an effective work, and what we want to be pleased and satisfied. Isn't it so simple?
So what do we need to eat, how much and when, in relation to our training and life?
OK, what does science tell us? Food is an external source of energy for our body. The amount of food taken should be in accordance with the amount of energy we spend for just living and then for our training. If we don't eat enough to cover our expenses for exercising, we get sick and loose our ability to move. Everybody knows this so well! It is our primary instinct at work, our need to survive. Our body (mind) screams in order to get some food inside the body and mostly we hear it very well. Sometimes, too well.
But if we eat more, than we spend, then what? Well, it's very simple, you'll store it and get overweight. So the solution is very simple - just do the "push the table" exercise! How far? You'll be hungry in an hour, while you are training. And then there are all these bars with "balances" of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, microelements, vitamins, etc. How do you deal with this complexity? Plus you need to know something about your blood type, which makes even known things uncertain, at the end of the day. Where is the proper answer or does it even exist at all?
Yes, it could drive you crazy, if you forget what your primary goal is: running or nutrition? So where is the answer? It is right there, in you, in your skill of eating, as in everything else. You have to learn what is good for you from the point of view of your needs in proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins, which your body recognizes better than anyone else. But before going any further into details, let's set up some simple rules.
Your body takes only what it needs. If there is no need, then it takes it out or transfers into fat. You can see it by experimenting with vitamins. Just check the color of your urine afterwards. Any unnecessary amount of carbohydrates immediately manifests itself on the scales. So when you get addicted to power bars, check up on your scale to see how much you need it.
Our body is a very wise "machine", if we let it make a choice as to what to eat and how much, but we have to really allow it to do it without any interference from our habits. You need a certain discipline and culture to eat no more than you need. You need knowledge about your needs in all components of our nutrition, but after that, again, it boils down to discipline and culture, real perception of your needs, but not just your wishes. Sure, it is a very difficult task to make your needs and your wishes meet, but at the end of the day, it is no more difficult than getting any other knowledge.