Friday thoughts #7: Eating

Haystacks, before Hokas

I’ve had multiple requests to write about eating / nutrition in my Friday Thoughts series. Asking me about nutrition is like asking Giant Haystacks about trampolining. I am a recovering wotsit addict for crying out loud. I didn’t eat a salad till 2015 and I used to think that if the pizza base was thin crust that meant it was diet pizza.

If you are really looking to get an insight into good nutrition speak to a dietician. A qualified one at that. I’d recommend from personal experience Renne McGregor whose book Training Foods was gifted to me by Pyllon Racing buddy John Connolly. This was pivotal in me sorting my shit out when it came to eating. Which, ironically sorted my shit out too. Literally.

I guess what I am caveating here is that I can’t tell you what is right and wrong. For a start that is too simplistic. If it was a formula then Jamie Oliver wouldn’t be pestering kids over chicken nuggets or that body coach guy wouldn’t be depressing everyone with his “GARLIC! GINGER! NOODLES! BEEF! BAM! DONE!” videos! It is not that simple.

But I can help you learn from my mistakes.

To begin, I will say here, aside from the influence of getting Paul Giblin on as a coach and turning my strong work ethic into one with potent direction, sorting my eating out was my biggest win.

Don’t make the mistake I made of being overweight, training hard and rewarding yourself with food. And crappy food at that. There was time not too long ago where I’d genuinely think nothing of eating a couple of bags of crisps and a bar of chocolate everysingleday. I mean, faced with a choice of salad or McCoys, the decision whether to get Prawn Cocktail or Cheese and Onion. Or, if it was fruit versus a Mars Bar? Let’s just say I have my own way of eating those delicious chocolate treats which has been perfected by years of practice.

Now, thanks partly to my own reading and Renee’s direct help, I have learnt tons around what to eat and when dependent on the intensity of my training. I never eat sugary cereals anymore. I focus on the quality of the food. I have salads as a side almost every day, sometimes twice a day. Crisps? Once in a blue moon. Chocolate is my kryptonite but I am so much better in that space. I am not that much lighter  than 18 months ago but I am much leaner.

Let’s be straight, if it is cheap and high in sugar or the like, it is probably bad for you. Get a good mix of fruit, veg, protein and carbs and understand the macros. Even track the macros to begin with but don’t throw away your training by doing what I did for years; running loads, eating more.

But the occasional treat is ok, right? I call them almond croissants.

This is a very personal thing. Some people have stomachs of steel and could eat a chicken madras before a race and be fine. I am looking at you Gerry Craig.  Others so much as sniff a Flamin’ Hot Monster Munch and it is skidmarks galore and nettles up the arse.

Here’s the rules I follow in the lead up to a race:

  • I start taking increased carbs on a few days beforehand. Such as a wee crumpet, wholemeal toast, porridge etc. Renee has made me love Soreen loafs
  • The night before I always have a pasta bake with garlic bread, but before 6pm
  • Race morning. Toast with Nutella, Porridge and Tailwind. This is usually 2-3 hours before I race. And I always have this before long training runs as practice
  • In races – and focusing on ultras – I use a mix of the following
    • Tailwind
    • Homebaked foods like banana bread, sweet potato brownies, energy balls
    • Fruit
    • Trek bars
    • Muller rice
    • And when I start to struggle with solids, I augment Tailwind with Irn-Bru

For shorter, faster sessions I might use gels but it’s been years since I did anything so stupid. Until Sunday anyway.

My overriding advice is pay attention to what you are eating and how much. Is it a good mix? Are you getting enough protein, the right amount of carbs? Does eating certain foods seem to affect your stomach more than others? What works for you in running? What do you crave? Like a lot of things running, just thinking about it will sharpen your focus and learning on the subject.

What’s next for me? I am away for a bounce on the trampoline. This big beardy guy with a leotard on looks like a good teacher. DONE!

That’s us made it to magnificent 7. Like Henrik Larsson (stops to reminisce). Last week’s is here. If you find it useful why not share it. If you feel like I owe you 700 words of your life back then give me a call. I can say 700 words in 42 seconds being Scottish and all. 


11 replies to “Friday thoughts #7: Eating

  1. I’m going to look into the ‘Training Foods’ book James. I’ve just finished a wee book by Doctor Andrew Murray ‘Running Your Best’ and am starting to realise it’s all about keeping it simple.
    Really enjoyed reading your thoughts here, keep up the good work man.


  2. Renee is my go to nutrition guide, I like that she tells you how many carbs etc you should think about eating but then explains what it looks like in terms of food. Much easier to understand. Recipes are also great and work well even for the family. The sweet potato risotto is my pre race dinner now.

  3. Porridge James. You’ll be too young to have heard of Alf Tupper – the tough of the track ? Brilliant comic character from way back in the “Hotspur” Alf was an engineer and amateur athlete who would turn up late for the race eating a fish supper and having to race in his working gear as the starter gun had just fired. He always won of course! Look up Alf Tupper – my athletics hero . Great to see so many athletes and families out on Thurday night – getting healthy for little or no cost – whether running walking or just enjoying the community aspect of the event. Well done Mr Director ( FBI Joab maybe)

    1. Ha ha, brilliant. Alf Tupper is a legend. Reckon he’d have been a Hillside boy too.

      We had a brilliant night for the race. Was nice to see you out pounding the trails too. Lots of good folk doing good things for charity as well!

  4. Pingback: FOOD BESTFRIEND
  5. Just found these blogs. Wow old you is me. IYSWIM. I frequently visit what we call the ‘machine of dreams’ for a yorkie and baked walkers crisps. Much gastric distress and nettles up bum. Did you find it hard changing your eating habits? I feel like it needs lots of time and prep. I’m Making excuses aren’t I? 😄

    1. Yes, I still find it hard today to be honest. My advice is try and win small all the time, and it becomes a big win. Swap the Yorkie for fruit, then the walkers for something healthier and just make it marginal gains. Before you know it’ll you will be on top of things. And write it down and see exactly what you are up to.

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