Eating practices of the best endurance athletes in the world

Kenyan runners tend to eat a limited variety of foods, and that was certainly the case with these elite athletes. Most of their nutrients came from vegetable sources, and the "staple" edibles were bread, boiled rice, poached potatoes, boiled porridge, cabbage, kidney beans and ugali (a well-cooked, corn-meal paste that's molded into balls and dipped into other foods for flavoring).

Meat (primarily beef) was eaten just four times a week in fairly small amounts (about 100 grams -- 3.5 ounces a day). A fair amount of tea with milk and sugar was imbibed on a daily basis (more on this in a moment).

If you're thinking about heading to a nutritional-supplement store to purchase some performance-enhancing supplements (or you already purchase on a regular basis), bear in mind that the Kenyan runners were not taking supplements of any kind. There were no vitamins, no minerals, no special formulations or miracle compounds, nada. The gold-medal-winning Kenyans adhered to the odd philosophy that regular foods could fuel their efforts quite nicely.

Quality running

The Kenyan runners' training during the seven-day study period was straightforward. The athletes trained mostly as a group, two times a day, with a 6 a.m. run followed by an afternoon run at around 5 p.m. The 6 a.m. run was six to nine miles at varying speeds, including a nice chunk of high-quality running at a pace as high as four minutes per mile.

The afternoon runs usually centered on four to five miles at an easy pace (note that this works out to a weekly total of about 75 miles). Once a week, the two 1,500-meter runners carried out high-speed interval training.

A very interesting observation was that each elite Kenyan spent just 1.2 hours per day running, with about 33 percent of this consisting of "quality running." This means that the elite-Kenyans' daily "intake" of quality running was about 23 minutes.
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