What We Mortals Can Learn From the 4-Minute Mile

The experts said it couldn’t be done

According to legend, experts said for years that the human body was simply not capable of a 4-minute mile.  It wasn’t just dangerous; it was impossible.

Further legends hold that people had tried for over a thousand years to break the barrier, even tying bulls behind them to increase the incentive to do the impossible.

In the 1940’s, the mile record was pushed to 4:01, where it stood for nine years, as runners struggled with the idea that, just maybe, the experts had it right.  Perhaps the human body had reached its limit.

The breakthrough

On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier, running the distance in 3:59.4.  As part of his training, he relentlessly visualized the achievement in order to create a sense of certainty in his mind and body.

Barely a year after Bannister’s accomplishment,  someone else ran a mile in under 4 minutes. Then some more runners did. Now, it’s almost routine.  Even strong high-schoolers today run 4-minute miles.  [Note: this used to say “24 people broke the 4-minute mark within a year of Bannister.  This is wrong; see the comments.]

What does this mean for us?

I don’t know about you, but for me, a 4-minute mile is probably not in the cards.  (5 minutes?  Maybe one day.)  That’s not the point.  The point is this: It took a sense of extreme certainty for Roger Bannister to do what was considered un-doable.  He alone was able to create that certainty in himself without seeing any proof that it could be done.

But once he crashed through that barrier, the rest of the world saw that it was possible, and the previous record that had stood for nine years was broken routinely.

New Agers call it the Law of Attraction, scientists call it the RAS

I love this story.  I don’t know how much of it is true; I sense that some of the details have become overblown in an effort to dramatize.  Either way, it doesn’t matter.  I’ve witnessed firsthand what a little certainty can do.

When you become certain of something, when every part of your makeup believes it because you focus on it every single day, something “magical” happens.  Not New Age magical, but science magical.  We have a system in our bodies called the reticular activating system (RAS) that helps our brains decide what information to focus on and what to delete.

When you have a clearly-defined purpose, a mission, and when you live every moment in a state of certainty that you’ll achieve it, you influence what your RAS filters out and what lights it up.  As a result, you pay special attention things that help you achieve what you’re after, things you otherwise would have never noticed.

When I was trying to qualify for Boston, I wrote a post about how certain I had been that I’d do it, as documented by a grad-school application letter I wrote.  There was no reason for this certainty.  But I found it somewhere in myself, and it’s for that reason alone that I eventually did qualify last year.  (You’ve seen the new page about all my best BQ posts, right?)

And now, it’s that way with ultramarathons.  Before I knew that people even ran 100-milers, someone told me that a friend of mine was running them.  I didn’t believe it; I thought something had gotten garbled in the chain of communication.  But I found an ultra group and started training with them, guys and girls who do 50’s and 100’s all the time.  They’re not superhuman; they’re runners like me.  Some faster, some slower.  But now I’m certain.

Later this year I’ll run a 50-miler (the JFK 50-miler is a likely candidate), and I’ll run a 100 after that.  Of this I’m certain.

Where could you use a little certainty?  What would it take, short of proof, to make you believe?

This post is part of a series on motivation for running.  Check out the rest!

28 Comments

 

Java Joe checks in

Hi, my name is Joe.  Chances are, we’ve already hung out today.  Why?  Because you tell yourself you can’t get through the day without me.  When someone dares suggest that you stop drinking me every day, you get a little irked.  You certainly don’t consider the possibility of actually quitting me; in fact, you’re just a little bit proud that we’re so close.

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You know you love me.

No, you won’t stop drinking me.  You pay careful attention to what you eat and you’re sure to get your exercise.  But when someone tells you I’m not good for you, well, that’s going too far.  Even if it’s true, it doesn’t matter.  I’m the one part of your diet that’s nonnegotiable.  Funny, when someone feels that way about any other substance, we call it an addiction.  We get them help.

Everyone loves Joe!

But nobody worries about a good-old addiction to Joe.  I get a pass, because everyone drinks me.  I’m legal.  And I’ve got a lot of money behind me to make sure nobody catches on that I’m sort of harmful.  That I make you age faster.  That I aggravate all kinds of other conditions, and just might be the cause of lots of your little health problems.  Heart disease, bowel problems, ulcers, anxiety, depression, even reproductive issues.  But don’t worry about those.  And let’s not harp on that whole “quietly sucking away your energy under the guise of an innocent pick-me-up” thing.

You feel good for a little while after you drink me because I play a nifty trick on your body.  I make you think you’re under stress, so that your system speeds up.  You start thinking faster — not in a relaxed, creative way, but in a way that might help you in a fight.  If you’ve got anything going on that’s bothering you, I help you forget about that for a while.  No time for moping, you’re in a fight!

Oh that’s right, you’re not.  You’re sitting in your car, surfing the web, or listening to the radio.  So all this excess stimulation serves to make you feel happy and alert.

Joe’s dark secret

So, we’re friends, right?  Then you won’t mind my sharing a horrible secret with you.  Ready?  Here it is: I don’t really have anything in me you can burn for energy, so that boost you get is all you.  You’ll have to pay it back later.  Lucky for me though, by then you’ve moved on.  You’re thinking about work, or the grocery store, the bills, or your secretary.  When the crash comes — and it MUST come — you’ve forgotten that maybe I’m to blame.  Must be that big lunch or all the stress of your job that made you so tired.  Certainly not a little drink like me you had six hours ago, right?

sad coffeeWhen you wake up the next day, you might feel like you didn’t sleep all that well.  My bad on that one too.  But remember how good I can make you feel?  So rather than cutting ties, letting this be the end, you come back for more.  A booty call, of sorts.

And so it goes.  You drink more and more of me.  You always get tired now.  Your body has gotten used to me, so you need to drink even more, just to feel yourself.  You forget how much energy you had before I came along.  Sometimes it seems strange to think you lived for years before you even tried me.

But the antioxidants!

But I’m here to stay now.  If you try to stop, you get a headache.  Lest you get any heroic ideas of putting up with a few miserable days to free yourself from my grasp, keep this in mind: I have antioxidants! Can’t get those anywhere else, right?  Oh, that’s right, since you’re an NMA reader you probably eat pretty well and get lots of those from fruits and veggies.  And they don’t have any poison in them!  Well..err… forget that and focus on the headache.

Please don’t stop drinking me.  I hardly know Matt anymore.  Sure, we still hang out a few times a week, but when we do, I feel like only a third or a quarter or some other random percentage of my former self.  We just don’t jive anymore.  He goes on and on about how he’s beginning to realize he doesn’t need me.  That when he unknowingly drinks my lame-ass sister Deanna Kathleen (we call her Dee Kath), he feels just as good, without the anxiety afterward.  I’m all in his head, he says.  Well Matt, you smell bad.

Look, you and I have known each other for a while now, and we both know how much you depend on me.  How I help you get out of bed in the morning, and how the day doesn’t start until we hang out.  You need me.  I’m your friend.

I can trust you not to quit your old pal Joe, right? icon wink

27 Comments

 

Nathan Hydration Vest Review

I’m still not a huge fan of video blogs (also called “vlogs,” one of the dumbest words I’ve ever heard).  I guess I’d just rather read a well-written post than watch someone talk about something off the cuff.  But there are times when videos are more appropriate, and this is one of them.

Down with needless bonks

Today’s post is a video review of my Nathan hydration vest.  Before I got it, I was terrible about bringing water and food on runs because I just hated to carry it along, and this resulted in a few really bad and even dangerous bonks.  And my Nathan vest has solved that problem so well that I decided it was worth a post.  I didn’t even know these things existed until I started trail running, so I’m guessing there are a lot of you who think the only hydration option is a sucky Fuel Belt.

So here you go.  This isn’t a paid review (I don’t do those), and they didn’t send it to me for free or anything.  I’m just a big fan.  (By the way, in the beginning when I’m talking about my upcoming race, I’m saying “HAT 50K,” not “half 50K.”  That would be an even dumber word than “vlog,” because wouldn’t we just call it a 25K?)

To learn more about Nathan products, visit their website.  (The one I have is the HPL 020).  If you want to buy one, here’s a link to Amazon’s Nathan vests.  That’s an affiliate link, like most of my links to Amazon, which means I get a commission when someone buys stuff from it.  But I think you know me well enough by now to know I wouldn’t recommend something I didn’t really like.

I mention Vega Sport in the video, too.  Here’s a link to my Vega Sport review.

Stay out of trouble tonight!  And if you wouldn’t mind, leave me a comment to let me know how Oscar-worthy my performance was.  And I’d like to know what you all do for hydration, too.

27 Comments

 

Sweet-Tooth Friday: Elizabeth Gordon interview

Hello dear healthy foodies!  It’s Christine here with a one-of-a-kind Sweet-Tooth Friday: my first interview!  Last week my world was rocked when I made gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free and nut-free Pineapple Upside Down cake from Elizabeth Gordon’s new book, Allergy-Free Desserts.  This week you get to listen in on my chat with Elizabeth herself!  How cool is that she checked in with us NMA-ers, especially when her next interview was on Sirius Radio’s Martha Stewart Everyday Food Show!

9780470448465 262x300Elizabeth immediately got a lot of street-cred with me when I found out she interned for famed cake designer Elisa Strauss at Confetti Cakes.  Ok so maybe you aren’t a cake-dork like me, but surely, ladies, you remember Charlotte’s wedding cake on Sex in the City?  The clean and funky sculpted cake designs from The Confetti Cakes Cookbook have been a real inspiration to me in seeing how artful dessert can be.

I was excited to learn that Elizabeth is not just all about allergy-free baking, she also loves to run!  She ran competitively in high school and college and still pounds the pavement today.

Anyway we chatted for a bit, so I bolded some of her more important insights about gluten-free baking if you want to skip around.

Christine: Thank you so much for sending me a copy of your book.  It’s really pretty, I love the photography.

Elizabeth: Thank you!

C: Yeah, it’s just gorgeous.  I did try out a recipe already- I did the cinnamon buns since you said those were your favorites.

E: Oh yeah?  How did they turn out?

C: They were great!  I was really impressed.

E: Oh good! Oh I’m so glad!

C: Yeah I’ve tried other gluten-free stuff before and it has always had that gritty essence.

E: Yeah that’s a real problem with rice flour which is why for this book I decided to stick with the bean flours.  But I have been playing around with a little bit with rice lately and I find that the secret is to use Chinese rice flour.

C: Oh really?  What is that, is it like sweeter?

E: It has a finer grind, it’s not as gritty.  In one of my recipes in the book I have a cookie crust (no bake crust) for pie and I do use regular rice flour for that because I feel if you’re making something that is supposed to mimic a graham crumb cracker crust it is supposed to be a little gritty, but for most things you don’t want grit in your cookies or cakes.

C: So I’m really excited to try out some more recipes.  Usually when I bake I do vegan, which is without the eggs and dairy of course, and I try to stay low on the sugar and use alternative flours.  I had never heard of the Lyle’s Golden Syrup before your book.  How did you find out about that?

E: One of my really good friends is British and my thinking in using that is that her husband is American and he’s a doctor, and he is very kind of laid back about foods and doesn’t really care what the children eat except for corn syrup.  So I wanted to make something that would was like a marshmallow and like a decorating icing, and to do those two things in traditional American baking you usually would use corn syrup, and I couldn’t get the agave to work because it’s a little thinner, I couldn’t get it to do what I needed it to do…And I was walking with my friend one day and she just said, “Oh you’ve never heard of Lyle’s?  In great Britain we use it for EVERYTHING.”  It’s just cooked down sugar.

C: Yeah I saw the only ingredient is cane syrup.  I recently got a big piece of cane sugar at the grocery store- I’ve never seen one before and was going to cook it down and see what happened.

E: Oh that’s interesting, let me know how that goes I’ve never done that before.

C: So, are you actually allergic to all the things that your book caters to?

E: I am allergic to wheat and eggs, and about the same time I found out I was allergic one of my closest friends had a baby who was diagnosed with severe soy and dairy allergies.  So she was nursing this baby which means she couldn’t eat any soy or dairy.  So I was like the more the merrier with all these food allergies, I’m going to give myself a challenge and see if I can make something for everyone.  You know also I have kids and it’s worked out well that I did this because it makes for great treats that you can bring into the schools.  (In NYC kids are not allowed to bring anything to school that has a nut in it.  And a lot of the kids have dairy and soy allergies.  This is a treat that you can bring to everyone’s classroom, (for the most part- you should still check with the teacher obviously) but it makes life a little easier for moms. I’m not sure if it’s a law in NYC, it’s just become an accepted norm and most schools have that requirement.

C: Do your daughters have your same allergies?

E: No they are very lucky they weren’t diagnosed with food allergies.  My youngest daughter had a hard time starting with solid foods, she had some intolerance at the beginning but she seems to have outgrown them.

C: So I have been hearing a lot more about gluten-free baking even without intolerance to it- do you think that the allergy to it is on the rise or just awareness is increasing?

E: I don’t know, you know people ask me that about autism all the time too because a lot of autistic kids aren’t allowed to eat gluten or dairy.  I think awareness is rising, because there are a lot of great charities out there now like the NFCA, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness who have a lot of famous spokespeople and are able to raise money for awareness and therefore are really spreading the word so they are making this disease more accepted mainstream.  And so there’s more food available for people like me who do have food allergies.  And as more and more people hear about it, they hear the symptoms and go “oh my gosh, that’s been happening to me and then they go get a test.”  So I don’t know if the awareness is increasing the diagnosis or the diagnosis is increasing awareness.

C: That makes sense.  So do you guys eat mostly gluten free at home or are you able to have some other types of food at home for your husband and kids?

E: My husband and kids do not eat gluten-free, I mean I cook every night for dinner and I try to make stuff all of us can eat, so you know I’ll make polenta for dinner instead of pasta or I’ll make risotto instead of pasta or rice.  But my kids are kids so they do love pasta, and I let them have it.  It’s only been recently that I’ve discovered corn and quinoa pasta which I think is great and has a much better consistency when cooked than rice pasta.

C: Oh yeah I love quinoa.  So what is your favorite dessert in the book to make for your family?

E: I think my favorite dessert to eat in the book is the one that you made, the cinnamon rolls.  My daughters love the red velvet cake.

C: Oh I almost made that and I thought I’d just use natural food coloring, until I saw your little tip—

E: -oh yea don’t use natural [beet] food coloring it will taste so bad.

C: It’s so funny because one time for one of my Sweet-Tooth Friday posts I made red velvet beet cupcakes specifically with beets and I just never posted it because it was just so bad.  It was disappointing because they were really pretty but just tasted like dirt.

E: I was really excited the first time I tried the recipe and I was so excited because I had used natural food coloring, and I was like “Look at me, I’m so clever that I did something natural” and then I took a bite and my husband couldn’t even eat it- it was so disgusting.  But back to the recipes, they rice crispy treats are always a hit with my girls, they love to make those and I actually like to make those with them because they are pretty quick and easy and there’s a lot of stuff for them to pour in.

C: I saw you called for gluten-free rice crispies- aren’t regular rice crispies already gluten free?

E: No, regular rice crispies are not gluten-free, they do contain wheat.  The one mainstream cereal that I know of that has always been gluten-free is Rice Chex.

C: Oh yeah I love Chocolate Rice Chex, they say largely on the box “gluten-free” so I guess they are advertising it now.

E: Yeah so if you just go to the supermarket and want to grab something easy the Rice Chex are always gluten free but the rice crispies aren’t, so you have to look for the brand Erewhorn crisped rice, not puffed rice, which would be terrible.

C: What do you think would be one of the trickiest ingredients in store bought food that people wouldn’t realize contains gluten or nuts?

E: I think people who just decide you know that ‘everyone around me is trying to avoid wheat,’ or ‘I’ve got a loved one that I want to bake for,’ might be fooled by spelt.  They might go to the store and think oh it’s spelt, it’s not wheat but actually spelt is glutinous and is part of the wheat family.

C: One that I was surprised by was alcohol, like vanilla extract can be grain alcohol so I needed to get alcohol-free vanilla.

E: Well you can actually call the manufacturer and find out what kind of grain they use for the alcohol because a lot of times it’s corn.  At home I use Penzeys Double Vanilla Extract and it is gluten-free, I checked with the manufacturer.

C: Yeah anytime I’ve done an order for gluten-free I’ve had to spend so much time online, checking the food coloring and the sprinkles to see if there’s anything random in them.

E: Yeah the sprinkles, you think they are just sugar but sometimes they have soy in them, so I usually just use the colored sugar crystals.

C: Oh that makes sense!  So a lot of prepackaged food seems to randomly say ‘may contain traces of…’ or ‘shares processing equipment with…’ Do you think a lot of that food could be safe for people with celiac disease and [the label] is just put on there because of the liability issue?

E: That’s a really tricky question that I’m probably not qualified to answer.  Well I can tell you, for example, this I know this for sure, that Bob’s Red Mill, which I’m a big fan of their flours, they will say “manufactured in a plant that processes I think it’s almonds or something to that effect.”  So I called them, panicked, thinking ‘oh my god my food is contaminated.’  They said they had to say that because it’s segregated manufacturing but because the almond flour is on one side of the warehouse, and walls are up in between and there is another wall, and they do their flour on the other side, they are required by law to say that.  So that’s why that’s a tricky question because I don’t know what every manufacturing facility looks like.  I don’t know if they are co-packers and run things on the same line- then I would say very dangerous, or if it’s just semantics, I don’t know.  I guess the answer that I would like to see on your blog is that I’m not qualified to answer that and that you should always call the manufacturer.

C: So with your own baking company (Betsy and Claude) were there any issues like that, where you had to label your baked goods a certain way?

E: No, I got a new space, I got all new equipment.  Nothing with flour has ever entered that space or the oven.  All of the ingredients have been kept out.  And now I’ve switched to just doing private events rather than a pound of cookies here and there, so I am baking less and less and focusing more and more on really big projects like working on a wedding cake, or—

C: —more cookbooks!  I think I am going to make your pineapple upside down cake next.  So what is one thing that you’d like the NMA readers to take away knowing about your book?

E: That it is a labor of love, that I wrote it so my family and I could enjoy the desserts, but also so that no one would miss out on that part of childhood, or be forced to always have a separate dessert at birthday parties or at school.  I want everyone to know that they don’t have to forsake tasty desserts just because they have allergies.  Thanks again and so glad that you enjoyed the recipes!

C: Thank you so much for talking with me today!

It really is obvious that Allergy-Free Desserts is a labor of love for Elizabeth Gordon.  The book does a great job explaining what alternative ingredients you need for allergy-free baking and how they work to replicate the structure and taste of traditional desserts.  I really liked the tips and sidenotes throughout the book- especially when making these yeast-risen cinnamon buns.  The tips anticipated my troubles (gluten-free dough rises a lot differently than regular dough) and instructed me on how to handle obstacles.

Oh by the way, since picking up a bottle of Lyle’s golden syrup I’ve become so hooked on it!  It has that pleasant burnt caramelized taste, like the top of creme brulee.  I’ve been putting it in my tea, mixing it with balsamic vinegar and oil to roast brussel sprouts, and adding it with lime and coconut to my Thai curries.  Yum!

If you haven’t yet, check out the recipe for Allergy-Free Pineapple Upside-Down Cake from last Sweet-Tooth Friday.  You can find the recipe for these AMAZING cinnamon buns (even my dad liked them, and he’s a toughie) in Elizabeth’s Gordon’s new book, Allergy-Free Desserts.  To hear more from Elizabeth, check out her blog My Allergy-Free Life.

Until next time, stay sweet!

xoxo Christine


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Lentil soup with…pineapple?

lentil soup photo 300x225Happy Thursday, everybody.  It’s the springiest day we’ve had all year, which means only one thing—lots of melting.  If this keeps up, I might even be able to do some trail running this weekend (if I can remember how).  My next 50K is two weeks away, and I got in 20 miles on the roads last weekend.  I’m thinking it’s a little late to try to do anything longer, and really, what kind of ultrarunner would I be if I adequately prepared for the distance?  Answer: a lame one.

When you’re through here, make sure you check out my new Running Shorts post, “Is junk mileage making you slower?”  I got a laugh when I found the perfect picture for the post, considering my upcoming change…

New food, still no meat

veg 247x300I have a great new vegan recipe for you today, the first of many, I predict.  Isa Moskowitz, the vegan-cooking rock star in charge of the Post Punk Kitchen and co-author of Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, has given me permission to share some of the recipes from the book with you No Meat Athlete readers!  So I’ve made Veganomicon my featured cookbook for March, during which time I’ll post my favorite recipes from it.  Who said your old pal the NMA never got you anything?

First up is one that I had to try when I saw the name: Ancho-Lentil Soup with Grilled Pineapple.  Now I don’t know about you, but to me, pineapple and lentils sound like strange bowlfellows.  I associate lentils with heavy, sometimes spicy, curry flavors, maybe with some wilted spinach.  Or something like the wine-braised lentils over toast.

But it turns out that there’s more to this recipe that makes it all work.  The homemade chile powder is made with coriander, which adds some of those bright, island-y flavors.  And a little lime juice goes a long way to give the whole soup a fresh, shoes-off taste fit to be paired with a good strong margarita and a beach bar.  Or endurance training in the snow.

The soup came out really well, with the grilled pineapple sealing the deal.  And hands-on time is minimal.  Give this one a try and let me know what you think.

An admission: I couldn’t find ancho chiles at the store, so I substituted a tablespoon of standard chile powder, whose only ingredient was ground chile pepper.  I bet the real thing’s even better.  If you do it, I’d better hear about it.

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Ancho-Lentil Soup with Grilled Pineapple (from Veganomicon)

Serves 6.  Time: 45 minutes.

Chile powder:

  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 dried ancho chile, seeds removed, ripped into bite-sized pieces

Soup:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, cut into small dice
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups green lentils, washed
  • 7-8 cups vegetable stock or water or a mix of both
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice, or to taste
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 6-8 pineapple rings
  • Slices of lime
  • Hot sauce

We’re going to make our own ancho chile powder! Preheat a small skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the cumin seeds and ancho chile pieces and stir often, until fragrant and toasted, 3 to 5 minutes.

Transfer to a spice grinder (we use a clean coffee grinder) or small food processor and grind to a coarse powder.  Some bigger pieces of chile are okay.  Add the coriander seeds and pulse a few times to crush them—you don’t want them completely ground to a powder, just broken up pretty well.

Preheat a big stockpot over medium heat.  Saute the onions in the olive oil until transparent, 5 to 7 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add the chile powder and mix into the onions.  Add the bay leaves, salt, lentils, and 7 cups of water.  Mix well.  Raise the heat to high, cover, and bring to a boil.  Once the soup is boiling, lower the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Meanwhile, heat your grill pan over high heat or preheat a broiler.  Spray your grill pan with cooking spray and grill the pineapple slices for 4 minutes on each side, or until grill lines appear.  If using a broiler, cook on one side for 3 minutes and on the other for about 2 minutes, until the pineapple begins to brown and slightly caramelize.

Once the lentils are tender, add an extra cup of water/stock if you think the soup needs thinning.  Add the lime juice and stir.

Remove the bay leaf.  Use an immersion blender to puree about half the soup.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, use a potato masher to mash it up a bit, until the desired thickness is achieved.  Taste and adjust the salt.

To serve:

Ladle into bowls and top with a pineapple ring, a slice of lime, and a few dots of hot sauce.

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The Least You Need to Know About Fueling Your Run

fuel tank 300x225After having a lot of fun researching exercise nutrition for the previous two posts in this series, those on pre-workout nutrition and recovery drinks, I figured the “during the run” post would be a breeze.  After all, everyone drinks (or eats) something during his or her run; only those who take fitness more seriously bother to think about the before and after.

To my surprise, this was the hardest of the bunch.  But that turns out to be good news: The guidelines for during-the-run fuel are few and simple, allowing you to tweak whatever works for your specific body to meet the requirements.

Please note that this list is the result of my own research, fusing bits of information from books like Chris Carmichael’s Food for Fitness, Thrive, Core Performance Endurance, and The Paleo Diet for Athletes.  With endurance running comes the risk of dehydration, bonking, and hyponatremia, which are not things to f  around with.  So don’t blindly follow my advice without doing some research of your own.

Without further delay, I present to you…

How to Eat and Drink During a Run

1.  Get off the commercial drinks and gels. Or at least, check them out to make sure they don’t contain artificial colors and sweeteners.  While some sports drinks are truly designed for athletes, many of the more popular ones must also cater to the masses of non-athletes who buy them as soda alternatives.  Much better to make your own natural sports drink and raw energy gel, both courtesy of pro vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier, in his book Thrive.

2.  Consume mostly liquid or easily-digesting food like gel. Solid food takes more energy and blood to digest than liquid, leaving you with less for hauling ass.  And it’s more likely to cause intestinal distress, which can ruin a race.  Except for the longest events, skip the solids.

3.  For all workouts, take in 4 to 6 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes. Your goal is to replace most of what you lose in weight, so if you want to get precise, you can figure out what you lose during a standard workout and drink the exact amount you need to replace it.  Or just chill out and just follow a rule of thumb like this one.

4.  Get 500 milligrams of sodium with every 16 ounces you drink. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, and that puts you at risk for hyponatremia if you hydrate without replacing them. For those of you making your own drinks and gels, 500 milligrams is a little less than the amount in a quarter teaspoon of salt.

5. For workouts and races lasting over an hour (and up to 4 or 5 hours), you need 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. 30-60 grams is a commonly-cited figure, but it’s a big range.  More useful might be to divide your body weight in pounds by 4 to get a minimum hourly carbohydrate requirement, in grams.  Accomplish this with a sports drink or a combination of energy gel and water.  Some claim a little bit of protein, in a 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio, helps minimize muscle damage.

6.  For anything lasting much more than 5 hours, the nutrition focus shifts to fat, with a smaller amount of carbohydrate. For details, go find an ultrarunner who has run more than a single 50K!

Coincidentally (ok, not really all that coincidentally), Megan and I just published a joint post about this very topic on our True/Slant blog Running Shorts.  That post is about our own habits; doing this research has made me realize that I need to change mine!  (Especially with regard to shorter workouts.)

For more posts and recipes on natural sports nutrition, check out my Running Fuel page.

23 Comments