Experience From - George Beinhorn, Karl King, Vic Culp

Nancy Clark M.S. R.N.
Originally found on the Running Network

"I Know What I Should Do To Eat Well; I Just Don't Do It" If this mantra sounds familiar, the following primer can perhaps help you fuel yourself with premium nutrition and invest in your good health for many years to come.

Aging is the accumulation of a lifetime of poor nutrition and inactivity. To maintain your youthfulness, eat wisely, eat well, and enjoy regular physical activity. People who burn 1,500 calories per week via exercise tend to be healthier and live longer. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. People who eat breakfast tend to make wiser food choices the rest of the day and have an overall healthier diet than do breakfast skippers. Cereal at 8:00 a.m. is nutritionally preferable to donuts at 10. Cereal is a breakfast of champions. Fiber-rich cereals (bran flakes, oat bran, all-bran, etc.) are among the best choices. Enjoy with a banana, low fat milk and glass of orange juice for an A+ meal that's high in carbohydrates, low in fat, calcium-rich and cook-free. Diets to lose weight should start dinner. Be sure to eat a substantial breakfast and lunch so you'll have the energy you need to exercise--and enjoy doing so, and remind yourself at dinner, "I'd rather be thinner than over-eat." Eat before you get too hungry! Otherwise, you'll start to crave sweets and will likely succumb to poor food choices. Fats are fattening in excess, but so are fat-free foods. Small amounts of fat can help balance your diet, satisfy your hunger and reduce the desire to eat yet-another-serving of fat-free food (frozen yogurt, cookies, etc.) that adds calories to your diet.

Good nutrition starts in the supermarket. Post a shopping list in a convenient place where you and your family can easily add to it, and then remember to use it! Shop when you are well fed. Otherwise, too many treats may jump into the shopping cart.

Hunger is simply your body's request for fuel. Honor your body's hunger by fueling yourself appropriately. Try to eat like a child--that is, eat when you are hungry, and stop when content. You'll achieve an appropriate weight and have lots of energy. Ice cream that is expensive tends to be highest in calories and fat. Stick to the inexpensive brands--or frozen yogurt. Junk food can fit into your diet after you have eaten wholesome meals. That is, you can appropriately enjoy a small brownie for dessert after a healthful lunch. Ten percent of your daily calories (about 180-250) can appropriately come from sugar.

Keep to an eating schedule. People tend to get hungry every four hours (breakfast at 8:00, lunch at 12:00, snack at 4:00, dinner at 7:00-8:00). Don't skip meals or you'll lack energy and likely over-compensate later in the day. Lentils, kidney beans, split pea soup and other foods made with beans and legumes are excellent for both protein and carbohydrates. They digest slowly, providing a steady release of energy that can enhance your stamina. Meats have a cholesterol content similar to chicken and fish. Meat's saturated fat is the health culprit. Two to four lean meat-meals per week can be a healthful addition to a sports diet, to provide protein as well as iron and zinc. No one should eliminate favorite foods, even foods loaded with fat. Denial will eventually lead to binge eating. For example, enjoying a "diet portion" of five chips every day is healthier than succumbing to 500 chips on the weekend.

Oranges, grapefruits and other citrus fruits are among the best fruit choices. They are rich in Vitamin C and potassium. Eat a citrus fruit daily--an excellent health-booster. A 6-ounce glass of orange juice provides the Daily Value for Vitamin C (60 mg).

Potatoes offer more nutritional value than do rice or pasta (plain, without the tomato sauce). Bake several and enjoy the planned-overs for breakfast, lunch and even snacks. Be sure to eat the skin--most of the vitamin C is right underneath! Quick Meals that include at least three types of wholesome foods tend to be "well-balanced" meals. Examples: cereal, milk and banana; bagel, peanut butter and yogurt; apple, low fat cheese and crackers; spaghetti, tomato sauce and ground turkey. Rather than suffer through fat-free cheese and other fat-free products that do not dazzle your taste buds, enjoy small portions of the "real thing." Given that 20-30 percent of your calories can appropriately come from fat, you might as well budget them in! Supplements are to supplement healthy eating, not to compensate for poor eating habits. For example, don't think that a calcium pill can replace milk, yogurt or other calcium-rich foods in your diet. Tofu (soy bean curd) is a health-protective food that reduces cholesterol and the risk of both heart disease and cancer. Add some to soups, casseroles and mixed meals. Tofu is sold in the produce section of the grocery store. Unless you want to become frail and lose your ability to live independently, you should do exercise that maintains your muscles. Muscles boost your metabolism, making it easier to eat more or lose weight. Strength training is the wave of the future! Vegetables are the best source of "all natural" vitamins. Colorful veggies such as broccoli, spinach, kale, carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers and tomatoes are powerhouses. The deeper and darker the color, the richer the nutritional value. Water is found not only in water, but also in oranges, soups, yogurt, salads and other watery foods. You are getting enough water if your urine is clear and voluminous, and if you urinate every two to four hours. Dark, smelly urine signifies dehydration. Extra vitamin E may be protective against heart disease and cancer. Because people cannot easily eat enough E via common food choices, a supplement of 200 to 400 IUs per day may be a wise health investment. Yes, you can take time to eat well. Avoid the trap, "I'm too busy and food is fattening, anyway." Food is one of life's pleasures. Zip and zing are the benefits of healthy eating. Eat well and enjoy your high energy, good health and top performances.

Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., is the nutrition counselor at SportsMedicine Brookline. Her popular books "Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook" ($18), and "The New York City Marathon Cookbook" ($23), are filled with "how to" tips and are available by writing to: Sports Nutrition Services 830 Boylston St. #205 Brookline, MA 02167

George Beinhorn

"Ken Young raised some interesting points in the Jan/Feb issue of Ultra Running magazine ( page 44 ). I'd like to add to that discussion...

Just a thought. After going on a Pritkin-style ultra-low-fat diet a couple years ago and losing 40 lbs, I got into trouble. Began having mysterious immune ailments in the middle of summer (sinusitis, bronchitis). Started taking some fats and my energy and immunity "immediately" returned.

My main point, however, is that before going back to fats I did some reading which I found very interesting. Specifically, I read two books, "Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill" by Udo Erasmus, Ph.D. and "The Facts About Fats" by John Finnegan.

Both of these books report a great deal of research that isn't cited much elsewhere. For example, they quote numerous studies showing that the way fats are processed and cooked can be more injurious to health than the fats themselves. Hydrogenated fats are the worst.

My own experience confirms this. Some fats leave me feeling wasted--e.g., high-fat, high-processed "convenience foods" like fatty chips, etc. Others have a very detrimental effect on my ability to process oxygen, e.g. olive oil which is a high-monounsaturated fat source. Mono-unsaturated fats are known to clog small blood vessels, preventing oxygen from getting through.

So, there are different fats that may have very different effects on performance. My feeling about it is "as close to nature as possible, and avoid the monounsaturates while racing and the day before."

Karl King

I'd like to add to what Rich said. You can get way too paranoid about what to eat and percentages of carbo, fat and protein.

One of the fundamental principles of control system theory is that a system must be observable and controllable. The percentage of carbo, fat and protein that one eats is not observable in real time, so you can't really control the precise nature of your food intake.

As one nutritionist put it, all you need know about diet can be written on a 3 X 5 card. In general, cut back on fat because almost every American eats too much. The fat you do eat should come from canola and olive oil. Flax oil and borage oil in small amounts can help meet your needs for essential fatty acids. Do not eat any fat that is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.

Endurance athletes have very high protein needs. Don't skimp in that area.

When you are not running, eat complex carbohydrates ( whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and some fruit ). Avoid simple sugars and empty carbo calories such as canned soda. During and after running, simple sugars are OK.

Most runners do not get enough of certain vitamins and minerals, even though in theory a good diet should supply enough ( magnesium, zinc, and some of the B vitamins ). Take a vitamin/mineral capsule as an insurance policy.

Avoid processed foods which contain a lot of additives.

If your body craves a particular food, eat it.

Remember, your ancestors existed before fast food and supermarkets, and diet books. Avoid complication and worry. Use quality ingredients and enjoy your meals.

Vic Culp

Allan Swanson wrote:

"I need some help, it seems every nutrition source I find lists a different recommended totals for calorie intake and breakdown. I am pretty sure that the "60-25-15" (or thereabouts) split is reasonable, but what about one's BMR and the resulting increase of consistent training, what should the effect be on overall calorie consumption? And finally, is body weight a driver and to what extent?"

To start remember, every person is a study of one when it comes to exact caloric intake and usage and how their can use carbohydrates, fats and proteins the best.

Reference the following homepage for a pretty good paper on how each of the calories are treated by the body.

Daily, you will burn calories for two reasons:

  1. Living and breathing (metabolism) - this is generally calculated by multiplying your current weight by 13.

  2. Extra Physical Activity - for example running usually burns 100 calories per mile.

Because every person is different, the only way to determine their reasonably precise number of calories burned daily is to trace their caloric intake and compare this with their weight change over an extended period of time. Also, water weight needs to be considered.

The constants that will not change are that 3500 calories equals one pound and one pint of water equals one pound.

So if you maintain proper hydration, you can calculate your calories used with the following formula for each week:

a = Beginning Weight lbs
b = Ending Weight Lbs
c = Calories eaten
d = miles run

To find
x = metabolism calories burned
y = calories burned per mile


(b - a) * 3500 = c - x - (y * d)

You will need multiple weeks to be able to solve for x and y but you will get a reasonable estimate.

Once you know how many calories that you burn each week, you will know what you can eat to gain or loss weight and how calories will be burned by running more. However, as your conditioning changes your metabolism will also change. So you need to keep monitoring your intake to note these changes.

As for 60-25-15 or 40-30-30, My opinion leans toward 60% carbs, less than 15% fat and the rest in proteins. This works for me.

What also works for me is low body fat. I try to keep it under 6% and my weight around 160 lbs (6'2"). I find that I run slower above this weight and below it I risk injury from reduced muscle mass.

Probably more than you wanted to know.