I never cease to be amazed about how “misleading" medical science can be. It’s SO important to understand that a whole lot of science is theory, not fact. Oh, sure, science has seemed to have proven a lot of things, but if you watch closely, there’s often an “exception” or “anomaly” that doesn’t fit. Now, don’t take me wrong, medical scientists have done a lot for the betterment of health . . . , but OH MY GOODNESS, you’d think someone could get something as seemingly simple as what constitutes a healthy diet down to a . . . science. : )
Recently I was reading a report about the vilified egg. For DECADES, eggs have been slammed by medical science as “evil” with cholesterol being the main issue — it’ll cause you to have a heart attack because we all “know” (thanks to medical science) that cholesterol blocks veins/arteries. Come to find out, the cholesterol in eggs has no impact on the cholesterol in your veins . . . or at least that’s what medical science is saying now. Or how about the low fat diet? Come to find out, eating low fat CAN be good, but not if you’re also cutting out “good” fats from your diet. Hmmm, but what is a “good” fat? For awhile fish oil was deemed as almost a magic elixir, but now some fish oils are in question. Frankly, if you TRY to follow what medical science is saying about what constitutes a healthy food and what does not, well, you’ll be having to change how you eat every few months because “new studies” come out disproving or putting into question previously stated theories. Key word here, theories. I don’t blame “medical science” for getting things wrong, but I do blame the media for taking reports/individual studies and stated theories and then presenting them as “FACT.”
So, what does this all have to do with running? Well, it’s about what we as runners eat. Many of us try to eat “healthy.” Medical science and the media make that pretty hard to do some times because it’s become pretty hard to tell what is healthy and what is not as it changes so frequently.
Here’s my advice. I believe that balance is key and that eating as "close to the vine” as you can (meaning fresh, even home grown) foods is a great way to eat and stay healthy. The big challenge for so many of us is that we get stuck in a rut and in what we come to believe as “healthy.” Ten years ago, I would have told you “if it isn’t low fat, it isn’t worth the calories.” But your body NEEDS fat in order to process and digest food and create energy efficiently. Now, I’m much more about balanced eating.
Have you ever heard the saying, “The more I know, the more I realize how little I know”? I think many scientists have long ago discovered that. We are VERY complex, earth is very complex, our solar system, the galaxy, the universe — beyond comprehension in their complexity, yet SOMEHOW everything all lines up and it works perfectly. For me, it’s a God thing — all those multiplied complexities falling into order . . . the odds of this ALL just happening by accident basically is 1 in . . . well, I believe if you typed a 1 and then just kept typing “0” for about 10 or 20 minutes you’d be in the ball park . . . yeah, the odds are incredibly ridiculous.
Okay, I digressed, but the point being, if we exercise properly and eat more on the order of things (in my opinion) God created for man — fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy, non-processed meats (you know, avoid the meats that has a lot of preservatives in them), whole grains, etc. with the underlying thought of “balance and moderation,” we’d be pretty well off. Am I advocating no treats, no chips, no fast food? No. Not saying that, but I will say that when it comes to processed foods (the ingredients list reads like a chemistry book), much tighter “moderation” is in order.
So, that’s what I think eating healthy is. Feel free to disagree, because I know pesticides and chemicals can still be used on “fresh” foods (while organic can have bug waste and other issues), but I think it’s a good place to start from and then create what works for you.
The only other thing I’d like to add is, you can eat healthy and still be obese. How? Well, it still does come down to calories consumed vs. calories burned. So, if you’re eating 3,500 calories “healthy” a day but only burning 2,000 calories . . . well, it’s pretty clear that you’ll have a battle with weight. The other thing to keep in mind is that the calories runners burn per miles is often grossly over exaggerated. I’m a little under 200 pounds. I estimate I burn less than 100 calories per mile. But the “calculator” says I should burn 150 or more calories per mile. Why do I go with the lower number? Because the more you run, the more efficiently you run, the fewer calories you burn — your body gets “good” at running. The problem with that is, if you THINK you’re burning 900 calories on a 6-mile run, but you’re actually only burning 500 or 600 calories . . . if you run, let’s say, 24 miles a week, that’s as many as 2,400 calories you OVERESTIMATED you used. See how that could impact things when you're running and for “some reason” you’re not losing weight? Bummer, huh? : )
Well, I want to encourage you to take a look at what you’re eating. Just like the “latest” running craze, don’t get sucked into the latest food craze. Balance and moderation are keys along with eating more foods that aren’t processed (filled with chemicals). This is important for runners, because if you’re eating better, you’ll feel better, you’ll perform better, you’ll even recover better! : )