One of the biggest mistakes most athletes make is improperly fueling their bodies. Even though we all know nutrition plays a key role in general health and athletic performance, many of us are confused about applying nutrition principles in order to become better runners.
Matt Fitzgerald, a well-known coach, author, athlete and frequent Runner's World contributor, provides runners with a comprehensive, easy-to-use guide that addresses the specific nutrition needs of endurance runners.
With performance-enhancing drugs constantly in the sports news these days, Fitzgerald purposely selected the name "performance nutrition" to make an important point: Proper nutrition can have as much of an impact on overall performance as the drugs we've been hearing about. But nutrition provides a performance boost with two very important distinctions: it's legal and healthy.
Six Pillars of Performance Nutrition
Fitzgerald organizes the benefits of good nutrition into the Six Pillars of Performance Nutrition:
- Enhance your general health
- Maximize your body's adaptations to training
- Fuel running performance
- Enhance post-exercise recovery
- Prevent injuries and sickness
- "Improve on nature" (effective supplements)
promotes a simple plan for an overall healthy diet based on sound nutritional principles: eating natural foods, balance and variety, balancing intake with energy needs and customizing diets to meet your individual needs.
You'll also learn the specific role fats, carbs and proteins play in running and what sources are best. For example, runners as a group can be fat-phobic, so understanding the role of fat is very important. Fat provides tissues and organs with most of their energy, makes up cell membranes and plays a role in muscle contractions and blood clotting.
Although it's obvious to most that inadequate fat intake can affect endurance, what many may not know is that athletes who don't consume enough may not adequately repair muscle damage that occurs during running. Or that lower fat intake may cause immunosuppression, lower energy and depression. Those who shy away from fats may rethink this decision and focus more on the type of fat that should be avoided.
Learn the "Whys" b=Behind the "Shoulds"
It's one thing to tell me I should do something, but it's a lot more effective (and interesting), if I know exactly why I should. Fitzgerald does this by sharing the science behind the facts. I came away from this book with a much stronger understanding of pre- and post-run fueling.
Most runners will learn something new from this book or, at the least, will have a better understanding of something they've heard before. And because it's interesting, what you learn sticks with you. Although I learned a lot from this book, I'd like to highlight two of the things I found particularly interesting.