Traditional Nutrition for Runners, Part 2

This week’s blog post is another guest post by nutritional therapist Frances Bavin. In it she tackles the subject of nutrient density, shifting the focus from foods you should avoid — which is how dietary recommendations are so often oriented — to foods you should eat. Some of these foods may surprise you!

Are you supplying your body with the right nutrients?

If you answered yes to the questions in Part 1 last week you probably are, but this week I’m going to be more specific. Think about what you eat in three different categories:

  • Energy food – carbohydrates like grains if you are able to tolerate them (rice and buckwheat can often be easier than gluten containing grains like wheat, rye and barley), and starchy vegetables like sweet potato, squash, root vegetables and pumpkin.
  • Recovery food – Protein (meat, fish, eggs, nuts, beans and dairy). Again, not everyone tolerates eggs, nuts, beans and dairy so be aware that you may be one of these people. If you are going to have some dairy then do make sure you are eating good quality cheese and natural unsweetened yoghurt (homemade is even better). Whilst there are some obvious benefits to milk, namely calcium content and being an easy option, I wouldn’t recommend people drink a lot of pasteurized milk (perhaps another article in itself!).
  • Protection food – a wide variety of fruit and veg. Go for non-starchy vegetables and the less-sweet fruits like berries, apples and pears (see more below)

On a normal day, you want half of your plate (roughly) to be protection foods, and then a quarter each of recovery and energy. Just before a race you would look to change the ratios more towards a third of each. You must also add into this some fats which provide the more steady, underlying energy. If you have days where you are not training, and are reasonably inactive, you can replace a lot of your starchy carbs for fats. Think avocadoes, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, butter, oily fish etc.

Make sure you have some of these nutrient-dense foods in your diet on a regular basis:

  • Colorful Vegetables and Fruit – dark berries, currants, kale, carrots, tomatoes etc. All these colors are from the different phytonutrients they contain. Don’t worry about which does what, just know that the bigger variety you can get in your diet, the better. I love getting my organic fruit and veg box delivered and feeling like the harvest festival is going on in my kitchen. Eat as fresh as you can and don’t store in the fridge for weeks. If you are lucky enough to have a garden, or even a big windowsill, grow whatever you can.
  • Organ meats – not everyone’s favorite but surprisingly easy to hide in other food if you find it a bit gross. The advantage here is their nutrient density — a whole array including B12 and a good balance of fat-soluble vitamins — which far outweighs that of the muscle meats we usually eat and pretty much every other food. They can really help with the extra needs of runners and is particularly good after a hard day of exercise. Chicken liver pate is one of the easy ways in, and combined with some onions, butter and bit of mustard it not only tastes great but is really good for you and can help with recovery. Heart can also be chopped into small pieces and put into a stew with some other red meat and you hardly notice it, it just has the texture of very tender meat and is actually one of the best food sources of coQ10 that there is. If you are vegetarian, you can still get a lot of what you need from eggs and a well balanced diet and some supplementation, you just need to be careful that you are. (Some more information on this slightly contentious issue from the Weston A Price Foundation’s standpoint
  • Bone broth/stock – getting into the habit of cooking a big pot of stock every week can really benefit your own bones, joints and cartilage and heal your digestive tract, not to mention make your cooking taste better. Again, it’s a fairly simple thing to make, particularly if you have a slow cooker. Here’s a video tutorial with more information on the benefits as well:
  • Eggs – the perfect breakfast and fast food. Please don’t feel the need to just eat the whites though, the best bit is the yolk which is easier to digest for most people and contains more nutrients (particularly choline, vitamin A, D, B12 and iron). If you feel you may have an intolerance to eggs, it may be worth just trying the yolk on it’s own without the white.
  • Seaweed – tasty, full of minerals and easy to add to your meals, seaweed is a rich source of iodine which can be lacking in our diets elsewhere and is essential for our thyroids. Use nori sheets to wrap veg and scrambled egg in, sprinkle dulse flakes over your food as seasoning or use fresh and shredded in soups or fish dishes. Barleygrass, wheatgrass, spirulina and chlorella are also good options. In all cases, just do a bit of homework on how clean the waters are where the plant is sourced.
  • Fermented foods – preferably made yourself as a lot of shop-bought options have been pasteurized, fermented foods can provide your digestive system with regular exposure to good bacteria. Fermented foods can be found in many different cultures and include the vegetable variety (Kim Chi and sauerkraut), dairy forms (yoghurt, kefir) and drinks like kombucha. Sauerkraut is one of these I make regularly which I find very easy.

If you have any questions, please post them below, and stay tuned for the final part of this series next week!

Frances trained at The College of Naturopathic Medicine and uses a naturopathic/functional medicine approach. She is also the chapter leader of the Weston A. Price Foundation in Edinburgh. Her mission with each client is to help them take control of their own health and to positively enjoy being a healthy person and getting the most out of their life.

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3 thoughts on “Traditional Nutrition for Runners, Part 2”

  1. Frances how do we know how much heavy metal is leached from animal stock bones? Even organic chickens have been shown to have high lead. Often stock are unknowingly grazed on contaminated soils…

    What do you suggest?


    • Hi Audrey
      Thanks for bringing this point up and sorry about the delay in responding. It was interesting for me to investigate this further actually. My feeling when it comes to environmental toxins and dealing with them often comes down to two main points:
      • Are you eating plenty of nourishing foods that support your body’s ability to detox?
      • Are you sourcing your food as carefully as possible?

      It is a very depressing situation when you start thinking about the toxins in our environment including heavy metals in foods, cookware and other products, but you can defend yourself to a certain degree.

      Personally I recommend broth because of it’s long history of healing throughout history, and the number of scientifically minded practitioners who recommend it. Last year’s study Monro, JA, Leon R, Puri BK. The risk of lead contamination in bone broth diets. Med Hypotheses, 2013 Jan 30. seems to be the most well known one about the risks of lead. It seems there aren’t actually many studies on the whole issue but you may find Kaayla Daniel’s article here of interest where she picks this study apart.

      A couple of interesting points she brings up here, apart from the fact that this study definitely had it’s flaws is that calcium can protect you from lead (but there isn’t much in it so make sure you are getting it from other sources) and that fluoride can increase your uptake of lead (common sources of fluoride include tea, toothpaste, tap water (more so in some areas), Teflon cookware). She does leave us with some encouraging results of a test they did of grassfed beef and pastured chicken broths which found no lead.

      I think you have to weigh up the pros and cons of foods depending on your own health situation. If you are worried, there are tests you can do for heavy metals on yourself, I use Genova Diagnostics’ Toxic Element Profile.

  2. Many thanks Frances – just boiling up some ox tails this week! I feel the cartilage and other bone minerals would be beneficial


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