I’ve been meaning to share some of my thoughts on food and, in general, explore this topic a bit more on this blog. Food is, of course, the fuel that powers our runs…and our recovery. It’s too important to ignore. But, if you’re like me, it’s tough to keep up with all the science, studies and Michael Pollan books (side note: I can’t read books on food…they always make me hungry).
So, I have come to develop my own guidelines on how to approach nutrition. You may find this helpful. Or you may not. To each their own, but the below is working for me.
Follow Your Cravings
If you’re sitting at home really wanting a banana, go buy one. (You probably need some potassium). If you can’t stop thinking about that milkshake at Barney’s, well, go get have that milkshake.
I believe that cravings are a body’s way of saying: “Hey man, I need some sort of specific nutrient.” I also believe that my body is much smarter than I am, so I tend to listen.
Avoid Processed Foods
This is sometimes hard to do, which is why I “avoid” processed foods as opposed to not eating processed food at all. I like ice cream way too much (see above, “cravings”) and I don’t always have the time to cook or make a salad (who does?). If my non-processed/processed ratio of calories is above 70/30, then that’s pretty good in my book.
Pollan has the “don’t eat anything your grandmother doesn’t recognize” rule. That’s pretty good. Mine is similar: “I avoid stuff I don’t understand.” I paid way too much for college and grad school to not understand the ingredients on a box.
Haagen Dazs’ new Five brand plays to that rule. That’s “five” for total number of ingredients. I’m enjoying “milk, cream, sugar, eggs, mint” as I’m writing this post. Yum!
This goes almost without saying. Don’t completely avoid anything completely. You need carbs (duh). You need fat. You need sugar. All in moderation.
On the flip side, don’t eat too much of anything. Eating a steak every day or consuming three gallons of water to “flush your system” can’t be good for you. Common sense in my book.
Mix It Up
I’m guilty of this like anyone else. It’s easy to go to the store every week and buy the exact same stuff. The same bread. The same veggies. The same fruits. The same yogurt. It’s easy because you know how to make it. It’s comfortable. It doesn’t break your routine.
We’re employing two strategies in our household to combat this. (1) We get a mixed fruits and veggies box from a local farm on a bi-weekly basis. Almost every time, we jump on the internet to figure out how to prepare this or that item. When was the last time you had beets? Or whole carrots? Or cauliflower? (2) I have also started buying at least one item every week that I’ve never bought before. This week it was hot peppers, which turned into my first homemade salsa and a lot of taunting in our household (“Why are you sweating? Do you need some water? You can’t take it, can you?”).
So, that’s my approach to nutrition. Simple.
Full disclaimer: I am 6 feet, almost 30 years old and weigh in at 165 or so, which is equivalent to my 9th grade weight. While I run a lot, I have actually lost about 5 or so pounds the last 6 months without increasing mileage. My ice-cream intake is about 1-3 pints/week.