One benefiit of “frequent” airline travel is that I’ve had the opportunity to read more books in the past few weeks than I’ve read in all of medical school. A few weeks ago, a publisher reached out to me to see if I was interested in reading an advanced copy of Matt Fitzgerald’s new book The Endurance Diet. As I talked about in my post on nutrition recently, I’ve been looking for ways to improve my diet even with my hectic schedule so I said I would be happy to.
In full disclosure, I was skeptical before I started reading. I vehemently disagreed with Fitzgerald’s prior book on nutrition (Racing Weight) where he advocated that runners all have an optimum racing weight and provided a calculation that for most regular people, would leave them hungry and thin. I’m glad I gave him another chance, however, because he hits it out of the park with The Endurance Diet.
Based on interviews with elite endurance athletes across the world, Fitzgerald essentially reviewed their diet logs during training and looked for trends in general approach to diet and the balance of macronutrients (fats, carbs and proteins are your macros). His initial hypothesis was that there would be differences depending on sport and region of the world but what he found was that there was extraordinary similarity between all top level endurance athletes AND that when an athlete had experienced a performance breakthrough, a shift in diet towards the endurance diet had preceeded the change.
From this, Fitzgerald deduces five key habits:
- Eat everything.
- Eat quality
- Eat carb-centered
- Eat enough
- Eat individually
None of this is revolutionary, of course, but Fitzgerald takes it a step farther with his Diet Quality Score and associated app (available on iPhone and Android). Basically, you get positive points for quality foods and negative points for less quality foods. Your goal is to get to +20 quality points a day. The catch? All foods can be both, so for example, your first glass of wine for the day is a +1 because of the known benefits of wine and beer for health. The second (and third and fourth) areall -1. Similarly, the first few servings of fruits and veggies are +2 but after a few, they become zeroes and then negative. The whole idea is to eat a range of healthy foods in moderation. What a concept!
My own performance has been mixed. My first day was a +4, in part because I had just gotten home from a trip and we didn’t have much in the way of food. I had a granola bar for breakfast (-1 for refined grains, -2 for sweets because of its sugar content). The next day, however, I had 19 points after a grocery store run and a big, green salad and fresh fruit. Days when I’m home, my quality score is near 20. When I’m traveling or on an interview day, I’m lucky to break 5. What this has led me to conclude is that I need to have two goals; 20 for normal days and 10 for interview days since I don’t have control over what is served. Example of how my behavior has started to shift? I’m sitting in the airport writing this and instead of getting a dressing soaked salad, I had raw veggies, an apple, two hard boiled eggs and almonds (+8 if you were curious…) Although I don’t know what I’ll have for dinner tonight, I am confident I can find a cup of green tea, a glass of wine and another piece of fruit during my journeys.
The only major drawback that I can see is that Fitzgerald isn’t prescriptive about serving sizes and even says that his are variable; for example, when he makes a sandwich, he counts the two slices of bread as one serving of whole grain because who makes a sandwich with one slice of bread…Although this flexibility and individuality are nice, it could set some people up to be too permissive with serving sizes and be counterproductive.
All in all, I highly recommend all endurance athletes of all levels give this book some attention. It is a reasonable, accessibly approach to nutrition which is something most of us real people could sorely use.
I do have a copy of Fitzgerald’s book to giveaway to one entrant.** There are four ways to enter and you can do one or all of them to up your chances!
a) Comment on this blog post: What diet approaches have you used in your running in the past?
b) Follow me on Instagram (@runswatrun) between now and December 20th and shoot me a message on that platform to let me know you’re entering.
c) Follow me on Twitter (@runswatrun) between now and December 20th and send me a DM letting me know you’re entering.
d) Share this post on your own social media accounts and tag me as you do!
**The book is released on December 27th, 2016 so I will get the copy to the winner after the first of the year.