Spotlight on Nutrition: Daily Diets of Ultrarunners; Part 1

What do ultrarunners eat when they’re not running? Do they have a secret diet like the Chocolate Salmon Diet ™? Or maybe they run all those miles on “The Hot Watermelon Diet”… Who knows. What we do know is that ultrarunners will do just about anything to improve their running and, for many, that means making healthy choices all the time. Of course, we do have many ultrarunners who fervently toss aside the idea of “healthy” eating in lieu of the “I eat whatever I want” diet.

There are fantastic elite ultrarunners like Scott Jurek, who proudly compete on a vegan diet. Then we have elite athletes like Anton Krupicka who openly shares his effort to avoid any sort of dietary restrictions.  In a previous interview with Anton, he stated, Its 4 o’clock right now and so far today I’ve had a couple pieces of toast, about half a dozen apples, and a couple cans of diet root beer.”

 It’s not just these examples, though. I’m sure we can all think of speedy runners who eat in a variety of ways. No doubt, we have elite athletes on all sides of the diet spectrum.  I think it’s safe to rule out any sort of “secret” diet that the high performers use. So let’s examine a few of the more popular ways to eat these days. I did some research and found some ultrarunners who have made specific choices about daily nutrition. They have shared their stories about why they eat the way they do. In this, we can learn a bit about nutrition and better understand why certain ultrarunners choose to eat the way they do. In this series of posts, we will provide examples of athletes who eat in the following manner: vegan, vegetarian, standard American, paleo, gluten-free, and fruitarian.

In part 1 of this series on nutrition, we will take a brief look at the daily nutrition habits of two different ultrarunners. I’ve asked them about how they eat, why they eat that way, and what benefits their choices provide. Enjoy!

  

Jerry Armstrong

Ultrarunner; Vegan

Boulder, Colorado

Veganism (/ˈviːgənɪzəm/) is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, as well as an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals. A follower of veganism is known as a vegan. Wikipedia

Q1: Briefly describe your daily nutrition choices. What is the guiding factor for the choices you make?

 A: I eat a plant-based diet so my choices in daily nutrition include the effort to avoid dairy and meat products. I enjoy whole grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and everything made out of these foods. My guiding factor is health and sports performance, although since choosing a plant-based diet, I have become much more sensitive to the inhuman treatment of animals in food production as well.

 Q2: Your favorite meal within your nutritional boundaries?

 A: That’s hard. I’m a huge fan of fresh vegetable juice and all types of veggie burgers. I can make a mean veggie burger…trust me, it’s absolutely mind blowing.

 Q3: What lead you to make the choice to eat this way?

A: I selfishly wanted to be a better ultrarunner. I had reached a point where more physical training would not yield much so I considered the recovery side of my training, which lead me to plant-based nutrition and Bikram Yoga. Both have helped me to become a stronger, healthier athlete.

 Q4: In a testimonial to the benefits of your daily nutrition habits, what benefits have you gained? Can you provide some examples of improvements you’ve observed in your ultrarunning, overall health, or well being…

A: Initially, I dropped body fat and noticed a much more rapid recovery time from long runs or races. My sleep also improved, my skin cleared, and my memory sharpened. In the long term, I rarely get sick and people think I’m in my early 20s even though I’m approaching 40 years of age.

Q5: What challenges come with the choice to eat this way?

 A: It’s hard at first to find vegan friendly options at restaurants. It’s even more difficult to find something to eat at a family party or a road trip through Wyoming. It’s also an effort to repeatedly explain to someone “why” I don’t eat macaroni and cheese or hamburgers like so many other Americans. Having said that, I’ve helped quite a few people who received alarming cholesterol readings from their doctor or developed Type 2 diabetes. They decided to make change and asked me for help. I was proud to help them improve their nutrition for the long term.

 Q6: What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of changing to your nutritional choices?

 A: It can be daunting at first to switch from a Standard American Diet to a 100% plant-based intake. There is a significant learning curve. Keeping that in mind, I would highly suggest finding a vegan who could help you through the first year or so. Also, it helps to surround yourself with information and support. I’m sure it would be beneficial and motivational to read Scott Jurek’s new book, “Eat and Run”.

 

Joanne

Ultrarunner; Vegetarian

United Kingdom

Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from consumption of meat (red meat, poultry and seafood). It may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter, such as animal-derived rennet and gelatin. Wikipedia 

Q1: Briefly describe your daily nutrition choices. What is the guiding factor for the choices you make?

A: I am a fussy eater. I am allergic to nuts and choose not to eat fish and animal products. I also don’t like eating eggs or drinking milk but I do eat cheese and chocolate.

Q2: Your favorite meal within your nutritional boundaries?

A: Pasta with Quorn soya protein mince in a tomato and mushroom sauce, topped with grilled cheese. For dessert, a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream.

Q3: What lead you to make the choice to eat this way?

A: I would love to say for health or ethical reasons but it is mainly because I’m a fussy eater. I stopped eating fish when I was 5 and stopped eating all other meat when I was 12 just because I hate the smell and taste of meat. Also knowing what products such as gelatin and rennet are made from make me what to avoid them.

Q4: In a testimonial to the benefits of your daily nutrition habits, what benefits have you gained? Can you provide some examples of improvements you’ve observed in your ultrarunning, overall health, or well being…

A: I wouldn’t say my diet has any direct benefits. I’ve eaten this way for two thirds of my life so its hard to pinpoint any observed benefits. When I had a recent cholesterol test, my measurements were below reliable recordable levels, which may be because I avoid saturated animal fats.

Q5: What challenges come with the choice to eat this way? 

A: In the UK it is easy to be a vegetarian. Almost all food is carefully labeled if suitable for vegetarians with a large “V” on the front of the packaging and if it is not suitable will state beef gelatin or animal rennet or specific fish oils, so it is also easy if a friend is cooking you a meal. When I visit or race in the US it is so much harder. Even asking inside Whole foods whether a cheesecake is vegetarian, I’m asked ‘Why wouldn’t it be?’(Answer often contains gelatin) or the opposite ‘Of course not it contains milk products’ (Confusing Vegetarians with Vegans). The problem during ultra races is you are often reliant on food provided by organizers in the later stages which if home made, or already opened means I can’t check the ingredients, so do I stick to my diet or take on the fuel?

Q6: What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of changing to your nutritional choices?

A: For ultra running and carbo loading being a vegetarian is no problem as I love pasta, bread, bananas and potatoes which make up 70% of my diet. When I recover and need extra protein I add soya products such as Quorn to my meals as a meat substitute or add products such as hemp protein, as I’m also allergic to nuts.

***In part 2 of this series, we will hear from two different ultrarunners with completely different dietary practices.**

Run long and Prosper!

EnduranceJer

 

 

Author: Jerry Armstrong

see more of Jerry's work at www.JerryArmstrong.blogspot.com

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1 Comment

  1. Great post! I think that a runners diet should be more about enjoyment and their personal philosophy than performance improvement. I am personally a Paleo guy. Though I have noticed serious running improvement since I started the diet, I think a lot of the perceived improvement in energy comes from the satisfaction I get from simply eating what I want (within reason).

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  1. Spotlight on Nutrition Part 2: Fruitarian Power -Trail And Ultra Running - [...] This is the 2nd in a series of articles on the daily nutrition of ultramarathon runners. In “Part 1“, ...

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