Raw Food Diet and Running


Monday March 31st 2008

STOP PRESS - Hastings Marathon (14th December) training started in August, follow my raw food blog here


I thought I'd post something on that controversial topic ... protein!

Simply put, can you get enough protein on the raw food diet for an endurance athlete?


The answer I found out is "Yes" although it hasn't been that straight forward or easy for me to find that out. About two years ago I decided to start running marathons. A year before I had broken my 40 minute 10k barrier and run a 1/2 marathon debut of 1:30, so I thought I'd give the distance a go that everyone talks about as being special!


So in January 2006 I started to train for the London marathon. I followed the Runner's World program and all was going well, despite training for the first time in the heat and humidity of Thailand. I was averaging 50 miles per week. A month before I managed to run a 1:35 1/2 mararthon (it was hot!). I had also run a 38:28 10k on a 1% treadmill so I was in good shape. In the race itself everything was going to plan until mile 12.5 where I suddenly developed crippling cramp and I was forced to stop/walk/massage/deepheat my legs/limp/jog. This pretty much continued for the remaining 13 miles. I crawled home in just under 4 hours dejected and crushed. What went wrong? Electrolytes, dehyradtion, hitting the wall, did I set off too fast? Since it was my first marathon I really had no idea.


The following year my mileage was up to 85 miles per week and this time although I started off slower I ran into the same odd cramp at 18 miles. Bear in mind I had been running 18-22 milers in training with no cramp or problems despite high temperatures and risk of losing electrolytes. Something odd was going on. I decided to run in the Singapore marathon in December 2007 but with reduced weekly mileage of 35/week. This time I started off even slower (1:45 for the half) and again I broke down with cramp, this time at 14 miles. It was almost as if my legs had lost conditioning, strength and power before I even started the race.


Then came the breakthrough a new running magazine, Asia Runner did an article on four endurance athlete's diet - I was one those Guniea pigs. The main concern the standard nutritionist had was that I was consuming insufficient protein, and would not be able to repair my muscles in a timely fashion. The exact amount I was consuming was around 0.7g/KG of body weight. Sedentary people are supposed to keep to those levels. Endurance runners are supposed to consume between 1.0 and 1.2 g per KG of bodywieght. Which to be honest I'd heard of before but hadn't paid much attention to it. I had exactly 4 weeks between Singapore and Chiang Mai marathons so I decided to do something radical with my protein intake and so I started eating double scoops of hemp protein powder and whilst not raw I supplemented my diet with 180g tofu a day.


Along came the Chiang Mai Marathon and although I wasn't after a great time I just wanted to finish a marathon without cramp and strongly.

As it happens I did :-)

Finally my marathon voodoo had left me! What's more in all my previous marathons and even on some long runs, I usually suffered from DOMs. After Chiang Mai I didn't feel any stiffness or DOMs at all. Nothing I felt I could run another marathon again!


I had been following Doug Graham's 80/10/10 diet for about a year and whilst I still believe we should keep our fat levels down (and protein), I've found that 80/10/10 just doesn't cut it for the long distance runner. I recalculated by daily requirements as % cals and based on an average 2,700 cals per day I figured I had to eat carbs, protein and fat in the following ratio 75/13/12. If (not recommended by Doug Graham) hemp protein powders are used (49% and 95% varieties), instead of the whole seeds, then the fat content can remain under 10%, i..e 77/13/10.


So far, so good the extra protein is working (Nutiva or Yoah hemp protein powder)!


So now the London marathon is nearly upon me. After a few niggles last week on my medium long runs, I'm being extra careful about making sure I eat the extra hemp protein powder (no tofu this time round, I want to do it raw).


All my training runs point towards a sub 3:15 finish. That will do me as it will be nearly good for age (40 in November)!


August 2008 update - I am now training for the Hastings Marathon on a 100% raw vegan diet.

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