All last month I tracked my core exercises and found it a very useful way to ensure I stayed on track and completed the exercises each day. The knowledge that I would be reporting the results and the progress each week spurred me on to make the good choice (completing the exercise) rather than the bad choice (not completing the exercise) each day and the only one day I did not make the time to do the work came after a 100K run…so I had a reasonable excuse, right?
Tracking what I am eating for the month of March is (I hope) going to work in the same way. I’m using My Fitness Pal which has a smartphone application as well as a web portal where tracking food is pretty easy. Adding a food to breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks is usually just the work of a couple of screen taps, though it is worthwhile to check that things seem right when adding foods that can vary a lot in their caloric content depending on preparation techniques. An example? Imagine adding broccoli to the mix – and I love broccoli so it is one of my ‘go to’ vegetables – but then having to decide whether sautéed broccoli means the same if it is cooked in olive oil, butter, vegetable oil, or something else. And if the oil is drained at the end, does it still get counted?
For me, I usually take a few extra seconds to be sure I am selecting the right ingredients or adding the right foods from the supermarket to the food diary. I also weight the portions on the kitchen scale and I believe this means I am much closer to being on-point in terms of calories consumed. Because, yes, 94 grams of saucisson is different to 100 grams of saucisson, thank you very much.
Below are the screenshots of the food diary entries for each day in the last week. There are a couple of things that probably stand out from even a casual glance:
- Breakfast is not the most important meal of my day. Despite what I was told over and over as a child – and which I have on occasion repeated to Jamie when he won’t eat in the morning – I don’t really do breakfast. A cup of coffee or two cups of coffee if I can organize it is about all I need. I don’t wake up feeling hungry and I am fine running fasted in the morning and then not immediately downing a big meal.
- My meals are simple but calorie dense. I don’t make complicated meals and lunches, in particular, are pretty simple and usually sourced from a supermarket fridge. They are, however, calorie dense, meaning that I consume large amounts of calories in a single sitting. Hence, a +1000 calorie lunch is not unusual and, on the odd day where I don’t eat dinner because I will be running, an even bigger lunch is not a surprise, either.
- I eat a lot of fat. The majority of my calories come from fat. I eat some protein, too, but I don’t eat and, indeed, avoid eating carbohydrates. I am a fat-adapted runner now and I don’t need the sugars that come loaded in most foods. I get my energy from the fat I eat and the fat helps me to feel full even if the portions are small in comparison to a carb-heavy plate of pasta.
Beneath the diary entries are the ‘macros’ for each day. Essentially I am aiming for 75% of my calories to come from fat, 20% to come from protein, and 5% to come from carbohydrates. As an addendum to that, if I eat more fat and manage even fewer carbohydrates, I am happy there: better to be under on the carbohydrate side of things than over.
So why eat this way? I have two main motivations.
The first is to lose weight. I am not a small guy at 187cm tall and I tend to carry a lot more weight than I really need for the runner, especially a distance runner. The more weight I can lose, the easier it is to move my body around and especially up hills and over longer distances. I can’t change my height but I can change the weight and the No Sugar, No Grain (NSNG) and ketogenic diet I have been following since returning from Christmas in Picardie is helping me do that.
The second is to be fat adapted when I run. You do need sugars to accelerate hard, to run sprints, and to run hard for a long time. However, to run an ultramarathon you need endurance and a constant supply of energy. Taking on huge amounts of sugar and running full gas might be one way to get this energy and it’s one I have used in my races before. However, everyone carries a whole lot of fat around with them and if a runner can tap into this fat, convert it to energy, and use it to power a race, there is no need to rely on sugars to get a high and keep a high…and avoid the eventual post-sugar crash, too.
So far I think it is working out well on both counts. I’ve lost weight, maintained muscle, and improved my form and fitness since embarking on this nutrition scheme, and I am running long without much more than water, electrolyte tabs (salts and electrolytes, zero sugars or calories), and the odd piece of cheese or handful of olives.
Now everyone is different and what works for me might not work for you but in this personal experiment of sample size N=1, I’m pretty happy with how things are going and how the month of tracking nutrition is progressing so far.