I am not a nutrition expert, though I do have a science and medical background. I have experimented enough with myself to know what works for me. I sought extra advice from Peter Defty (VESPA) and Ben Greenfield (Ben GreenfieldFitness). Both Peter and Ben advocate a high fat ketogenic or OFM (Optimized Fat Metabolism) diet. I guess I’m a little more moderate, I like fruits, Vodka, hard cider, and dark chocolate too much to be in ketosis as deep as they are. That said, I did refine my diet, which was already grain free/gluten free, to lower my carb count a little more and add in more variety when it came to protein sources. I changed the timing of the intake of carbohydrates to coincide with post session insulin sensitivity. I also started to do all of my training either completely fasted from the night before or with just some green tea and coconut oil.
DAILY NUTRITIONI often get asked what my diet is. I hate this question as I do not have a “DIET”, unless you consider eating real, whole, and unprocessed foods a diet. The descriptive term which most matches my eating habits is probably no sugar/no grains. Now as I said earlier I am not a monk and will eat things like dark chocolate or drink alcohol, yes these are sugars. I also will eat quinoa on a rare occasion. That being said my diet is pretty clean due to the fact that I mostly eat meat, veggies, fruits, cheese, and the occasional starch (rice/sweet potatoes). I do not eat processed foods or grains therefore my diet is absent of fake sugars, chemicals, gluten, and GMO products. A sample of how I eat during the day is listed below. There are days that will differ from this but this is usually how I eat 6 days a week.
BREAKFAST (Post Exercise – usually running)3 eggs – scrambled in olive oil
½ serving meat (usually leftover from previous night)
½ - 1 Cup shredded cheese
1 Cup of blueberries or strawberries
LUNCH (post exercise – usually weights or stretch)Smoothie (12oz Coconut Milk, ½ Cup of beets, 2 TBSP of Flax, 1 TSBP Cinnamon, & 1 scoop whey protein)
SNACKBeef Jerky or Cheese
DINNER1 Serving Meat (fish, lamb, game meat, chicken)
Salad (veggies, greens)
Cheese (sliced or shredded)
BENEFITSI feel this diet gives me the optimal balance of fats, protein, and carbohydrates. Eating simply, as I call it, allows me to maintain a lean body mass, as well as enjoy the foods that I really like. I choose to eat for long term health not just short term performance. A major change that I made was when I consume simple carbohydrates (fruits). After soliciting advice from Peter I switched to eating fruit only post exercise. First, I did this because my muscles insulin receptors would be sensitized thereby allowing for quick absorption of the carbs into my muscles, versus their being stored as fat. Second it would aid in muscle recovery.
RACING / TRAININGI separate these two where most people treat them as the same. The reason most treat them the same is the old adage of “Never try anything new on race day”, therefore they practice how they plan to race. Thankfully genetics has blessed me with an iron stomach during extreme efforts. What this means for me is that I can more specifically train my body and mind during training and not be overly concerned during the race. During the race I usually keep nutrition as simple as possible. Below I will describe how I plan and execute my nutrition strategy for training and racing. I will also give the why behind it.
TRAINING NUTRITIONThe way I fuel training sessions is listed below, after the description I will delve into the why behind each.
#1 (Easy & Tempo Runs)Coconut Water
#2 (Long or Workout Runs)Coconut Water
VESPA JR (long run only)
Green Tea w Coconut oil (bulletproof tea)
BENEFITSFirst, by completing my sessions fasted (no additional carbs to spike insulin) I train my body to utilize fats during all levels of exercise intensity. Second, because I would not be spiking my insulin levels during the session I will not cause as much oxidative stress and therefore, I will recover quicker allowing me to go harder sooner. This is where VESPA really comes into play. VESPA is an amino acid supplement which acts as a key. This key unlocks fat metabolism earlier allowing you to burn fat more efficiently as your fuel source. (For more information regarding the exact science behind VESPA please view these articles (1) (2).) Third, I was training my mind to handle hard efforts with little external glycogen. The benefit of this strategy was apparent during Mad City when I had to take in fewer calories to sustain a higher intensity. I only took in about 400 calories total, about 100g of carbs for 3.5 hours. When you compare this to the 50K I did 6 months earlier where I consumed 1400 calories total, about 300g Carbs for 4.5 hours and you can see the benefit of the training nutrition plan.
RACING NUTRITIONAs I stated my race and training nutrition strategies differ. I do not restrict glycogen (carbs) during races. Rather I fully embrace their use in moderation. I follow what some would call a “sugar drip” strategy during racing. The human digestive system can absorb about 20oz of liquid per hour. This doesn’t mean that you can’t consume more than that, just that your body won’t absorb it. (You spend a lot of time in the woods.) Keeping this in mind any calories you consume need to be accompanied by liquid to be absorbed. This is the reason I keep my nutrition plan simple. First it allows my body to get exactly what it needs to perform, and second I can adjust it if things change. Here is a look at my nutrition before and during races.
(2-3 hours pre-race)2-4 Packets of nut butter (Depends on Race Distance)
Green Tea with coconut oil
(40 min pre-race)VESPA JR
Coconut water / water w electrolytes
RACE(roughly each hour)
1 20oz Bottle water
Flask w honey, maple syrup, gels, or glucose powder diluted w coconut water
(I sometimes skip the flask and place the mix in the bottle) - EASY
1 salt tab (I use Succeed tabs, or Salt Stick)
(every 1:40-2:00 ish)VESPA JR
(Last 1/3 of the race)I will switch over to coke in my 20oz bottle and just drink as needed. I feel the caffeine helps me focus and maintain my effort towards the end of the race.
I will grab the odd potato chip or orange slice at an aid station just for a change of texture or flavor.
BENEFITSAs you can see I keep my race nutrition simple. The main benefit of this is that I do not have to think about it during the race. A perfect example was Ice Age this year. I planned on running on gels and plain water in my bottle. The aid stations however were light on gels. This really threw a wrench into some nutrition plans. I simply switched over to filling my bottle with ginger ale, till the final 13 miles when I switched to coke. I stuck with my timely utilization of VESPA and salt and had zero energy or GI issues the entire race. Going forward I plan to continue this strategy, and possibly simplify it further by switching to a glucose powder. I can easily carry the powder and empty it into my bottles at aid stations, thereby relying only on myself during the race.
I hope you enjoyed this look at how I tailor my nutrition for optimal health, racing, recovery, and eating pleasure! If you have any questions regarding my diet, specific meals, VESPA and my use of it, or meal planning please do hesitate to comment on this post or to contact me. Stay tuned for next week’s post regarding the supplements and methods I utilized for recovery to handle this challenge.
As always enjoy finding your own trail!