Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Palm Beach Marathon Shows Runner’s Diet Good for All

December 1st, 2010 · No Comments

Palm Beach Marathon /photo by Ken Steinhoff

Chef Jeff Simms, executive director of banquets for The Breakers in Palm Beach, has been running for four years. He’ll miss the 2010 Palm Beach Marathon on Sunday due to an inflamed foot tendon, but still follows the diet that got him back on track, and into marathons and a few triathalons as well.

The diet is great for weight loss, restoring and maintaining energy and overall well being, he says. He went from 255 pounds to around 185 in a matter of months, sticking to a diet and running miles each week. “Keep it simple, and follow the 40-40-20 rule.”

That’s 40 percent of daily calories from whole grains and starches, 40 percent from vegetables and fruits, and 20 percent from lean meats.

For runners and triathletes, week before crucial

Family run /photo by Ken Steinhoff

The 40-20-20 diet is great for the weeks of training and for anyone on weight maintenance.

The week of the race, however, things change slightly to help the body retain hydration and store some nutrients.

Here’s the runner’s diet plan, laid out by Alan Tanner, an Iron Man competitor and coach and certified endurance sports coach. Chef Simms trains with Tanner.

  • Don’t fall into a yo-yo dieting pattern. A healthy diet eaten daily throughout the training period is best.
  • A 40-40-20 rule is a solid diet for training: Get 40 percent of your daily calories from whole grains and starches, 40 percent from vegetables and 20 percent from lean protein.
  • A week before a race, cut out all fried foods, and eat only clean proteins: Lean fish, chicken, lean beef; eat green vegetables and starchy carbs.
  • Also during the week before a race, avoid sweet potatoes, a natural diuretic.
  • The last three days before a race, increase carbs by one extra serving eaten throughout the day.
  • Two days before a race, stay away from whole grains, red meat, gravies, butter – these are hard to digest. Focus on white starches, fish or chicken, and olive oil as a fat.
  • The day before the race, have one extra carb serving, with ½ of the serving in the evening, which improves glycogen stores. Avoid any roughage such as leafy greens.
  • Tanner recommends the following meal the day before the race: lean chicken, white pasta, tomatoes, and bread.

Breaking it down

To follow the diet to maintain or lose weight, first determine how many calories you need a day. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all plan.” Age, height, exercise level, current weight and your weight goals, and health all figure in to how many calories you should intake each day. {NOTE: It’s best to see a doctor before you begin any diet or exercise plan.}

There are several calorie calculators online to help you determine this. To lose weight, the rule of thumb is to cut down 500 calories a day and increase exercise just by one activity, for 30 minutes three times a week, to lose 1 to 1.5 pounds a week.

This is considered the best way to lose – slowly. Fast weight loss typically results in a yo-yo effect – when weight comes off quickly, it’s often back on just as fast. The dieter hasn’t had time, mentally or physically, to adjust to a new way of eating and living around food.

Foods on the 40-40-20 plan

Here are some foods to consider as diet-friendly for the plan:

Whole grains and starches: Whole grain cereals, whole grain (not whole wheat) breads, rolls and crackers; steel-cut oatmeal, shredded wheat, wheat bran, brown rice, wild rice.

Vegetables and fruits: Go for rich color – the deeper the color, the more nutrients are in them. Orange peppers, squashes, deep-green leaf vegetables like turnips, collards, kale, spinach, mustard or arugula, broccoli and sweet potatoes are nutrient rich (but no sweet potatoes before a race – see the notes above). Blueberries, blackberries, cherries, black grapes, mangoes, canteloupe, and citrus fruits are good for you; eat them in moderation due to their calorie counts.

Lean proteins: Lean chicken or turkey, lean cuts of beef, lamb and pork tenderloin are good sources of lean protein. Fish, especially fatty ones, are rich in omega-III acids, essential nutrients which the body doesn’t make. Twice a week at least eat tuna, halibut, salmon, herring, catfish, flounder, shark, swordfish, sardines, mackerel or trout. Egg whites also are considered lean protein. Nuts are protein laden, but watch the calories in these.

Limit these: Eat these once in a while: Milk and cheese (low-fat is OK), oils and animal fats, sweets like agave nectar and honey. (Don’t deny yourself a treat now and then, but measure the calories in it and make sure to count them.)

Avoid: White sugar, white flour, corn syrup, egg yolks, fried foods, fatty meats like bacon or fatty meats.

Get some exercise

Maybe you’re not up for running, but at least put your shoes on and walk. Lisa Griffis, a former colleague, has a web site where she details how walking alone got her slim and into a whole new life after 20 years of obesity. Do what you like – walk, jog, run, ride a bike – stationary or a road model. Go to the gym. Lift weights to gain strength. Be active: it’s 50 percent of weight loss.

Get a buddy – near or online

Find someone to help motivate you and stay on track with – each of you have goals and encourage the other. Go online and find dozens of groups and forums that offer encouragement and answers for when you get stuck.

New apps for smart phones make it possible to count calories of foods you eat, at home and in restaurants; others measure caloric output when you exercise. Look into these for instant answers.

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