Change is never easy.  But as far diet goes it is a change I am pleased I made. I am not a nutritionist, but have decent knowledge with a unit in my undergrad degree on nutrition, as well as being lucky enough to work with some sports nutritionists while I was playing rugby. I am not going to preach about what to eat. There is enough info out there from people who know far more than me on that subject. However, there are some common rules that I agree with 100%..

What you eat is vital to fuelling endurance training and races.

For optimal performance you need the fuel, while also keeping yourself nice and lean. So your diet is vitally important.

If you want to maintain and sustain a healthy diet, you should build the content of the diet around foods you enjoy eating.

There is lots of evidence to say people underestimate their calorie intake. Couple that with the endurance attitude of “I can eat what I want” because of the training and you can put a serious obstacle in the way of your progress.

But remember, it may be an obstacle, but it is in no way an immovable one!

Although I am quite proud of my marathon running achievements, I am in no doubt that I have been very guilty of over rewarding my efforts with food. I do tend to eat healthily, at least most of the time.  But there are plenty of occasions when I have succumbed to foods with limited nutritional value after a tough training session.

So what have I done about it? I saw this fantastic YouTube clip from a Canadian nutritionist who has worked with some of Canada’s top athletes.  It looks at the types and quantity of food that different athletes consume. Check it out – it might make you think!

I have tracked my intake long enough now with MyFitnessPal to have learnt the calorie content of different foods, but most importantly how my body responds to different amounts of calories over time. The experience is crucial because everyone responds differently. Yes there are plenty of common sense rules, but how your body responds is totally individual. So these are the benchmarks I now work towards…

  1. If I am having a rest day I allow myself up to 2400 calories. This seems to maintain weight and I am definitely not starving myself.  Making healthy choices and this still allows a good amount of food to go down the hatch.
  2. Moderate training days sees my calorie content increase up to 2700 calories. This would be a day for a example a 10k Run.
  3. Finally the tougher days with double sessions or any run over 10 miles, I allow myself to have 3200 calories. These are probably the days when I possibly create a calorie deficit, and over time have played a part in getting towards my ideal racing weight.

What am I finding?

Do I have enough energy?  Plenty. I eat well and do not in any way starve myself. I love food and do not feel I am holding back.

Am I losing weight? Since starting this process my weight has slowly dropped towards my current 68kgs. Over the last few years I have been between 70-72kgs most of the time, and while not a major change, I am definitely benefitting in the latter stages of longer runs. Hopefully it will make the difference in the last 6 miles of a marathon one of these days.

I feel better for the 2-3kgs of weight loss, both in myself and when I am running. It doesn’t necessarily mean major change. But where diet is concerned, discipline is a must, and small changes can create significant gains.

If you want to make a change then it is worth the effort.

Check out my article on DIET TWEAKS to see the impact a seemingly small change can make over the course of just one week.