Eating for the long run

Staying healthy as a runner can be tricky. At some point you will face an injury. It is inconvenient, frustrating and can be painful to get over. Treating your body as a system deals with more than just physical pain. In my last post I wrote about some aspects of the mental influence on our training (and over-training). But in staying healthy, the biggest factor for me has been my nutrition.

Nutrition (and digestion) has always been an issue for me. Being vegetarian for over 25 years has made it hard for me to get all my protein needs met, and food in general made me feel bloated and blah. At times, I’ve felt overwhelmingly blah about food in general. The last few years I noticed I was feeling sluggish, tired, never satisfied with my meals and often bloated. It was especially hard to figure out what I was eating that was making me feel ill; I could eliminate one food and still have so many symptoms.

Last summer I was diagnosed as lactose-intolerant. A few months later I went to my naturopathic doctor who suggested I not only cut out wheat (I already knew my body was intolerant) but all gluten products as well. My energy was so depleted that any reserves were also completely drained. Anything I ate was like another stress on my system and it was not helping me run, let alone wake up in the morning and try to function. I was deeply fatigued, I was emotional, and I felt irrational.

We supplemented and fortified my body to get to a more replenished, natural state.  I am careful what I eat, but also what else I put into my body to help it recover and repair is key. I don’t feel avoidance of certain foods is the whole picture. I also add in extras daily for support: iron, B vitamins, magnesium and calcium, vitamin D, glutamine and protein shakes. I am still tired, but at least my body has something to draw on now to replenish.

Now my body is less swayed out of balance. I eat what I can – what doesn’t create a sensitivity in my body with adverse reactions – and manage well. It may seem at times that I eat the same foods over and over again, but spicing and varying my food combination helps a lot with that. I rarely get strong cravings (running long distances my biggest craving has been for salt) as my body is more aware of what it needs, and not what my mouth wants to taste. Mainstream nutrition and product availability has come a long way in recent years making feeding my body that much easier.

I think food/nutrition is a very individualized process. I’m certainly no expert, but I’m learning what works for me. I’m learning that my body is happier not having ‘bad’ foods in it, when the suffering is just not worth a fleeting taste. For so long I was in a state that I would eat something, feel bad, and this would be normal. It wasn’t just crap food (read: empty carbohydrates, junk food, or sugars), it was food that my body couldn’t even process. Eating for my body keeps me so much healthier and balanced.

It can seem like a sacrifice in some ways. You cannot indulge or treat yourself in the same, random-snacking way. Food is no longer such a reward. But making the choice to eat clean, treating your body as a system, supports both your body and your state of health. And from this also comes a more rejuvenated state of mind. I don’t see what I am choosing as a diet — this is not a few month’s solution to fast or get clean or lose weight. If I want my body to run strong(er) and be more emotionally balanced, taking care what I put in my body, as fuel, will be forever.

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14 thoughts on “Eating for the long run

  1. I’m working through this right now (and just had some of the same thoughts during my run last night!). As a vegetarian also, it is certainly more a challenge to make sure I’m getting enough protein to fuel workouts and I feel pretty fatigued much of the time. I often feel bloated, and as a whole I don’t really crave or “enjoy” food – though I have kind of always viewed meal time as taking away from something I would rather be doing. 🙂

    I do eat quite a bit of dairy, so maybe I should try doing less dairy and gluten. Maybe I’ll feel a bigger change just by limited them, rather than cutting them out. Doesn’t hurt to try, I suppose.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Hi Larissa,
      It can be really challenging to figure out what is making you “ill.” As you say, maybe limiting some of the potential aggravating foods can bring you relief. And if not, perhaps total elimination may give you different results.
      I hope this works out for you. It can be tiring, in many ways!
      Good luck.

  2. Hey! I am also vegetarian and celiac so I am careful about what I eat although I often eat badly too… I am also coming back from injury or injuries which is extremely frustrating so I can relate, can also completely relate to the feeling as that’s how I felt before I was diagnosed celiac. Now I also take every vitamin under the sun. Glad to hear you feel better than what you did, hope it all works out for you! 🙂

    • Thanks! It’s been a long process but definitely worth it if I have energy and am not feeling “off” all the time. It’s hard to find veg sources of protein when most products have either gluten or dairy in them.
      Hope you’re feeling better/injury-free soon.

  3. Nutrition is still the last, missing piece of the puzzle for me as far as running goes. I’m still trying to figure out what works best for my body, but I’m lucky that I don’t have any of the issues you have. I’m glad you’ve found what works for you. I do know that eating healthy foods makes me feel better and improves my running, but I still struggle with a horrible sweet tooth–and occasional fast food binges (which I always regret).

    • Nutrition goes a long way towards our health, mostly because it is so cumulative. I think the more in-tune your body gets, the harder it is to fall “off the wagon” and the less you want to. That being said, food can certainly taste good as well — and we all have our weaknesses.
      I’m not drinking flat Coke on my long, long runs, but I’ve heard that some people swear by it. 😉

  4. My son is gluten and dairy free and it makes a dramatic difference in his behavior and mood. It can take months for gluten to completely clear from your system so the longer you eat this way, the better you should feel. Let me know if you want any recommendations on good gluten and dairy free foods or recipes.

      • Sorry it took me so long to respond (really rough week). Anything made by Udis is really good. There GF bread is the best of any brand we have tried and they make super yummy muffins if you are in need of a treat. Are you on Pinterest? You can find a ton of GF recipes and meal ideas. I make a “pancake” recipe I found on there for my son–two eggs, a squished banana, cinnamon, and a little vanilla mixed together. The texture is a little weird (mushy) but my son loves them and its easier and cheaper than buying GF pancake mixes.

        I can email you some recipes later this week. I hope this helps!

      • No problem Jamie. I still read your comments no matter when they come.
        I buy Udi’s as well. And will check Pinterest for recipes. I have a few almond flour cookbooks which I quite like. I’m all for quick and easy – and tasty helps.
        Take care.

  5. i have food intolerences which often change but have always been intolerent to wheat it does not help that I am diabetic so sometimes i just have to eat what is avaliable i also have aspergers which explains why I like to read the same food over and over !! I do feel much better when follow a wheat free diet but at the same time have to watch dont go in a diabetic coma !! ha

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