3 Nutrition Books Every Runner Should Read
Running in and of itself is not a hard concept to understand. But throw in races, training plans, injury prevention, cross training, sleep, and the other factors that runners think about when they’re working toward their goal race or PR, and it can get tricky. The same can be said for eating, food, nutrition and fueling strategies.
Eating is one of the most instinctual acts humans have! But there’s definitely a science to understanding HOW that food serves as fuel. Fueling our training is arguably just as important as the training itself. Runners should be well read about running and nutrition, as well as understand how our bodies best use the energy we consume. So where should you start? Read on to find out!
Diet Cults: The Surprising Fallacy at the Core of Nutrition Fads and a Guide to Healthy Eating for the Rest of Us
by Matt Fitzgerald
One theme they reoccurs on each of the books on our list is the idea that runners (and virtually everyone) need to throw out the term ‘diet’ from their definition. Why? Well for starters, 95 percent of diets fail. Meaning that 95 percent of people regain overtime any weight they may have lost, and still others even gain more back. Diets play to the restriction mindset, and get participants to start labeling foods as “good” or “bad”, and most dieters try and stay away from those foods coined “bad.” However, this often leads to negative results because dieters often underfeed themselves, or their bodies (because they have cut out certain foods or certain food groups entirely) are left malnourished and missing vital macro nutrients that keep them healthy, active, and able to go about their days.
Matt Fitzgerald is a renowned author that writes on a lot of running and nutrition related articles. He is known especially for his books and articles published about racing weights and how runners should eat to get to their ideal race weight. But this book, Diet Cults, takes a good hard look at “diets” in general. The main takeaway here is that so many diets exist today because none has been proven to work better than another on a wide scale, and so none can monopolize the diet industry. This leads him (and many others) to believe that, for the majority of human beings interested in getting to their healthiest size and weight, the secret is to eat ALL foods. Don’t actually cut out anything, but do eat more of the healthier foods.
Fitzgerald argues that food exists on a hierarchy, with foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean meats, etc being closer to the top, and sweets and fried foods at the bottom. Fitzgerald says that, especially when looking at runners and how to fuel training, the best approach is simply to incorporate as much of the “higher ranking” foods into your diet as possible, while still getting in foods of a lower rank. And if we ever fall out of this balance, and end up perhaps flipping the hierarchy of food on its head (hello vacation!) that we’re shouldn’t worry. Our bodies will eventually leave us craving more of the “higher” foods and we will eventually get back on track.
Run Fast. Eat Slow.
by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky
Run Fast. Eat Slow. by famous Olympic runner Shalane Flanagan and chef Elyse Kopecky, not only explains which macronutrients and foods are best for high performance runners, but gives tons of excellent and tasty recipes for you to get in the kitchen and experiment with. Flanagan and Kopecky reiterate again and again that fats should not be feared and that, in fact, they are central to not only adding excellent flavor but without substantial amounts, runners (and all people) will suffer.
And like other books gaining popularity among athletes and non-diet dietitians, Run Fast. Eat Slow. says to throw out the diet, stop counting calories and worrying so much about numbers and amounts and instead focus on eating whole foods that make you feel the best, give you the most energy, fit into your lifestyle and on eating the amounts that fill you up and keep you satisfied. Once you dive into Flanagan and Kopecky’s explanations for their approach to food, then flip through the recipes and plan out this week’s menu of tasty breakfasts, snacks, lunches and dinners, and even post-workout recovery smoothies! (How does a Double Chocolate Teff Cookie sound as a late night sweet treat?)
Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works
First published in 1995, Intuitive Eating by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch is currently on its third edition. It has become the go-to book for eating disorder counselors, dietitians, therapists, and any individual trying to repair a broken relationship with food that has previously been controlled by diets and weight loss goals.
Intuitive Eating coaches readers through ten steps of the Intuitive Eating process, in which readers try and relearn what it means to appropriately fuel the body. This doesn’t mean fueling the body for weight loss, fueling it for muscle growth, or fueling it to tone up and get lean. It does mean fueling it for living your best life, and so for runners, that means fueling yourself in a way that is sustainable, makes you feel good and run well, and is fun! It covers Intuitive Eating principles such as no foods are off limits, honoring hunger and fullness cues, finding satisfaction in the foods you are eating and the situations surrounding meal times, and to reject what society is telling you is the “right” or “wrong” way to eat.
Once readers rebuild and repair any brokenness around food, they can more appropriately fuel themselves for the tasks they want. This is simply because our bodies are smart and if we know how to listen to them, and subsequently no how to respond to them in the right way, they will always tell us what we need most.
For runners who have been inundated with messages about how to eat, what to eat, and when to eat it, this book can really help you to throw out all those food rules and focus on listening to your body and give it what it is asking for. The result many find is that the body actually knows exactly what to ask for and what to crave to run fast and reach your running goals!