Author’s Note: Despite being a connoisseur of the Romantic Comedy genre, I need to apologize in advance — this is not an ode to a B-list RomCom with as absurd of a premise as a woman trying to get rid of Matthew McConaughey. I did, however, recently get inspired by the plight of our favorite mean girl Regina George, so get ready for an inundation of Rachel McAdams (you’re welcome)! Also, I’m not a nutritionist nor am I pretending to play one on TV — the below discussion is simply what has worked well for me in my experiences as a runner.
Second Author’s Note: This was stuck as a draft for the past month! I did a pretty good job of avoiding desserts and alcohol for the last month, but it’s time to get even more focused — only 2.5 weeks until race day!
Today we’re talking about every runner’s favorite topics— food! If I had a nickel for every time I heard a runner say, “Man, I need to lose weight,” I could actually afford my opulent Costco shopping sprees. I find myself most commonly cursing about my weight while struggling up a big climb and in that moment of misery, regret enters my mind — I should’ve done more hill repeats, I could’ve done more squats, and maybe set aside the cookie jar for the last two weeks. Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve.
Before we dive into this juicy topic I should clarify: unlike Regina George, I’m not actively trying to lose weight. One of the benefits to running 130 miles a week —it’s nearly impossible to put on weight (believe me, I’ve tried). And one of the realizations from running 130 miles a week — if I’m not losing weight, than maybe this is what my body is supposed to look like.
SO YOU AGREE…YOU THINK YOU’RE REALLY PRETTY?
My biggest surprise when trading in my road racing flats for extra-lugged trail shoes was that the typical ultrarunner looks quite different than their road racing/track counterpart. When I think pavement or track specialists, I think lean/nearly skeletal, shaved legs, and a well-manicured head of hair. When I think trail runner, I think a bit more meaty (and certainly more beardy!). Now I’m not trying to say that trail-preferring runners are lesser athletes, but in order to withstand the downhill pounding and have the strength to scale mountains trail runners simply require different muscles. And to maintain energy levels for full-day efforts, the ability to store an extra pound or two of fat can actually make a difference.
As a result, a lot of the body image and weight loss issues that plague the track and road disciplines don’t exist in the trail running world. If anything, us ultra-junkies should be worried about the opposite issue — consuming enough calories. Which leads nicely into my next section…
AM I EATING ENOUGH?
The single most important question runners should be asking themselves — am I eating enough? Fatigue, injury, atrophying biceps — all of these can be avoided with a healthy dose of f-o-o-d. And the benefits include improved muscle development, faster recovery, and that wonderful feeling when you take your first bite into a heaping stack of adequately-syruped pancakes. Since increasing the length of my daily runs by 30–60 minutes, I can’t simply run out the door on an empty stomach and instead rely on a hearty breakfast to sustain energy levels through the final miles. And as soon as I finish, I’m immediately looking for quick-digesting carbs supplemented with protein to optimize muscle growth and recovery (the first 30 minutes after exercise is the most important window to get in those calories!). And after a quality stretch and shower, it’s time for an even more substantial meal. Now this doesn’t give you carte blanche to clear out your pantry after every 3 mile run, but if you do ever start to feel like your body is wearing down the first question worth asking yourself should be, “Am I eating enough?”
MY GUILTY FOOD PLEASURES
Finally, we are ready for the crux of this piece — my infallible plan for losing one pound in 10 days. I mentioned the importance of fueling properly and how those beefy quads are critical to trail success, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have an opportunity to improve the quality of that fuel. I read many moons ago that in order to lose a pound, you must burn 3,500 more calories than you consume. Over the course of a week, that means a net reduction of 500 calories per day. So where are those 500 calories going to come from?
“I can’t go to Taco Bell. I’m on an all-carb diet. God, Karen, you are so stupid!”
ELIMINATE MY GUILTY PLEASURES
Step 1: Identify my top 6 “guilty pleasure” foods
Step 2: Look up the nutritional information for each food
Step 3: Count my number of weekly servings (Costco muffins = 3)
Step 4: Sum up the calories
Step 5: Ponder deeply — is that muffin worth it?
Some of these numbers were a bit of a shock to me, but even knowing that the Costco muffins are members of the 600 Calorie Club hasn’t stop me from demolishing a 12-pack in mere days. And I’m not exaggerating:
— Chris Mocko (@chrismocko) April 19, 2017
But let’s do the math on my weekly consumption:
1,225 cals in 1 pint of Three Twins ice cream
+ 1,378 cals in 2 Costco muffins (being generous here!)
+ 1,430 cals in CT Crunch (never lasts a week…very perishable, right?)
+ 1,176 cals in Dogfish Head 4-pack (keeping the 2nd 4-pack in my diet!)
+ 371 cals in 7 Oreos (would be higher, but roommates help to polish the bag off before I get myself into more trouble)
+ 700 cals in 1/2 bag of chocolate chips (for pancakes and other essentials)
= 6,048 calories
One big caveat — even the worst calorie in the world (which probably comes in the form of a Hostess Chocolate Pudding Pie, which I need to try) has some nutritional value so those 7 Oreos would need to be replaced with at least some healthy calories, probably from something terrible and green like broccoli. But the point remains — eliminating sweets and alcohol (yes, even beer) from my diet would put me well on my way to shedding a pound of weight in 10 days. So fetch, right?
As I mentioned at the start of this post, I’m not in the market to lose weight at the moment, but wouldn’t it be better if my body was composed of more broccoli and less Oreo? My challenge to myself and any reader who needs some motivation before Beach Season gets going — eliminate these vices for the final two months leading up to Western States. Beginning May 1st (yes, I started before this post was even published!) until the gun goes off on June 24th, no more Oreos, no late-night cereal, not even a pint of ice cream paired with a soppy chick flick (but a chick flick is still acceptable). Now, to any challenge there needs to be an exception — I still might indulge in one or two adult beverages, particularly in celebration of a successful race effort and especially when that race takes place near the birthplace of Guinness.
Will this be fun? Nope. Is it sustainable? Absolutely not (I love those muffins too damn much!). But for ~50 days and in-service of the most important race of my season, some sacrifices are necessary to ensure the healthiest, fittest version of Chris Mocko shows up to the start line in Squaw Valley.
. . .