Monday, December 31, 2012

Thought for food

A few days ago a Twitter friend suggested I write a post about the runner's diet - how to fuel yourself for a good run.

You'd think December 31 is the worst possible time to write about the runner's diet - seeing as it comes smack dab in the middle of the festive season (with all the accompanying festive eating). Alternatively it couldn't be a better time - there's no better time to make New Year's resolutions, is there?

Singapore is full of good food, and thus of foodies. So much so that my father-in-law, visiting from Ohio, said: "You guys have such a foodie culture. Is that because there's nothing better to do?" Well, of course not! Some of us run. Some of us run to eat...

I could talk about eating everything in moderation. That includes
char kway teow,
fish congee,
chwee kuay,
dragon fruit,
and my grandmother's popiah*... all of which I've had in the last week alone. And then some.

*Popiah is actually pretty healthy. It's sort of the Singaporean Chinese version of a burrito - a spring-roll-like, very thin flour wrapper, lettuce leaves, a filling that's mostly braised vegetables and tofu and bits of meat, topped with shreds of egg, bean sprouts, crab meat and shrimp and peanuts, slathered in garlic and chilli and sweet sauce...mmm. Of course, my relationship with my grandmother's popiah has never been one of moderation.

But I think my number one motivational eating principle is... eat like an athlete. I don't believe in junk miles. But I do believe there are empty calories. If you think of your body as a high-performance machine - or if you want it to be a high-performance machine - then you have to put in high-quality fuel.

Because I'm motivated more by the outcomes of my runs and races than the way I look, 'eat like an athlete' is the single principle that has kept me walking on by when cakes and deep-fried curry puffs call my name. (Curry puffs calling your name, you say? I think those are called overtraining hallucinations.)

I also like Michael Pollan's maxim - eat (things recognisable as) food, not too much, mostly plants. That dovetails very well with eating like an athlete. For me this means plenty of calcium-rich foods, iron-rich foods, and greens, and getting *enough* food rather than trying to limit or count calories. (Especially second breakfast. Which as we all know is one of the five most important meals of the day. A typical pre-run first breakfast might be a banana with peanut butter, and a cup of coffee. Second breakfast is cereal or oatmeal or eggs or yoghurt or something like that.) It also means hydrating, especially with water and smoothies. For you this may mean something else. Sorry if that's not very helpful...

Eating everything in moderation also applies. Particularly to popiah.

I make an exception for very good dark chocolate, as happiness is also crucial to athletic performance. There is no such thing as too much dark chocolate...happy New Year!

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