This time last year, I started getting down about the way I looked, how I felt, and the way in which I performed in races. I’d tried everything under the sun to become faster. I included more speed, incorporated strength training, and consulted a coach for strategy, but I was avoiding what I knew I needed the most. I needed to change my diet.
Gretchen and I recently created a Facebook group called Runningwhole30. It’s a place for runners who are either planning to do the challenge with us starting on January 4th or people who just want to learn more about it. In this group, there’ve been many questions about running and whole30 and today I’d like to address as much as I can from what I’ve learned through my experience.
If there’s one thing you need to know about me, it’s that I love food and I’m always hungry so restricting myself was never an option. The mere fact that you can eat as much as you want with Whole30 was a large factor of getting me to try it. I decided to give it a go with little to no research so I’d say that I really just got lucky that it worked out as well as it did, but since then I’ve come to learn a lot more and know it’ll go even better this next time around.
It took me a long time to get everything right. In the first two weeks of my Whole30, I ran two trail races that didn’t go as well as I hoped. I ran out of gas pretty quickly and just couldn’t go as fast as I wanted to. Looking back, I know my body wasn’t used to running without carbs, but somehow I still felt less sluggish than before.
I might have even gone a little overboard with cutting out carbs. I would go out for these speed workouts and feel like I just couldn’t push hard enough to hit the times I was capable of, but I played around with it a little and finally got the hang of it. I ate more sweet potatoes, white potatoes and found the wonderful world of plantains and through learning about food by way of the Whole30, I was able to adapt my diet, better fuel my body, and PR in every race from the mile to the marathon.
Information based off “It Starts With Food” by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig and experience.
You teach your body to use fats as fuel
You teach your body to burn fats during the runs since it has less of those quick burning carbs, which means that your body no longer relies on them for running. The cool thing is that when you eventually do use serious carbs or gels in a race, your body isn’t use to it so all the sudden you feel like you have super powers.
You recover faster
You’ve just cut out a lot of inflammatory foods such as refined sugar and replaced them with anti-inflammatories like blueberries and tumeric (hopefully) so your joints feel better and you’re ready for that next run sooner.
You have steady energy
Without high amounts of sugar and carbs that turn into sugar, you have steady energy through out the day. It’s easier to wake up in the morning and you feel just as good when you come home from work so you actually feel like doing those runs and you need an outlet for your new found energy.
You sleep better
Since you don’t have the spikes and crashes throughout the day, your brain and body is able to settle easier at night. I don’t know about you, but the more I sleep, the better I feel on training runs and in races.
They say whole30 isn’t a weight loss diet, but honestly it’s pretty easy to get there. If you’re not looking to lose weight, there are options for consuming foods with more calories. But there are many people out there looking to lose weight and that’s not a bad thing either. There’s no denying that in many cases, weight loss helps your running. I’ve struggled with finding the happy medium on this one because in my perspective, having too low of body fat will actually hurt you in the long run. BUT if you need to slim down a little bit, your joints might thank you for carrying less and it could help shave off some time in each mile.
You get to eat a lot
This part is my absolute favorite. Reading the book “It Starts With Food” I felt so special every they mention runners or endurance athletes. They encourage you to eat until you’re absolutely full, but to try to avoid snacking. For athletes, however, they go on to tell us to snack if we need to and therefore I love them.
It helps to figure out digestion issues and food allergies
Since Whole30 is an elimination diet, it encourages you to slowly and one-by-one reintroduce each food that you cutout back into your diet to see how they specifically affect you. You might think gluten is your issue and be fine when you reintroduce it and then all the sudden you crap out on dairy!
It improves your relationship with food
This was probably the biggest gain for me. I realized through this that I had way too many emotional connections to food and this is the first thing that haunts me when I get off track. I’ve finally learned to turn down foods I don’t want or need. I work in health care so people are always bringing us donuts and cookies to thank us. I used to feel obligated to eat 4 in one sitting or to snack on them just because they’re there. Now I realize that they’d probably make me tired and I’d rather be hungry and excited for a massive and fulfilling dinner anyways.
You can still eat carbs
I think it’s a misconception that Whole30 is always low carb because I believe it’s only as low as you make it. Go ahead and pin this image because this stuff is great before, during, and after workouts. In fact, I pretty much eat them all day.
Okay sorry for word vomiting all over this post, but this little lifestyle diet had given me so much control over food this past year and I really am so grateful! I honestly don’t believe Whole30/Paleo is right for every runner, but if you’re looking for a lifestyle diet that let’s you eat all you want and can improve you running, it’s worth looking into.
Another thing I learned in my first Whole30 was a million ways to cook with the compliant foods! Follow me on instagram where I’ll be posting a simple Whole30 recipe each day for 30 days starting on January 4th!
What is your favorite carb?
How could you improve your relationship with food?
Do you have any intolerances or food allergies?
I actually don’t have any and in fact sometimes I think I could digest a tin can, but I feel like intolerances and allergies are really common so I love hearing success stories in them!
Have you ever tried a lifestyle diet?
Another cool thing is that I was praying about it a lot last January asking The Lord if I should do it or not because I wasn’t sure if it was of Him or for my own glory and I felt like I was getting way too into it. A week or so prior to that I almost bought some paleo granola that I really wanted, but I decided that is was like $10 too expensive so I just forgot about it. But the afternoon that I prayed about it, I got home from the grocery store and the dang granola was in one of my bags! I hadn’t even seen it on that trip so it’s not like I was looking at it and slipped it into my cart and even if that was the case, it would have been on my receipt! It was silly, but ever since that moment, I’ve had peace with the diet and I feel like that was the stamp of approval.
Lastly, I’m not a nutritionist or running coach. The information I’ll be sharing comes from It Starts With Food, other research, and from personal experience.