Skip to main content

FOOD AS FUEL

Diet and exercise, diet and exercise, diet and exercise. Like love and marriage, the two seem to go together like a horse and carriage. And for good reason: what you eat and how much you move exert a synergistic effect to favorably impact your health.

But what is the influence of one on the other. In other words, does diet impact your fitness level and exercise performance? We know that exercise increases your caloric expenditure and can cause you to consume more food, which is fine provided it is of the nutrient-rich variety. If too often you reward yourself after a 3-mile jog with a large muffin of the coffee-shop variety, you can wind up adding to your fat stores rather than trimming down, since muffins, bagels, and other calorie bombs can easily contain twice the calories you're trying to replenish (muffin: 600 calories; 3-mile jog: 300). The resultant net gain you wind up wearing around your waist, hips, face, or thighs.

But joking aside, does a healthy diet, in and of itself, improve your physical fitness? Yes, says Amy Donaldson, a young mother who by adopting a plant-based approach knocked nearly a half an hour off her half-marathon time, running a personal best 2:21. What's most impressive about this feat is that Amy did not alter her training. All she did was modify the foods she ate, choosing fruits and vegetables over meat and dairy. Go Amy!

Now, while we love anecdotal evidence, we want to know: What does the literature say? Early studies point to a tremendous increase in endurance performance associated with a high carbohydrate diet, quadruple what was seen in a high fat, high protein diet. It was from these studies that the concept of carb loading derived.

According to an article on vegetarian diet and endurance performance published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, endurance athletes (runners, bikers, swimmers, and the like) are urged to consume a diet of 70% carbohydrate in order to maximize muscle glycogen stores and guard against fatigue. And deemphasizing animal foods (which have no carbohydrate) in favor of carb-rich fruits, vegetables, and beans makes it easy to meet the carb target and maximize performance. The article also notes the cardioprotective quality inherent in plant-based foods. In addition, the antioxidants present in plant foods (vitamins like A, C, and E) protect against the oxidative stress of exercise. These antioxidants are present almost exclusively in fruits and vegetables.

So in the race called life, carbs seem to be the fuel of choice, and the best sources bar none are plants.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

SOUL CYCLE

This is not a commentary on the latest fitness fad. Because if it were, the little I'd have to say on the subject would be largely derogatory. I simply cannot see see how crouching in a stuffy, dark, cramped room surrounded by sweat-drenched strangers while expending a lot of energy and going nowhere deserves to be called fun, though aficionados tell me it is (fun). I tell these aficionados that if no pain no gain is your thing, discomfort can be had for a lot cheaper than $50 an hour. Try plucking your nose hairs. What we don't do for the sake of beauty. This endurance heir to the Stairmaster and elliptical is all hype. There's a name for the type who likes to run (or otherwise move) in place. It's called a hamster. 

This reminds me of a joke my father likes to tell, about what living with a woman turns a guy into. You go from a wolf to a sheep to a hamster. After nearly 40 years of married life, my dad has added cockroach to the zoological lineage. Which I'm sure …

EVERYTHING'S INTENTIONAL

There is no such thing as screw-ups.

Case in point. My excellent friend Deej comes over to help me beautify the garden. He immediately dives in, crouching down on his knees and weed whacking with his bare hands. Before I can say yay or nay, he proceeds to remove a huge clump of daisy greens from the oblong patch of Earth adjacent to the driveway. The area instantly looks bare. Like the back of Woody Allen's head. Smoothing out the soil and shaking his head Deej mutters to himself "I fucked it up!" over and over again. We try everything. Planting succulents in the daisy's place. Covering it with rocks. But still the area looks barren. And every time you water it the water trickles down onto the sidewalk in the absence of roots to hold it in place. It's getting dark so we go back inside. The next day I return to the spot with a clear perspective and remove all the other daisies, leaving only rose bushes and the succulents that DJ planted, and depositing 10 bags of m…

GRAY MATTERS

I was watching the TV show Naked and Afraid last night as I sometimes do. The show teams together two strangers, a man and a woman, who attempt to survive on their own for a period of 21 days in some remote and isolated region. Some of the locales featured include the Australian Outback, the Amazonian rainforest and the African Savanna. The man may have a military background, or be an adventurist or deep sea fisherman. Sometimes he's an ordinary dude who lives with mom. The woman is a park ranger or extreme fitness enthusiast or "just a mom" herself. Sometimes the couple quarrel, sometimes one or both "tap out" (quit) in a fit of anger or illness. It is satisfying to see them actually make it through the challenge and reach their extraction point. The victors are usually exhausted, emaciated, begrimed and bare ass naked. 

Even more satisfying, at least for me, is the occasional ass shot, snuck in at strategic intervals to boost viewership, of course. It's co…