I figured I’d use this blog to answer a question from darwin lo in the comments section. I enjoy trying to answer people’s questions on here, as everytime a question is asked about my philosophy on a subject it challenges me to reexamine that subject and helps further define my views on that topic. So, questions are appreciated, and I’ll try and do a much better job at answering the ones I get on here. I generally get questions from people e-mailing me, but I think this is a better forum for answering general questions. That way, everyone can benefit from seeing the answers and it’s easier on me, as I don’t have to repeat answers all the time. Now that I’ve rambled on about nothing, I’ll give a brief training update, and then answer the question about nutrition.

Training update:
Had my first workout where I actually felt like I could run fast. On wednesday we did 3x 2mile with 5 minutes rest on a 1 mile loop course. I actually like the course that we do it on, except for the fact that it is ALWAYS windy, so that slows your times down a bit. Besides that, it’s a good dirt loop with only one real sharp turn and one hill about 30-40m long or so. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I’ve never done 3x2mi, but it turned out to be a pretty good one. I ended up running 9:41, 9:42, and 9:35 for the three of them. I was pretty consistant with my splits too, except for the 800m with the most wind in which I slowed down by a couple seconds each time. Overall though, I was very pleased with the session and wasn’t too beat up from it.

Questions section:
This was posted by Darwin Lo:
“Talk about your nutrition. Since proper nutrition ensures that you maximally re-fuel your muscles, rather than, say, adipose issue, it would be interesting to hear what you have to say.- Do you take advantage of the recovery window?- Do you weigh yourself before and after workouts to figure out how much water you need to drink and how much salt you need to make up?- And so forth….”

There have been volumes written on nutrition and I could certainly write volumes here. The problem is that when you go into detail about nutrition, most people don’t apply anything you say. I could cite you the correct amount of carbohydrates and protein to take per day based on your mileage and weight, but is that really necessary? Not many people count calories, and if they do they normally have problems that need to be addressed, or too much time on their hands worrying about the details too much.

So, here’s my basic philosophy on nutrition:
1. Monitor your weight, but don’t be obsessed with it. Weigh yourself every so often (1-2x a week or so). Make sure you are weighing yourself at the same time for comparison’s sake. I like to do it first thing in the morning. This is just for general informational purposes. Rapid changes in weight can give you a heads up on things like overtraining, undereating, and not consuming enough fluids. The idea isn’t too weigh the least amount you can. The idea is to find your optimum.

2. Eat a lot of a variety of fruits. Fruits do soo many good things for you. Antioxidants are key. Add them in with lunch and dinner and it’s easy to get enough.

3. Iron, Iron, Iron. Most distance runners have a problem with iron. We lose a lot thanks to the nature of our sport. The best iron source is heme iron. That means red meat. Eat it. Don’t worry about the latest media craze of how red meat will kill you. You need iron and it’s the best source. Plus IN MODERATION, red meat is good for you, not bad.

4. Calcium and Vitamin D- Once again, most distance runners need to pay attention to these. Normally what you find is that a runner can be fine on one, and low on the other. Load up on the milk, yogurt, etc. Also, with yogurt, get the ones with active cultures (acidophulus- butchered the spelling). Good bacteria is definately a good thing.

5. Everything in moderation- Don’t worry about eating a cookie here or ice cream there. That’s fine. You can’t live off of green stuff anyways. The key is not having 4 cookies every day.

6. Stay away from fast food and fried food. Doesn’t do anything for you.

7. Drink lots of water.

8. Find what works for you.- There’s a lot of crap info out there with nutrition. You’ll hear things like eat 5 meals a day and such, but the key is to find what works for you. Get in a routine. Not eating the same thing every day, but eating at around the same times each day. It’s much easier to maintain caloric intake that way and prevents random snack binges.

Now onto the most important thing, Recovery with Nutrition:

Timing is critical. You have to get something in your body within 15min, or at least 30min, post workout. It is when your body is most insulin sensitive, which means the time when it can replenish glycogen stores the fastest. If you wait much longer after that, it’s almost makes no difference whether you ate 50min after or 2hrs after. So timing is a BIG deal.

Let’s quickly look at what you are trying to do post workout. When you workout, your body is breaking things down (catabolic). You are breaking down energy sources, your body is getting microtears in the muscle, etc. Once you stop working out, this process will continue for a bit if you let it. But what gets you better as an athlete is when it goes into build up (anabolic) mode. Your body starts to replenish those energy sources, and repair those microtears, making them stronger than before. That is when you get better.

So how do we switch from the catabolic state to the anabolic state. Well, your body will do that through the secretion of various hormones. We’ll leave most of the science out, but basically, it’s got to switch gears and nutrition is a great way to give it a boost. If you take in some food, your basically sending the message that the workout is done and it’s time to get repairing.

What kinds of food do you need?
Carbs and protein. Carbs help replenish glycogen stores and protein helps repair things in the muscle. Both combined also help switch the body over to an anabolic state. How much? Well the science generally points to around a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein, but if what you are eating is off a bit, it’s no big deal. How many calories? Depends on the workout, but a substantial amount. I’d say at minimum 200.

Here’s the most important part of this whole topic. These are MY guidelines. They are based on the fact that those carb/protein drinks are expensive.

What to drink:
Carb+protein drinks- Accelerade, endurox, powerbar stuff, Chocolate milk.
Carb+protein foods- read labels, the possibilities are endless. I like to combine fruit with something a lot. Yogurt is another one I like to use.
Carbs only- fruit, gatorade, lemonade, fruit juices, etc.

Here’s the important stuff:
Runs shorter than 20min- water is fine
Normal runs of less than an hour or so- gatorade or some sort of Carb only drink is fine
Long runs, any hard workout- Carb+protein drink.

I say gatorade is fine after runs of an hour or less because it’s cheaper and easier to get than some of the other drinks. So, sometimes it might be better to get a carb+protein drink mix, but it’s no big deal if you don’t. What I like to do, is drink Chocolate milk after my longer easy run of the day. I save the accelerade for workouts because it basically does the same thing as chocolate milk, but most of my workouts i’m driving to and milk doesn’t travel as well. Plus milk is cheaper. So I use accelerade maybe 3x a week, and milk the rest of the days. On my shorter shakeout runs (35-40min) I’ll just drink some gatorade after.

As far as weighing myself before and after runs… I don’t do it. I’ve lived in TX all my life. I lose a ton of fluids on all runs. It happens. I think the key is making sure you are hydrated GOING into the run. Now, this would be different if I was training for a marathon. Then I’d get some fluid loss data, among other things, because fuel during a marathon is key.

That’s about it, off the top of my head. Hope you got something out of it.

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    1. Darwin Lo on September 16, 2008 at 3:12 am

      Hey, Mags. That sounds like a great workout! And thanks for answering my question. It sounds like you treat your body pretty well.

    2. Nate on September 20, 2008 at 10:57 pm

      great workout, I was doing that exact same workout prior to the 2007 cim marathon, you are FIT!! keep up the great work.


    3. Anonymous on September 20, 2008 at 11:36 pm

      Hey Steve. I really respect what you are doing. I have followed your from nowhere on the Dyestat Boards to leading the nation in the mile.

      Your example of hard work back then got me through high school running.

      I really think you could write a book about your high school training and college days.

      Please Keep up the great work and use the haters for motivation.

      John W. Davis

      Can you write a post about where you at with school/life and what you are training for?

    4. Anonymous on July 4, 2010 at 10:50 pm

      Hey Steve, thank you for all this amazing information. Reading about the various schools of thought is extremely interesting.

      Concerning nutrition, I was wondering your thoughts on vitamin/mineral supplements.
      I eat a varied, healthy diet which provides a lot of what I need, but when consuming so many calories for training, I feel a vitamin helps. I take a generic multivitamin and a fish oil pill each day.

    5. Anonymous on May 17, 2011 at 11:19 pm

      You may want to rethink about vitamin D. You're basically wrong about getting vitamin D from the food. Majority comes from the sun… much more. Sunblock lotion, timing of the day/year and air pollution play big role to determining how much you get vitamin D from the sun. We actually need much more vitamin D than what gov't currently recommends (vastly outdated).

      Formerly USSR knew about vitamin D's athletic enhancement back in the old days…

      For much more accurate information – visit vitamin D council website.

    6. jfneve@tele2.nl on May 10, 2012 at 12:36 pm

      Hello Steve, your nutrition plan looks fine to me, but i see more and more runners and triathletes switching to Paleo.
      for athletes. http://www.trainingbible.com/pdf/Paleo_for_Athletes_Cliff_Notes.pdf

      whats your opinion about that ? it seems a bit low in carbs to me, and my favorite recovery drink is low fat chocl.milk

    7. Anonymous on June 6, 2012 at 4:26 am

      Being a former middle & long distance runner I'm starting to get interested & somewhat excited about the upcoming London Olympic games & have a concern that has been of interest to me as each new games goes by.
      Okay, I'm especially interested in the 10,000 metres & marathon races & the inability of white runners to featured amongst the medal in especially more recent games, which seem to be virtually dominated by black or coloured athletes mostly from countries such as Kenya & Ethiopia etc.
      These athletes come from hight altitude countries which produce hight haemoglobin counts in the athletes blood allowing them to assimilate oxygen in a far superior way which of course gives them that great advantage over athletes from lower altitude countries.
      So I think it has reached the stage where if the white man is to close the gap on these non-white athletes & get amongst the medals a new approach is needed as simply training hard, have a good diet & sufficient rest is obviously not enough.
      I'm also well aware of the illegal haemoglobin enhancing products that are on the market & especially popular with cyclists but sometimes with fatal repercussions due to heart stress & failure etc.
      I'm also aware that there are totally legal, herbal & natural haemoglobin enhancing products on the market that apparently comply with every international & national sporting codes, so I'm wondering how many of the white runners have or are using these legal products & do you think they would be effective enough to increase their performances to a really competitive level?

    8. Rachael Steil on December 28, 2012 at 2:22 am

      Thank you for this great post on nutrition! I just started a running blog about running and dealing with an eating disorder–I reveal my journal entries since starting a raw food diet back in April 2011. It's good to find running nutrition posts like this–we need to encourage a balanced diet and you give some running-specific advice like the advice you give.


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