Eating to win a half marathon

“It’s bad for you. It’s junk…”

I’ve heard it a lot. Many times before. Too many to count. And I’ve never really cared about it. I thought it didn’t really concern me. To some extent I still think so.

Whenever somebody talked about nutrition, bad carbs, junk food, I never understood what they meant by it. So I just discarded that information.

I’ve done some research and now I think the people who talk about junk food don’t even know themselves much about it. Here’s how I understand it. Junk food means food which is poor in nutrients. Ahh… there’s that word again. Nutrients. Nutritious meals, nutritious and delicious…  What does that even mean? Nutritious?

Luckily I’ve broken the code. Nutrients just mean vitamins and minerals (and of course proteins, carbs, fats, and fiber). There’s a bunch of them: vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, B12, C, D, E, K, and minerals Ca, Fe, Mg, Se, Zn, P, K, Na etc. The human body needs all of these vitamins, minerals, fats, carbs etc to function properly. And that’s it. Nobody ever told me that nutrition means food which is full of vitamins/minerals. That was my aha-moment. Clearly I’m a genius!

So I decided to find out how healthy my diet was. I wrote down every single thing I ate for a week (and I will continue to do so, YES, I have too much free time). I also noticed that the day I started recording my meals I added lots of healthy stuff to it which I’d normally avoid. Interesting how human behavior changes if someone has to document his actions. It’s like all of the sudden I tried to be a better person. I read something similar, I believe it was one of Van Tharp’s books, where he said that if you tell an alcoholic to write down exactly how many beers, glasses of wine… he drank, the ones who do will drink less. The alcoholics aren’t instructed to decrease alcohol consumption, just to document it. And still once they start documenting it they will start drinking less. They too want to become better people.

I googled the nutrition data for my various meals and the recommended daily amount (RDA) of each nutrient needed to stay healthy. That last part turned out to be pretty tricky because those recommendations keep changing and different websites say different things. I don’t know who to believe but I managed to get an idea of the RDA’s.

I’m a vegetarian and read an article which said that vegetarians find it hardest to get their daily amount of Ca (1000mg), Zn (15mg), Fe (18mg) and vitamin B12 (4-7μg, it used to be 2.4μg). So I just focused on making sure that I get enough of these 4 and then tweak my menu for all the other stuff.

B12 was the hardest, 1 boiled egg has about 0.5-0.6μg and 1 glass of milk (250ml) about 1μg of this precious vitamin. Sounds pretty easy, right? No! There’s all this discouraging information out there. I remember reading something about researchers saying that we absorb B12 really badly from eggs. One study said that you need about 200-400 eggs a day to satisfy your daily B12 requirements. That’s a lot of eggs and cholesterol. I don’t know about the absorption from dairy products. It seems that you can’t win! But hey, you can always just eat shit. Literally. (Just watch the video.) Anywho… B12 is a bitch. My strategy is to munch on B12 fortified cereal with some milk (for example Cheerios or Froot Loops).

You know what I like most about my nutrition tracking? It’s the sense of accomplishment when I look at my Excel spreadsheet and all the nutrient amounts have been satisfied. Feels good!

I hope this will also help me in my training and finishing my half marathon on March 24th. According to my calculations: If I get all the vitamins and minerals each and every day, combined with my optimized training plan (I used the gradient descent method to optimize) and if I run really really fast… faster than any other runner (this last component of the formula was statistically significant at a p-value of 0.05), I will surely win the race. 😀 That’s the plan. Now, all I need to worry about is what to do if the “finish ribbon” doesn’t brake when I win. Maybe I should just go under it or jump over it. Any advice?

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